Various archaeological, historical, and other related musings. Historical archaeologist by trade, classical by training.
Background Illustrations provided by: http://edison.rutgers.edu/

Blogging Archaeology- The Final Question

I’ve been slacking off a bit since the New Year, but the final question of the blogging carnival- where are you/we going with blogging and where would you like it to go?- is one that deservers an answer.

As for the first part of the question, “where are you going with blogging”, I’ve turned this question over and over in my mind.  At times I’ve contemplated going a more academic route with my blog, but I enjoy the freedom to post cartoons and gifts of Indy too much to do that.  That being said, it would be nice, one day, to have a blogging product that I’m not nervous about sharing with professors and colleagues for fear that they will come across my Indiana Jones appreciation posts and ignore all of the thoughtful content I’ve produced over the past two years.

Which brings me to the second part of the question, “where would you like blogging to go?”  I would like to be able to mention my blog without getting responses like “you’re really into that blogging stuff, aren’t you?” or “oh, are you gonna tweet that?”  And mind you these aren’t comments coming from professors, these are coming from people my age (early 20s, if you aren’t aware).  If anything, I would say that I’ve encountered more acceptance from older colleagues than from people my age.  Maybe my generation is so saturated with social media that we can’t seriously consider its utility.  Or maybe its simply because as much as we talk about public archaeology, none of us have actually run our own project before, and so for the vast majority of grad students Instagram is just for taking selfies and Facebook is where we find our next Buzzfeed quiz.  

The ultimate answer to this question then- “where would you like blogging to go?”- is that I want blogging to go into our archaeological toolkits- I want my generation, when we’re running projects of our own, to be able to take all of our experience using social media for self-promotion and be able to use it for site promotion.  

The Problem with Treasure

I got into a conversation on twitter a week or two ago on looting and what archaeologists can do to stop that happening, and it got me thinking about how many times we as archaeologists refer to our finds as “treasure” and how this might actually be perpetuating the idea of archaeological sites as “treasure troves”.  

From a student perspective this is an interesting question, because it reminds me of a quote from an interview with Bruce Trigger after being asked about the future of archaeology in the 21st century:

"Archaeology will continue to excite substantial public interest so long as it continues to discover ‘wonderful things’ and provides the mass media with ‘mysteries’ that entertain people."

Trigger is making an obvious reference, as many headlines have done, to Howard Carter’s words after his first look at Tutankhamun’s undisturbed tomb.  Bill Kelso did something similar when he found the “rosetta stone of Jamestown" in 2010.  Appropriating references to well known finds like these to drum up interest (and funding) is really nothing new, but if we as the archaeologists are making the association between our finds and "treasure", then aren’t we implicitly encouraging people to do the same?

How do we then get people to care without using a flashy, attention grabbing headline?  If you’ll excuse me while I pull from another course reading, Palus, Leone, and Cochran make the point in a 2006 article that historic preservation in the U.S. works a lot like “treasure” logic- we tend to preserve “things, not the connections between people and things”.  The solution that they suggest, which I’m sure will resonate with a lot of people, is to engage the public so that they are invested in what is being preserved and passionate about its being protected.  For anyone who has ever worked in public archaeology or just public outreach this can seem like an uphill battle at times, but in the long run is something that will pay off much more than a flashy headline.