Site Interpretation & Community Organization

This blog post is in regards to the various methods approached by archaeologists today in attempts to engage with the public and other interest groups. References are made to Edward Gonzalez-Tennant’s “New Heritage and Dark Tourism: A Mixed Methods Approach to Social Justice in Rosewood, Florida” and Uzi Baram’s “Community Organizing in Public Archaeology: Coalitions for the Preservation of a Hidden History in Florida”. 

As we continue on this journey of developing technology at a rapid pace, methods and theory on how to approach new spheres of the public are being established such as virtual reality. As mentioned in my last post on digital techniques, i cover a topic on the modern advancements in data recording as a means to allow the public to become more involved and have accessible information on the projects that involve their very own community.

Mentioned in the article by Gonzalez-Tennant, it explains the purpose of this platform being used primarily for the engagement of the public and overall as a tool for education(76). By utilizing the program site called SecondLife, Gonzalez-Tennant builds assimilation of historic events in a manner of several contexts. He explains the availability the public is allowed to create an avatar and explore this program to inquire more in-depth understandings of such historic context. By creating the Virtual Rosewood Museum in SecondLife, establishes a center concentrated on the avocation and education of what happened in 1923 to the African-American community neighborhood at Rosewood, Florida(69). Thus, satisfying the intent set forth on applying new digital techniques to connect the world with important events throughout history and current events.

Reflecting on these public engagement methods executed by Gonzalez-Tennant, I believe we can apply similar tools onto this project through the continuation of blogging, broadcasting, digital data collection, and incorporating digital models of on-site artifacts onto the Hidalgo County Pauper Cemetery Project. While also incorporating new topics of discussion that pertain to the cultural significance of this site that include marginalization on several levels. As we collect data on these damaged burial sites, we must be documenting these patterns of people who were buried here and give them the representation they deserve; by documenting these burials onto a platform that will be accessible to the public.

Uzi Baram elaborates on other approaches when concerning community archaeology and how engaging with the public is crucial to social change. The most crucial point to this article is the understanding in which archaeologist are only a component to this major project that calls for organization and collaboration(15). In order to successfully create social change in a community, the motive of this project is not on the excavation and research analysis but on the relationships and power control that is understood throughout.

Baram explains the notion of decentering archaeology is not necessarily a bad thing, but allows room for the true focus of community development and historic preservation to be done(16). The focus of archaeologists being the hero of the change needs to be shifted to only a component to the overall movement of this collaboration because community leadership is involved.

For conservation to succeed in this example, collaborations in terms of building up an organization and creating coalitions dedicated to preservation have been essential; archaeological excavations and interpretations would not have been enough to preserve the area.”(16)

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