Friday, November 7, 2014

The Long Arm of Archaeology - Outreach

out·reach:  the activity or process of bringing information or services to people

Outreach, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is an important component to archaeology and one that we embrace fully here at The State Museum.  Museums are considered educational institutions and one of our primary goals is to share archaeology with the public in a format that is clear and informative.  If you have not visited the Anthropology and Archaeology gallery at the museum, or if it’s been a while, we invite you to come and learn about our rich archaeological heritage in Pennsylvania.

Archaeologists have long involved the public in their work.  In fact, archaeology in its early years largely consisted of enthusiastic, energetic, and knowledgeable members of the general public with a keen interest and passion about the past—a passion they readily shared with their local communities.  Today, these knowledgeable individuals—who today we call avocationals—are still very much with us, even as archaeology has become more professionalized to meet the requirements of state and federal laws regarding the remains of past peoples.  The word “outreach” is included in many of the agreements that federal agencies enter into before starting a construction project, and this outreach is a part of the archaeological studies that precede actual construction of highways, sewage treatment facilities or development projects.

archaeologist at work ahead of a highway expansion project

Archaeologists recognize that their outreach efforts are key to communicating with the general public as to why archaeology is done prior to construction in the first place.  Outreach efforts help tie communities today with those that preceded them, giving them a sense of  local heritage—a heritage that in some places goes back thousands of years with the American Indians that first inhabited Pennsylvania and continues through European colonization and the establishment of the United States.
archaeology display during the Kipona festival in Harrisburg

simulated archaeological dig conducted by high school AP history students

The forms that outreach can take are quite diverse.  This blog, itself, is an outreach tool, but archaeologists also give lectures to the general public, run workshops that allow people to touch actual objects from the past and meet with those who do archaeology for a living. Many of these public programs are conducted during active archaeological investigations.

grade schoolers participate in primitive tool use during Archaeology Day at the State Capitol

high school students engaged in the public archaeology program at Fort Hunter Mansion and Park

 Archaeological outreach can start with very young individuals, and many archaeologists work with teachers on the k-12 level.  Archaeological outreach also harnesses the latest technology.  Some archaeologists are using laser scanners to create 3D models of artifacts, for example, that can be printed in 3D by anyone, even from the comfort of their own homes.  Digital archaeology, in one form or another, enables people from across the world to join together and appreciate Pennsylvania’s cultural heritage in a global context.

Lunch and Learn program at the State Museum of Pennsylvania

The Section of Archaeology often features many of these outreach programs in our blog and an important event will take place tomorrow, November 8, 2014,  with our Workshops in Archaeology program.  The focus of this year’s program is Climate Change and the Archaeological Record.  Many noted professionals will be presenting their research for the general public to understand how we examine the past to look for evidence of culture change, often tied to climate change. Walk-ins are welcome!
attendees enjoying the Archaeology gallery during the Workshops in Archaeology program

We hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into the daily activities of our department and invite you to visit us at our programs throughout the year as we work to bring archaeology into our communities.

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

No comments:

Post a Comment