Daily Archives: March 16, 2016

The Case for Critical Evaluation of Outreach Approaches in Archaeology

In situations where the goal of archaeological work is not to produce a product, but to successfully engage a particular group of people, it seems like common sense to try to figure out if it is working. Archaeologists are used to assessing human behaviors by measuring material signatures – indirect evidence – and most public outreach efforts in our field also follow this model. Where with zooarchaeological evidence we might use a Minimum Number of Individuals (MNI) as a rudimentary measure of the abundance of an animal in the diet of past people, with public archaeology most people are using number of attendees or online hits as a measure of engagement. But just as MNI is but an entry point to understanding the role of animals in the past, counting heads is only the first step in understanding if public archaeology is “working.” (I know I am talking about a huge variety of goals that archaeologists have, but I will try to be relevant across the spectrum, like horoscopes.) As I outlined in my first post, the ethical underpinning of public archaeology (the “big umbrella”) is that archaeological practice has sociopolitical consequences for contemporary communities. As Dr. Randall McGuire (2008:48) put it: Recognizing [Read More]