What is Public Archaeology?

To me, public archaeology is archaeology that is accessible to the public, serves the public, and aids underrepresented communities. Accessibility to the public is crucial because it allows the public to gain more knowledge about the projects and the goals of public archaeology. Furthermore, more accessibility allows for community involvement and input, helping public archaeology serve the public through collaboration and helping archaeologists address concerns from the community. In general, the perspectives of archaeology, and the broader field of anthropology, provide more open-minded and inclusive approaches to projects, allowing for public archaeology to aid underrepresented communities.

The project we are conducting at the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery (HCPC) aligns with my definition in several ways. For example, we keep the projects accessible to the public through the blog, contact with news organizations, and contact with family members and other community members. Our project also serves the public through connecting family members with their loved ones. Furthermore, we are recording the gravestones and mapping the cemetery to provide a resource to the public. Finally, our project serves underrepresented communities, such the poor, which are represented in the HCPC.

The lines of investigation I am interested in pursuing are exploring patterns or trends that are present in the cemetery, as well as the overall evolution of the cemetery. It would also be interesting to involve more family members in the project to learn more about their backgrounds and histories.


What is Public Archaeology?

To my understanding, public archaeology is for the public, and largely by the public. Public archaeology means community involvement, consideration for and preservation of local heritage, collaborative work between institutions of education and investigation, and it can also very much be activist archaeology. I think our project aligns with this in that it directly affects members of the community or the public, and it encourages the public to contribute to the completion of the project. This means that it covers community involvement and the intention to preserve something but significance to our local heritage. I also strongly believe that by putting together the pieces of the story of the Hidalgo County public Cemetery, we are inherently making this a matter of activism because we are uncovering truths about inequality and marginalization, in the history and in the present day of this community.

The lines of investigation that I am interested in pursuing for this project are the questions of social justice, like the racism and poverty that is apparent was present in the region. I think it’s important to reflect on the impacts of these acts today,  not just for the cemetery but for the people. Outside of what is already established at the moment, some of the aspects of public archaeology that I would like to more solidly incorporate into the HCPC project are collaborative work between the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and museums or galleries or sister/neighboring institutions of education.

Additionally, it could be exciting to see community involvement grow with the hosting of events relevant to the culture of the region, like Day of the Dead celebrations. Community involvement could also mean club involvement, like the university’s Anthropology Club.

What is Public Archaeology?

To me Public Archaeology is a type of archaeological work. Public archaeology is when archaeologists communicate and work with the public when they are working on projects. Another part of public archaeology is that the archaeologists are making data and their interpretations on that data known to the public. So, to me I think that Public Archaeology is a way to keep the public informed and interested in the type of work that archaeologists do. Like for example, information about projects can be more easily found and understood by people that are not part of the archaeological field. Our project aligns with my definition of Public Archaeology because it deals with being in contact and giving information to the public. In this class, there is a blog to keep people aware of some of the things that we are doing in the cemetery. It also helps that one of the main goals of this project is to make the information know to the public by having a website about the grave and their locations so that the people might be able to find relatives. This part of the project isn’t very worked on in this semester, but it is one of the end goals and it also might be worked on more in the next semester. The lines of investigating that I am interested in pursuing are professionalism and ethics. One of the main problem in public archaeology is that there aren’t many fulltime archaeologists that are working on it they might work on a project that involves the public but then they go back to their own research that doesn’t deal with the public by either communicating or sharing data. With not that many people working on it there isn’t much information and research into what it is and how to go about putting in into motion. The part of this that deals with ethics is worth investigating because it is a way to make sure that everyone understands each other’s point of view and so that the researchers don’t end up insulting or going against the wishes of the people. Some information that archaeology brings to light might not be well received by the people that it is from and other so it is something that must be addresses by the archaeologist and the people .

What is Public Archaeology

Public archaeology in the broadest sense is that part of the discipline concerned with studying and critiquing the processes of production and consumption of archaeological commodities. To what I have learned to be Public Archaeology is to perform a research or project that would give back to the community. It is to conserve history and to teach the community about the importance of these sites.The goal is is the preservation of the fragile sites of our prehistoric and historic past that are being destroyed at an alarming rate through natural process and development. Our job is to bring back what has been forgotten. There’s a couple of steps that should be taken when a public archaeology is being performed.

  1. Stimulate public interest in archaeology

We try to get the community to be aware of what the project is about, and what it consist of ( students, professors, equipment, etc)

2) Raise awareness on the importance of cultural resources and advocate for their preservation.

Explaing to the community about the importance of the project and the outcome that would be recieved.

3) Educate the public on the processes and importance of archaeological research

By educating the public, they would have the ability to gain knowlege about the project, and how they could help to create other projects that would help preservate other sites.

4) Connect people to their heritage

By being able to perform a project like this, we are able to connect people with their heritage, maybe find a lost love one for the family. Since I have been part of the Hidalgo County Public project, we have gotten numerous of families coming to the cemetery looking for a lost loved one. I was able to witness a family find the grave of a family member that had deceased over 50 years now, and it was amazing to be able to see the connection that was brought by this project and a family. It would be amazing to keep witnessing moments like this in the future.

Public Archaeology and Education

In her article Moe (2002) proposes that Educators and Public Archaeologist work together to breed better, more informed citizens that can identify and understand the importance of the past and its remnants. To do this, programs such as Project Archaeology Archaeologists and Educators are trained to understand one another in order to adequately pass on their unified skills and message to the future generations. Jeppson (2008) would agree with Moe, but not so much her methods because Jeppson believes that education is quite often not completely understood or appreciated, and if treated the same Education then Archaeology will follow in the same path. She would propose that Archaeology be taught as interrelated aspects of human life under Social Studies.

Both approached are very good but in regard to local education I believe that Moe’s approach might be most effective because understanding both the educational and Archaeological aspects would make the combining of the two go more smoothly. Knowing what to teach and how to teach it are key components in passing on knowledge to the children of the future which will inevitably create a better society.



Public Archaeology & what it means to me…

The 7 different types of Public Archaeology that are pictured by Gabe Moshenska, provide a great insight into the prosperous world of public archaeology and its growing influence towards the public and current/future archaeologists. When asked directly, what public archaeology means to me, one must first have a better understanding of what it means, in itself. I think it is important to know that it is not meant to be “an exhausting list” but rather a nice platform of what it represents. It’s flexibility further emphasizes critical key concepts that are needed of its representation.

Public archaeology means that archaeologist and the public can work collectively for the benefit of society. Professionals can work separately in a public sector, educational setting or individuals seeking open archaeology, popular and by the public. What I see in common with most, if not all of these certain categories is, whether you are a professional archaeologist or working as an individual, it ultimately benefits the public overall as each coincide. What raises the question are its ethical issues. In what ways are both parties benefiting. Is one or the other being affected. Can it be truly defined as public archaeology?

This semester, the HCPCP has provided me with some hands on experience and knowledge. As a service learning course alone, its description speaks a thousand words. What better way to understand public archaeology than to work directly with and for the community. In collaboration with the Hidalgo county, we are able to provide assistance to them while also gaining educational experience for us students. Not only is it influencing our personal growth and future career paths, but we are also able to give back. This project is also made readily accessible to the public by means of a Blog, as an introduction to the project and to keep the people informed on ongoing work. It is a wonderful partnership with exciting progress.

Image result for community togetherness

What lines of investigation are you interested in pursuing?
My interest lies more towards working alongside the public and in open archaeology. I have learned that working together with the community is more beneficial and rewarding. It is usually in the best interest of both parties and it is great to see the amount of work that can be done when people are working together. I also think that ethical issues may not arise as often due to its universal consensus. Which I am sure is not so simple but still very collaborative. While in open archaeology, it allows people to be informed and possibly involved in important work that is being done. Even if some people may not agree, there is still a potential open understanding that people can view and speak freely. In a way, both of these are very informative and educational. You can gain experience and knowledge from both aspects. In the end, isn’t that what public archaeology is all about. It is not limited to these or seven categories but open to a broad range of approaches, ethical and practical engagements, and working with and for the public. This is my understanding of public archaeology.

What Public Archaeology Means To Me

Public archaeology to me is uncovering history whether forgotten, abandoned, or lost. It means even that much more when it comes straight from the region one was born and raised. Public archaeology is something the community can take part in because it involves their life, and their own history. That’s what makes public archaeology even more intriguing! When one thinks of archaeology the thoughts of Egypt, or famous ruins come to mind. However, there’s history on the exact land we live our day to day lives. Being a part of this amazing project is so exciting to me! As my colleagues and I gain hands on experience, there is also a sense of giving back to our community. What is possibly better than doing something you enjoy, while helping others in the process?

Our project aligns perfectly with public archaeology. The purpose of the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project is to engage in archaeological techniques, and to help our community of Hidalgo while gaining knowledge at the same time. As students, we will be able to practice techniques used in archaeology in our own region. As the experience is a major bonus, so is the idea of helping families who have loved ones buried in this public cemetery.

When I first began in UTRGV, I was stuck between what majors to pursue in. After deciding that Anthropology was what I enjoyed learning, and wanted to pursue my career in it was set. I entered anthropology leaning towards the cultural and linguistic aspects. After my first semester with Dr. Rowe in Intro to Archaeology I knew that archaeology would be a field I would love to gain more knowledge and experience in. I am positive participating in this course of Public Archaeology will push me to want to also pursue a lead into the forensic aspect of anthropology as well. Through this project I want to understand how to operate the devices offered to help us identify what we are looking for. Whether it be data collection, identifying unmarked graves, and etc.

I am the type of individual who learns best by hands on work. The knowledge gained during this course will help my colleagues and I use these techniques for our careers. In many courses one just learns by listening, and reading. In this course we have the opportunity to learn by listening to directions and instructions, reading pieces that pertain to our work, and by actually engaging in these techniques archaeologists use in their careers. I am a first timer in this course, but many are veterans. I hope too that I will be able to grow along with this project and share my experience as they are. I am excited to see what this wonderful project brings to our community of the Rio Grande Valley and to our university of UTRGV!

What public archaeology means to me

Public Archaeology to me is where archaeologist use the help of the public in order to make connections with their findings in the field and with those findings we are able to learn about the area around us and also learn about the people as well. I don’t know what to expect going into this Fieldwork project as it is I never thought I would have an opportunity to work on fieldwork so close to home. I thought it would be a while before I got to do some fieldwork because you usually have to travel far to attend a field school and there usually very expensive, so I’m anxious to get started and I’m excited to see what I’m going to learn during this project.I think this opportunity is going to help aspiring archaeologists and anthropologists get some experience as well as give back to the community,which is basically the whole point of this project ,were encouraging the community to help us,because we need their help. There are people buried at this cemetery that seemed to have been forgotten about.Not to say that they’ve been forgotten on purpose, but I think with the help of the community this project could do a lot of good. With this project we are going to be able to at least help the city with burial document incident and we could help people find their loved ones.Overall I think this Public Archaeology project is going to allow the public to have more of an insight on what archaeologists do,that they don’t just go dig for bones, pottery, or the misconception that archaeologist dig up dinosaurs. I also think that this project could also lead to more projects that will allow not only more experience to Anthropology students but will also allow the public to have more interaction with Archaeology,because people are generally curious about what archaeologist and what anthropologists do, an example of this could be the past archaeology fair that happened this past October.Lots of people came out to the fair and they were very curious about learning about the items we had and what bones we were cleaning, so I think that if we can get this out more to the public I think we could get a lot more information on the graves that don’t have any markers and help find their family members. With this project I’m mostly interested in investigating people’s stories, I’ve always been curious about people pasts.I’m interested in the stories they have,the things they’ve seen and learned, of how things were different during their lifetime. I’m also interested in investigating the cemetery itself, I think from how people were buried were going to be able to learn a lot about society and how it possibly changed from back then to now. I’m looking forward to this project, I am nervous ,excited , and anxious, I just don’t know what to expect but what I do know is that this is an amazing opportunity that’s not only going to help me and my fellow classmates in our careers but also going to help the community.

A Final Reflection on my Experience with this Project

It is easy to reflect on this cemetery project and service learning course. The entire experience has been much more than a class. It has been a unique opportunity to not only engage with the public, but participate in a project that will require ongoing work. To summarize our work, it is the beginning of a long process of identifying and mapping all of the grades in the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery. We began by flagging as many graves as we could identify. We ended up having human remains detection dogs coming in and identifying more, so in the end we have found that there are close to 1,000 graves in total. Bringing in the HRD dogs, Piper and Jasper, was a very interesting stage, as they were able to locate graves which had been completely unmarked. Our next step was to go to each grave and record as much known data as possible, including measurements. We used a total station, as used in archaeological fieldwork, to begin to map each grave. Of course, we could not complete all 1,000+  in one semester, so this is an ongoing project.

I would say that perhaps my favorite part of this project was data collection. This is not something I would have foreseen myself enjoying, but there is something almost therapeutic about methodically gathering information and recording it in an organized manner. Besides this, I enjoyed taking notice of the individuals buried in this cemetery. I feel that I played a role in reminding the community of their presence. For the unmarked and unidentified graves, simply recording the location and flag number, with a photo, felt good. Knowing that while we are unable to identify these individuals at what is a very early stage, there is a possibility of new information being uncovered with time. I expected my least favorite part to consist of any and all technological contributions. I have never been gifted in the handling of technology and have come to accept that my talents lie elsewhere. I did tend to avoid the total station; I’m going to be honest about that. This being said, just about anything can be learned with time and practice, so I would like to make a point of tackling my technological hang ups in the future.

As someone whose academic focus is not in archaeology, I initially signed up for this course in order to gain hands on experience in field work. It is wise to have some type of research or field experience prior to grad school. While this project may not be a three month excavation in a foreign country, it does offer an opportunity to step outside of the typical university setting and into an environment that welcomes ideas and applauds initiative. It has been eye opening and humbling to see firsthand the level of detail that archaeologists strive for. While I do not see myself becoming a career archaeologist, as I am leaning toward the global health field, I have developed a newfound respect for archaeologists and their work ethic.

Upon leaving the classroom and beginning to build a relationship with the community, it allows one to not simply see or hear the course content, but to experience it firsthand. This semester I took Intro to Archaeology in addition to this Public Archaeology course. Because of the service work, I was able to apply many of the anthropological concepts I was learning in Intro to Archaeology, and that was very cool. Another important dynamic has been the strong focus on social justice. The hope of this project is to strengthen what has been a very neglected and overlooked cemetery. Many of the individuals buried here were dealt an unfortunate hand in life and were unable to afford a private burial. We want to keep the public, and the loved ones of those buried in the cemetery, informed throughout this process and provide them with as much information as possible as we move forward. For anyone who may have a family member or friend buried in an unidentified grave, it is important that they do not lose hope in finding the location. While it may take time and resources, there are people who care and want to keep working toward these goals.

I, personally, benefitted from this experience by growing as a student. This was my first university course that did not take place entirely in a classroom, so it was a useful experience for me to participate in a project that needed help. After I earn my bachelor’s degree, I will be looking at master’s programs in applied anthropology, so having been able to “apply” anthropology at least once already will be beneficial for me. Speaking on behalf of the class, I would say that this project has been a great way of testing our abilities, as students, in order to take the skills we have learned in the classroom, and apply them in the real world. On top of that, service work is needed in so many areas and having been able to contribute to one of these causes is advantageous in its own right. As I continue my education and one day build a career, I will enjoy looking back on my first educational community involvement experience and the imprint it left.

I would really love to take this public archaeology class again and continue my involvement with cemetery fieldwork. At the moment, it looks as though I will have a full schedule up until graduation. This being said, I consider myself invested in the outcome of the  Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project and would love to visit the class in the future and see what progress has been made. I’m interested in seeing changes that have been made and learning of any new developments. I have already spoken highly of my experience with two fellow members of the UTRGV Anthropology Club, who are both scheduled to participate in the spring, so I will be kept relatively in the loop.

To close this essay, I would like to discuss what I feel I have taken, and what any student may take, from this experience. There were many things to be gained from this project, and from service learning in general. At the top of the list would be: experience, knowledge, confidence, stronger partnerships with fellow classmates and the overall feeling of having contributed to something worthwhile. I truly hope that anyone who is familiar with our work has been happy with what we have done. I remain hopeful that the project continues in a manner which brings support to the community and receives support in return.

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.