Site Interpretation

In his discussion of opening up what happened to Rosewood through the use of the internet a virtual reality-type program, Gonzalez-Tennant discusses how he hopes to use the virtual reality-type program Second Life to better inform the general populace of different things that are happening around the world. This can be especially useful to us because there may be more foot traffic on an online website than if people were to have to show up in person. This in turn relates to what Baram was saying in his article about conservation. In order to better conserve a site and a community, the use a virtual reality program such as Second Life, is vastly helpful because people are able to explore new areas and gain an understanding of the area and thus may be more likely to respect the area they are going to. If we end up using a virtual reality-type program for our project, we would need to find one that suits our project and one that can be easily accessible to general public. We would also need to find a way to advertise our project in such a way that the people who would be directly affected by the project would then be able to know what is being done and have a way to stay updated on the project.


The beginning of the semester was rather confusing in the sense that I was not entirely sure what the class will teach me. While yes, the objectives of the course were taught and for the most part understood, there is always something else that I personally take from the class. As the semester progresses what I think I’m learning constantly changes. For instance, in the very beginning I thought I would simply learn first what exactly Public Archaeology is, as well as, learn some archaeological skills that I feel I would not have learned otherwise. While I did in fact learn these things, it was more of an addendum to what it is that I was to learn from the class. That being said, I learned a lot of different things about the cemetery, the people, archaeological methods, anthropological methods and over culture of both the past and present cemetery. One of the things that I learned, is how intertwined the cemetery and the people are. While personally I know that this is because of the fact that in the culture here in the Rio Grande Valley, family is highly prioritized. This does not mean that they abide by the traditional roles of family, for some family is an accumulation of people that they care about, which can be especially seen in barrio areas of the Valley. These areas consist of very closely-knit communities that are often there to support one another. However, this is not the only way in which the two are very closely intertwined, curing the course of the semester I learned that this is due to the fact that though there is a strong bond between the dead, their loved ones and sometimes the community around them. The fact that there is still an interest in this cemetery says a lot about the people of the Rio Grande Valley. Before I move on and talk about all the other things that I have learned over the course of the semester, it is important to me that I talk about the cemetery itself, as this is where I believe that I learned the most.

In the very beginning of class we learned that the cemetery was built in the early twentieth century, and was closed in the late twentieth century, making it one on the youngest Potters field cemeteries. The cemetery is owned by Hidalgo County and is usually referred to as a Potters field or as a Paupers Cemetery, however, I disagree with the use of those names. While, yes, these name do most accurately describe the purpose of the cemetery, it has negative connotations and associations attached to it and, it does not change the fact that the dead who are buried there are or were a loved one to someone else. For instance, during the semester we saw a few people come to into the cemetery to put flowers on their loved one’s graves and to tidy it up a little, this shows us that though we are working in a cemetery for people who did not have the means to have an elaborate funeral, either for themselves or their loved one(s), it does not make them any less human than anyone else. Which is why I like the idea of changing the name of our project name form Hidalgo County Pauper’s Cemetery Project to Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project. The only problem that I can see with this is that, because of the fact that the word pauper may be more readily known than what a Public Cemetery is exactly, it may garner more interest in the project than a more neutral name for the project. However, I am still in favor of using Public Cemetery instead of Paupers Cemetery as a whole.

The use of a different name of the project helps to influence the kind of attraction that it will garner not only in the general public, but in the academic spheres as well. For example, during the semester we were reading a few academic articles that were similar to the project that we have started here. In these articles it is interesting to see the direction that people take when they start the project. Though I cannot remember the specific article that has originally started with one named and changed it to another, I can remember there being an article written about a project done at a university. In this project they encountered some problems in dealing with a group of people who were looking to maintain their local history. The way that they dealt with this is by listening to the group and attempting to appease them as well as give as much factual evidence as they could. This is one the articles that stood out most to me because I was able to read a little bit more into the way that the project was affecting the community, as well as, having some historical context to the area. The historical context is extremely helpful to me, because as a reader or general public I have less knowledge as to why this project is important not only to the area, but as a whole. Therefore, I believe that it would be beneficial to have a class period or special project for any given semester that would allow for us to talk to the people who are directly affected by this project. I feel that talking to them would allow for a very open communication system that will help us further shape our project.

In terms of the project itself, I believe that we have had a great start in being able to learn how to interact not only with others in our field of study, but with people whose field of study may not outwardly seem to work in conjunction with ours, but ultimately can, as well as learning how this will benefit the community. It will do this by allowing for people to find out who exactly is buried there, for some it may mean being able to finally find their loved ones and for others it will allow for a sort of piece having their loved ones properly documented once again.

Communities and Stakeholders

There are several communities in the Rio Grande Valley, such as the rich, the poor, the ones who go church, the ones who don’t, and so on. These communities are different in nature, but they so often overlap and intertwine that they can be viewed as one. As a whole the Valley can recognize the differences that there are between us, however people fail to sometimes remember that the communities here are fluid in their interpretations of one another. That being said there is a very noticeable group that is buried in the HCPCP. The group that is buried there most certainly belong to a group that either has/had less financial means than most all the other groups that live here in the Rio Grande Valley or people who may have simply had no identification on them and thus needed to be buried as a John or Jane Doe. In both these cases the HCPCP was the most affordable place for these communities to bury the dead.

Through out this project it has been very clear that the people buried in the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery are not only deceased but they are also still a part of the living community. Because everyone has experienced or will experience the loss of a loved one, the way that we interacted with community of the dead was in a way that allowed for us to feel as though we were getting to learn about a new friend’s house. Therefore it is evident that even though they are no longer living, they still affect the lives of those that live/lived around them. That being said I believe that it was highly beneficial to the project to have people who live in the surrounding area of the cemetery working on the project. This is because as people who live in the same area that the deceased once did, will understand the culture of the area better than an outsider. However, there are some drawbacks to this, for instance because not everyone working on the project lives in or has lived in the same community as the deceased or even as each other. So, then it may be better that we do not allow our own cultural views to influence how we see the people buried in the cemetery.

As stated earlier there are several communities here in the Valley, but not all of them are in the cemetery. So, when we look to talk to the family members of the deceased we are only really including one community in the project, and we are thus neglecting all of the other communities who may have or hold an interest in the project. For instance, if we choose to only really notify and talk with the loved ones of the deceased and choose not talk to Hidalgo County about the progress of the project, then we would loose some of the freedom that we get now. However, this in turn may cause problems with the deceased’s loved ones and may cause them to disagree with the county’s decision.

Digital Techniques in Public Archaeology

Technology comes in many forms, it can be something as simple as a hammer to a phone. As time has passed, the technology that we use has gotten more advanced and in in some cases complicated to use. However, after some time working with the piece of technology, we can gain a better understanding of all the little nuances that come with working the piece. This can also be said in terms of our project at the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery, the people who have family buried there for the most part do not know what it is that we are doing, much like I have no idea how to use Photoshop, and so it is then up to us as the research participants to help them understand what we are doing. The first step to this would be finding a way to contact family members of the deceased, after making that first contact, we should try to establish an open line of communication so that we can work with them and try to find out more about the cemetery and their loved ones. Once we do have an open line of communication with them, we can start to have a more cohesive working environment for the project.

As I stated before, working with any type of technology will have it’s ups and downs, however, that really should not hold too much weight as to whether or not we should work with a piece of technology. So, being able to use technology in the field has been a revolutionary idea. Kevin Garstki writes how the use of photography was revolutionary in the field of Archaeology, and the use of new 3D technologies in Archaeology would be equally as useful. The use of 3D technology specifically in this class would be useful because it would further allow for people to really see the what exactly the land looks like, and would thus give not only the public a better understanding and view of the project, but also would help us keep track of the progress of the project.


Social Justice & Archaeology for HCPCP

One of the most obvious forms of marginalization and/or inequality for this project is the subconscious signals that are sent whenever you hear the word ‘pauper’. In my own experience, I have seen the word used in contexts that are meant to be little and have negative connotations attached to it. An instance of this can be seen in the princess and the pauper, where the pauper is made to be dirty and live in the deplorable conditions, and while this may have been the way that paupers used to live once upon a time, it it not necessarily true for the people living in current times in the U.S. Because the name of the cemetery we are conducting is called Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery, I believe that we should be focusing attempting to show the community that even though it is called a Pauper’s Cemetery, the people there are more than just the word itself. Though the people buried at this cemetery were not people who cannot afford private cemeteries, does not necessarily that they deserve to be thought of or treated differently than people buried at private cemeteries. However, to the best of my knowledge, in this project we are not doing anything to combat the negative connotations that come with the word, but by doing nothing we are allowing the word to maintain it’s negative connotations.

Ethics of Public Archaeology

The difference between Jameson’s and McGhee’s approaches to Public archaeology are different because while one focuses more on building communities, as McGhee states on page 213 “Participant action research (PAR) refers to a research methodology which aims to transform communities fro the better and where positive social change is and explicit goal.” Jameson’s description of public archaeology attempts to use the community that they are given to help with whatever it maybe that they need help with, this can be seen especially within the first few paragraphs of his chapter/article. While they are both different, it is also apparent that they do attempt to use ethical practices during their work, however because they are working with human beings, being wholly ethical can sometimes be challenging. In McGhee’s work, he gives some ideas/guidelines as to how we should go about doing public Anthropology. These guidelines are extremely helpful in  giving ideas and ways to include communities and really make it public archaeology. While these guidelines are helpful, it is also important to keep in mind that each group of human beings is different and therefore they are going to require different things, and want to know about different things.

What Public Archaeology is to Me

Public Archaeology is a complex field, where there is no one right definition that can encompass all that it stands for and all that it stands to accomplish. Due to this intricate nature, the only answer to the question what is Public Archaeology to me is also complex and intricate in nature. The simplest way in which I can define this is, public archaeology is archaeology done within a community, as well as archaeology that is done outside of a community. What I mean by this is, like most archaeology’s, public archaeology is done with the intent of learning more about any given community and/or environment. Once the excavating, surveying, and learning is done, all the knowledge that was gathered during this time is then spread around in articles, journals, books, etc. The difference between the way public archaeology and other more scholarly types of archaeology spread their data around is that, one is meant to be understood by a general public as well as other scholars, and the other is meant to be read by scholars. This to me is a key example of what separates public archaeology from other forms of archaeology. The project that is beginning in  Hidalgo County’s Pauper Cemetery is a prime example of showing how the data from this will made easily accessible for the general public. What I am hoping to learn more about is how exactly will our data be seen and interpreted by the public, as well as how learning to gather all the data and putting it together to make a cohesive public study.