Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Last month both Sarah and Kevin attended the Society for Historical Archaeology's annual meeting in Ft. Worth, Texas. They had a chance to sit down this week and decompress. That means another installment of "Conversations about Conferences!"

Kevin: What did you expect in attending SHA 2017 conference?

Sarah: I expected to be very busy. This was my first meeting officially being on the board so I knew there would be lots of meetings, hopefully a chance to see some papers, and lots of running outside for a moment to experience Ft. Worth. This was also the 50th anniversary of the very first SHA, so I expected some nostalgia and lots of reflecting back to where historical archaeology was at in 1967. 

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

Sarah: I was really looking forward to the PEIC (Public Education and Interpretation Committee) panel on reevaluating evaluation. On top of evaluation being a hot topic in archaeology education, many friends from different paths of my career were on that panel: my graduate internship advisor Tricia Samford (Director of the MAC Lab), my co-worker for 5 years at KAS (Kentucky Archaeological Survey) Jay Stottman, my favorite roomate at Project Archaeology meetings Teresa Moyer (NPS Urban Archaeology Corps), and of course many FPAN friends and colleagues including Barbara Clark, incoming post-doc Laura Clark, and former outreach coordinator dynamos Melissa Timo now at Exploring Joara Foundation and Mary Furlong Minkoff now with Montpelier Archaeology.

Well done organizing that Texas sized panel Kevin!

 But it's a good representation of what you hope to get out of any conference- connect with old friends, kick the topics further down the road, and enjoy who you meet in the peanut gallery. I had none other than Judy Bense sitting next to me in the audience during the panel, recently retired UWF President and Chairman of the FPAN board. And also Matt Reeves, new SHA board member this year and director of the Montpelier Archaeology programs that I have long admired.

Kevin: What did you actually learn?

Sarah: I registered to take the Anti-Racism workshop that has been offered for three years now. It was moved to Saturday morning so board members like me could attend. Many of us do what we do to end racism, so going in I wasn't sure how far the needle on my anti-racism meter would move. But the workshop wasn't about that, it was examining systemic racism and how it's built into our society, limiting access for all to health, education, homes, jobs, and tax codes. Another part of the workshop focused on themes that reoccur in the media, which was powerful given all the current events related to the Black Lives Matter movement, DAPL, Islamaphobia, and the intersection of these topics with women, Latin@, and LGTBQ issues. It was very informative and I think should be a requirement for any archaeologist, but particularly for us public archaeologists. I learned there is a large literacy gap between myself as a newcomer to the course versus those who have been teaching it for years themselves, it's critical we find common ground to move the conversation forward.

I also learned most of the work of the society is done by the committees. As a board member I was assigned to the APTC (Academic and Professional Training Committee) and the SSC (Student Sub Committee). They are having similar conversations to other committees I've served on in the past about webinars, social medial coordination, and training topics for next year. I hope newcomers to SHA, like yourself, realized joining a committee is as easy as just showing up. Like you did Kevin, and now you're Chair of PEIC! It's a great way to meet people, and there is so much work to be done it's really up to the committees how to move important topics forward in the society. If you are a student, you really must join the Student Sub Committee- I wish I had when I was a student. I didn't come from a grad school with a large cohort, so any personal contact I could make with those also seeking new historical archaeologist pen pals, really helps to make the conference more fun and meaningful.

Kevin: What was the hardest part of attending SHA?

Sarah: Just staying alive. 
I spent a lot of time before and during the conference examining strategies for attending such an epic event. It's hard to figure eating out, especially if you are traveling alone and again don't come from a large grad school cohort. I find meal planning exhausting and ordered a lot of take out so I always had food back in the room. This really helped as things were scheduled so closely from 7 am up to 10 pm. And when the rare chance to step outside presents itself, Uber and Yelp are lifesavers. It's sad when you don't make it out of the hotel, which happend to me last time SHA was in Toronto. Now I make it a priority to get out into the host city and go to at least one museum, helps with finding a balance.

Dinner at the Stockyards w Jay Stottman after the Awards Reception - Congratulations Russ Skowronek and CHAPS!

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

Sarah: I'm bringing back many takeaways from the Anti-Racism workshop, the sessions I took part in, and comments from the audeince especially pertaining to marketing and working with the media during the PEIC panel. My paper on Friday was about our new Heritage Monitoring Scout program. Lucky for me, the paper after mine was a no show so there was time for people to ask questions and give me immediate feedback. I also had more meetings inbetween papers than I ever had before- lots of other archaeologist concerned about the environment and advocacy issues. There are a lot of apps and resources out there for us and for the public, which I'm excited to share.

Me presenting HMS Florida paper. Photo credit: Thanks to John Lowe @archaeocore! 

Kevin: What sessions/activities did you take part in?
Sarah: I facilitated a panel on Disaster Management on Thursday. There were not many people in the room, but those who stayed had a lot of experience and passion in the topic- was good to hear of how different people approach the topic from various points of view, like how someone based in GIS would look at the problem versus land managers or researchers. Sara Ayers-Rigsby from FPAN was on the panel, and it was exciting to see how far she's come since starting in May. Working with local governments, initiated citizen science programs, and learning from others who have been through Florida hurricanes before how to possibly be well prepared was a good moment.

Sara Ayers-Rigsby presenting on FPAN and HMS Florida in Disasters Management panel.

Friday afternoon I was chair of a general session on public archaeology. I generally submit a paper in symposiums or organize one myself, but this year with HMS Florida being so new, I wanted to just throw it into the random mix and see what reaction it got. I give a lot of credit to the program chairs, that general session was tighter and more focused than many of the symposiums I've been part of in the past. I really, really, really enjoyed hearing the broad range of papers happening: from ArchaeoBlitz in North Dakota by NPS, to contemporary advocacy against neighborhood gentrification in Oakland, to using GoPros in the field, to FPAN staff talking about their ongoing work in Middleton on the Scott site, plus too many more to mention. Oh, the community Slave Wrecks Project  on St. Croix by Southeastern Archaeological Center (NPS) folks! Some really great projects, all going so far beyond just giving the public a pamphlet or a flash in the pan effort to check a box. These archaeologists are working so closely with all these communities and being themselves so affected by the community, I can't stress enough what a fun session it was to take a pulse reading on what was happening all over the place in public archaeology only to find we're really focused on the same thing: sincere and collaborating engagement.

Then there's board activities that start Wednesday morning and don't let up till Saturday night. But it's really an honor and priveledge to be on the board, look behind the curtain of what makes this society I've been a part of so long work, and get to know others who the members have trusted with this work. Timo and I worked to prepare and read the resolutions for the Business meeting on Friday night. What an other world experience to sit down with Timo from Finland, hear about the amazing work he's doing over there, and work together on projects.
View of the app schedule for the Public Archaeology General Session.

Kevin: Got plans for next year’s conference?
Sarah: Next year SHA will be in New Orleans. Holy smokes, it's going to be a great conference! I'm excited to take part in ongoing sessions related to public engagement and climate change. I'm excited to see what new directions the committees take on. And I'll be listening for yearound opportunities for advocacy, hopefully with workshops or session related to progress made over the next year.

Enjoy this post? Check out conversations from past conferences:

SEAC 2013
SAA 2016
SEAC 2016

Text and images: Sarah Miller and Kevin Gidusko, FPAN staff except photo submitted by John Lowe credited above. 

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