I would like to start of by expressing my joy and knowledge of the closing of this semester as another door opens post graduation. I was not aware of the the experience I was walking into when I first signed up for this course. Before this semester, I did not know that the university offered service learning classes that collaborated with the community, or I would have signed up much sooner! As an anthropology minor, it had been a while since I last took a course relative to the field so this was a great way to remind myself why I had chose it in the first place. It seems though, that the days flew by too fast for data collection than I would have liked.
Overall, the way the project stands and how it was introduced at the beginning of the semester, reflects a very promising growth. It was interesting to see the work that other students and Dr. Rowe had started before and everything that is to be accomplished. This course is a wonderful opportunity for students to be actively engaged in their work instead of being stuck in a classroom. A hands on experience really helps provide a different and fulfilling environment for those involved, that you wouldn’t necessarily get from a regular class schedule. Also, it being in the spring semester really gave us a variety of weather to work with. It made the semester interesting and informative, while also sparing some days to gather and meet in a familiar setting of a white board class.
I typically found myself more inclined to do data collection, than the mapping. Though I did see a little bit of the mapping process that took more time and focus. It was fairly easier and much quicker to do data collection of the graves for the roughly 2.5 hours at the cemetery. Everything was inputted via mobile, which made the need for pen and paper that much more convenient. At times, the ordering of the graves and the faded numbers made it some what difficult to find but once you found one, the process was smoother to continue. I was not always familiar with the stone types and materials, so having a sheet with the descriptions was very helpful. ( Access to it online would have been nice as well )
Also, the rulers with a clip were better for carrying, or at least a bag to carry everything would give a more manageable way to hold and input data on your phone. And even though it did not use mobile data to upload, my battery went by quickly so I had to make sure to have it completely charged before arriving.
One thing I wish I had or had access to for everyone, would be some brushes to clear dirt away from carvings or sunken graves. At most, I cleared what I could to have the most data for each grave number. The ones with little to no marker or information were the simplest but also an assortment of unique and interesting finds. From metal to all different stone materials and special trinkets. Common last names in the hidalgo county, and some I never heard before. There are people buried from the 1800’s and 1900’s of all ages, each with their own story.
With death there is also life, and I felt that our work really helped care and fill in missing gaps.
When you first come into the cemetery, there is a distinction between sections of the cemetery. Others you can see are very well managed and in better condition. So I always felt that what we did each day was very important. Especially when we have gotten the chance to receive attention and help spread the history and purpose of the project. In return, being able to help family members find loved ones who could be located somewhere in the cemetery was also rewarding. What was lost could be organized and readily accessible with the on going work of the HCPCP. That’s really what made each day worthwhile and exciting to go. Each small detail was equally important to create something better. Everyone before, during and after as the semesters continue will each add on their work and gain something in return.
Ultimately with this course I have been able to know a part of a history so close to home, do work in an outdoor setting that provides experience and working together with the community to make a difference.
Being a part of the Engaged scholar symposium for the service learning poster was also a gratifying opportunity to work with a group of students eager to share the project. For what is being done should not be left unnoticed but shared with the rest of the community. These blogs especially, are an open door for us to share that experience and to connect others with the project. There is a lot to see when viewing the page but also much to fill in the process and I can’t wait to see what it looks like in the end!
The flexibility of this course allowed me to balance my focus on other classes and learn new things every Friday for class at the cemetery. Each day by filling in more information and being able to organize a rather large spread sheet of data. Its flexibility encouraged me to write these very blogs and learn new/different perspectives on articles. I think it added an extra and important touch to the hands on work, being able to read information and other students views.
With the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery project I have gained insight and knowledge of different forms of public archaeology, how to communicate archaeology, ethics, the importance of technology and community, to working together for a greater benefit. Both at home readings and blogs with the work done at the cemetery blended well to help better my knowledge. Hopefully there is more to learn and gain from this partnership as each student and community partners share their service.