What are you currently working on in the area of public engagement?
Together with Matt Kirk (PhD student, UAlbany) and Dr. Michael Lucas (Research Archaeologist, New York State Museum), we are assembling a team of UAlbany students to excavate at key sites in the first half of the 1800's in historic Albany. These sites are places where members of the African American community lived and worked. Some dwellings were home to key figures in Albany's pivotal role in the efforts of the Underground Railroad; others housed enslaved Africans. Our work will investigate the daily lives and experiences of pre-Abolition era African Americans.
Public engagement activities will involve communicating with the public through casual or formal visits to the excavation sites; formal invitations for the public to visit on a given day are planned. Outreach will include communicating with local museums, the media, and the Historical Albany Foundation. Matt Kirk (through Hartgen & Associates) also runs an archaeology summer camp for a week or two in July for students in late elementary school/early middle school grades. UAlbany students will work with these youngsters and help train, educate, and mentor them.
How did you get involved in this work?
I was looking for an opportunity to work locally in archaeology, in the context of a field methods training course for students. As I know Matt Kirk from UAlbany, I contacted him to see if he would be interested in collaborating. Matt suggested these sites and research themes, which were very exciting. It is nice to offer field courses locally for UAlbany students. Most field schools have expensive room and board fees. In this respect, the summer 2017 field school will be more inclusive.
What is the greatest reward in your publicly engaged work?
My prior work has been in Mexico, and before that, Belize. Field schools are transformative experiences for undergrads, who return at a greater level of maturity, with much more confidence regarding their abilities and potential. This tends to make them more active/engaged researchers for the remainder of their undergrad years and beyond. The most rewarding part for me is to witness and foster students' independent thinking, developing identity as scholars, and confidence as researchers evolve. In Mexico, community members are part of our research teams. Many opportunities for education are fostered - the team learns from traditional knowledge of local ways of life, and archaeologists share their knowledge of deeper history.
What are your future plans for your publicly engaged work?
We envision continuing the field school in future summers.