Our very first blog post was about each member of the class identifying what “public archaeology” meant to them and with slight doubt in my initial post I found myself to be proven wrong. I mentioned that I felt public archaeology was more of a concept in which we bring a community together to find solid research and maintaining communication with the public for what has been discovered. There was not full confidence in this statement because I personally felt unsure the public would become aware of our project as quickly as they had. To my surprise and satisfaction, members of the community were in fact aware of the project we had begun and were thrilled to hear of our efforts. I was unaware of the amount of communication and collaboration it would require for our project to excel as quickly as it had. As a group we gathered occasional volunteers, collaboration with archives, human remains detection dogs and the general community becoming aware of the mission we set out for ourselves. Just in the first semester of working on the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery Project (HCPCP) the course has been able to branch out to various people, even professionals in other states, and this remains to only be the beginning of our project. With outside efforts, we have been able to learn more of the cemetery than beyond what is on the surface.
My perspective of the overall objective of HCPCP is to benefit those who lost loved ones as well as bring a sense of justice to those who are deceased and have gone unmarked or neglected. I can confidently state our motives are of the most genuine and it has been very interesting to experience technological techniques while creating a sense of a bond with the descriptions on marked, and even unmarked, graves. Typically, I am a believer that though technology is wonderful it is consuming too much of our lives and we have become reliant on it despite it not always being reliable. However, while working on this project I have been capable of bending my belief in understanding that the equipment is incredibly helpful. Some individuals within the class were granted the opportunity to digitally mark grave dimensions with advanced technologies while others documented information of each grave. There have been occasional run-ins with technology, where we are set to re-mark graves, that soon become tedious and slows down our progress but balances when I am reminded that we are benefitting other individuals. Through my observations, I have become aware that the project is primarily technological based for items on surface level, however the human remains detection dogs were useful in discovering what is below surface level. This benefitted our project but allowing us to acknowledge the graves that have gone beyond unmarked and resulted in being entirely unknown. Unfortunately, with respect to the deceased and their loved ones I am unsure of a way we could distinguish these individuals but we can now note there is a grave in areas that appear to be nothing but ground.
Contrary to my usual opposition of technology, I find as though technology is greatly improving and allowing for more accurate research. With possibilities of a drone in our research future it could provide a more accurate scaling of the public cemetery and improve our research findings. This is especially helpful for graves the human remains detection dogs discovered. Hopefully in the future of the HCPCP we can utilize more outside, physical help to provide a more accurate representation of the cemetery as we have worked on it. Additionally, I hope for a lively looking cemetery. The borders of the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery, other cemeteries, appear to be more “attractive” to the eye, thus I hope in the near future we will be able to offer a similar appearing cemetery so there is no sense of neglect and disinterest.
A small thought has lingered through my mind and it is the attempt we may make in meeting the needs of the public. As an individual in a group project I have acknowledged our goal contributes to involving the public, though at this very moment there is not much involvement from the public. This is entirely acceptable, for we have just begun our project, though in the future will public and archaeological methods and/or ideas clash when deciding what is best for the cemetery? From my individual stand point I view this to potentially slow down the research process in which there will be continues lessons to be taught for new individuals involved in the project. However, there is a very strong possibility it could improve the project, as well. With outside perspectives from individuals who may have nearly no knowledge of archaeology, their inputs could guide our research into an unforeseen, positive direction. I feel as though the primary focus in caring for the cemetery should stem from putting yourself in the perspective of which your loved one is buried in this exact or a similar cemetery. It is then that the best public understanding and changes to what is the “now” could be made.
Finally, the amount of effort and collaboration that is required for this project to become successful is outstanding and entirely worth the effort. There is a bunch of support on the project that has been developed and the few interviews that have approached the group with questions have been more than kind and ecstatic. There are individuals that have asked to remain informed or have reached out to an individual and provided names for us to look out for. Minor, yet helpful, requests have been established and, as stated earlier, with this being the barely the beginning of our project the final outcome will be incredible. Personally, I look forward to the project development as well as the technology development that will be made to aid in creating the most accurate, realistic, digital display of the Hidalgo County Public Cemetery in years to come.