On Friday, April 28, 2017 Twitter hosted a public archaeology conference that boasted more than 50 presenters from seven countries over the course of 15 hours. There were no fees to pay and no travel needed, as the “speakers” were able to present via tweets and the attendees needed only follow the hashtag #PATC. The conference, which straddled the realms of public and digital archaeology, was set up by Lorna Richardson as part of her post doc research. Two keynote speakers, Colleen Morgan and Shawn Graham, kicked off the conference on Thursday afternoon/evening (depending on your time zone) and got the twitter conversation rolling.
The unique format of the conference allowed “attendees” to either follow along live, as each speaker was given 15 minutes and 12 tweets to present, or scroll back through archived tweets to catch up on all the action later. The established timetable of presentations also ensured that there was no overlap amongst speakers. I was very happy to participate in such a fun, inclusive, forward-thinking event that is sure to be talked about for years to come.
Full text of my presentation:
I am an archaeologist entering my 5th year working at a colonial site in James City County, VA where we host a number of public archaeology programs each year. We are realizing the goals of our field are able to be met by cooperating with the public.
The more the general public understands about our profession, the better. Learning first-hand about the history & archaeology of a site promotes a sense of shared heritage and creates stewardship amongst those being educated. Participating in activities like assisting with lab work, excavating & screening for artifacts, or just simply witnessing the processual nature of archaeology makes what we do more real; dispels overly romanticized perceptions of archaeology.
Youth archaeology education programs in particular encourage an early interest in history & science, and create life-long allies in our struggle to preserve and protect sites for future generations. E.g.: An individual who participated in ‘Dirt Diggers’ program as a kid recently graduated with a degree in Anthropology and returned to help us with a dig. Adult archaeology education programs (e.g. Road Scholar program) allow individuals to continue & broaden their education outside their areas of expertise. Prospective land or money donors are also more likely to give when they can see and understand exactly what it is that will be done with their donation.
It is imperative we continue engaging the public through educational programs, digs, & social media in order to foster understanding and support for what we do.