Thursday, May 19, 2016

We recently attended the Society for American Archaeology in April. It was luckily right in our backyard at Disney World! Sarah and Emily Jane sat down to talk about Emily Jane's first experience at this conference...

SM: What did you expect in attending SAA 2016 conference?

EJM: This was my first SAA - and from what everyone has told me, I expected to be overwhelmed by the size of the conference. The listing of papers and session was at least inch thick without abstracts! I expected it to be packed with so many archaeologists that I wouldn't know anyone. I also expected to be overwhelmed with papers and session that were out of my wheel-shed - things that wouldn't quite help me serve the public in Florida.

SM: What did you hope to get out of it?

EJM: I've participated in local, state and regional archaeology organizations for several years. I wanted to see what the community was like at the national level. What conversations are happening? What are some of the big concerns we're trying to deal with? And how does my little piece of the world fit into this?

SM: What did you actually learn?

EJM: Our field is actually a lot smaller than I realized, and we're all working towards similar things - especially when it comes to public archaeology. It was nice to hear from folks across the country (and the world!) to see what worked for them and what they're still trying to figure out. I heard a lot about issues with bad legislation, problems with getting wider audiences involved and examples of projects that are trying to deal with climate change and sea level rise. All of these are issues we face at FPAN quite often. Even if no one in the room had an answer, it was still nice to have some solidarity in our work.

SM: What was the hardest part of attending SAA?

EJM: This might sound a little bit goofy, but living in a hotel for so long! I was there from Tuesday to Sunday. Eating out adds up, being at sessions and meetings wears on you, and it's hard to find a little space for yourself in all of that. I ended up packing a bunch of snacks and hiding out in my room over lunch - which helped with all three!

SM: So we attend a lot of conferences in a year - what from this SAA will you bring back to the public for their benefit?

Panel on advocacy and engaging citizens politically organized by two of FPAN's board members.
EJM: I was really inspired by some of the advocacy issues I heard - from engaging voters to handling climate change issues. One of the biggest things I realized when it comes to climate change is that it has so many impacts. We've been trying to talk to people about sea level rise, but really that's just one small part of what could happen. I also met a lot of people that I think will help us bring even more great resources and programs to the people in Florida.

SM: What sessions/activities did you take part in?

In the big scary room presenting my paper!
EJM: I attended the Project Archaeology meeting and a panel on advocacy in archaeology as well as sessions on Florida archaeology, public archaeology and climate change. I tried to tweet some overarching points the various presenters made on @FPANLive - you can check out some of the twitter chatter by using #SAA2016 as well. On Friday afternoon, I presented a paper with Dr. Keith Ashley at UNF on work I've helped with at the Mill Cove Complex in Jacksonville. (Check out my blog post on the analysis of pottery from the project.) I also spent some time in the book room talking about FPAN and Project Archaeology. And I sat in on a meeting with a video game company that FPAN is looking to partner with. And... I visited the Indiana Jones bar at Downtown Disney. Busy week!
SM: Anything that surprised you?

EJM: I ran into far more people that I knew than I expected to! And I even found connections between some of my far-flung archaeology friends. I had several six-degrees-of-Emily-Jane moments.

SM: Got plans for next year’s conference?

EJM: We'll see. It's in Vancouver so it's a bit tough on logistics. I might stick with my Florida and Southeast conferences for a few years, though we do have some exciting programming we're starting in August (Stay tuned for the big announcement!). It'll be great to share that with my colleagues at the national level once we have some good data and examples of that!

Words and images by Emily Jane Murray and Sarah Miller, FPAN Staff.

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