Author Archives: amccomb

Angela A. McComb is a MAPA student at Binghamton University. She works on archaeology and disaster management with a focus on historic public housing. She has a BA in Anthropology from California State University, Sacramento and has worked for the California Office of Historic Preservation and the Eldorado National Forest. She recently completed an internship with FEMA Environmental and Historic Preservation, where she worked on the Section 106 process for Hurricane Sandy Recovery grants.

Mentoring Session for Careers in Archaeology: Government Archaeology Work

In keeping with my goals of networking to further my career opportunities (see post “Networking for Introverts”), I signed up for the Mentoring Session for Careers in Archaeology for Government Archaeology Work. This is a new session, sponsored by the Queer Archaeology Interest Group and the Committee for Status of Women in Archaeology, during which small groups of graduate students and young professionals were matched up with archaeologists experienced in the subgroup topic – other groups talked about Work/Life balance, discrimination in the workplace, moving from graduate school to tenure track and other topics, all within the lens of the challenges particular to women and queer folks in archaeology. I wasn’t exactly what the format or discussion topics would be, but as a queer woman entering government service, I want to take advantage of every chance to talk to and learn from others in the know – and I’m so grateful for QAIG and COSWA for setting up the event. I hope they continue to provide opportunities to discuss these topics in a safe and open environment. For the Government Archaeology table, we had two excellent mentors – David E. Witt from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation [Read More]

Networking for Introverts

You may think that conferences are about hearing talks on cutting-edge methodologies, novel applications of theory, and the odd groan-inducing pun. These things are all important parts of the conference experience, but really they’re about that activity which is most terrifying to us social-anxious introverts: networking. Don’t worry – follow our advice and you will also be moderately successful at interacting with your peers and colleagues. Nathan and I are both here at the #SAA2017 conference to expand our professional contacts; you’ll hear more from him about his experiences later today. Our ultimate goals with networking, however, are different; Nathan is looking for opportunities to work with other scholars in his field of study, find publishing and research opportunities, and establish his reputation in academia. Because I am seeking government employment, I’m focusing on making contacts with people who work with or are employed by federal agencies such as the National Park Service and present myself as someone they would want to put a good word in during the hiring process. So, here are our tips for networking while awkward: Have a goal for your networking – do you want a job? Talk to people in applied areas. Want to [Read More]

Live blogging the SAA 2017 Conference

Nathan and I are excited to bring you all the happenings at the Society for American Archaeology annual conference this week in sunny rainy Vancouver, BC. We traveled here from Binghamton, NY with several other graduate students and faculty. We will be telling you about our experiences at one of the largest archaeology conferences in the world, from the sessions we sit in on, the posters and papers others in our department are giving, to our personal experiences navigating the conference world as a graduate student. Nathan will be attending working groups and panels dealing with queer archaeology and gender/sexuality and the archaeology of Paleolithic Europe. I will be attending sessions on government archaeology, cultural resources management during disasters, and digital archaeology. We’re excited to be able to meet and make connections with a wide variety of leading and up-and-coming scholars in our fields, plus share the experiences of our Binghamton colleagues attending or presenting in sessions about the archaeology of the Southwest, South America, the Mississippi Basin, and GIS and so many more areas of study! We’ll be updating periodically throughout the rest of the week, so stay tuned!  

The Archaeology of Vulnerability: Hurricane Katrina and archaeology in the midst of disaster

As Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the Gulf Coast in late August of 2005, 1.2 million people across the Southeastern United States received evacuation orders. Most fled the storm, but many stayed behind; close to 2000 people lost their lives as a result, the vast majority of those fatalities occurring in New Orleans.  Katrina is recognized as the largest disaster ever to occur in the United States, causing hundreds of billions of dollars in damages and disrupting wide swathes of the Southeast; many communities have still not recovered to their pre-Katrina conditions. One of the reasons I chose to center my thesis on archaeology and disaster recovery after hurricanes is the immensity of Katrina’s impact; the effects of the eight-day storm have been widespread and slow to resolve. The hurricane alone is not responsible for the damage and destruction, however. Without people a hurricane is just a windy storm that lashes the coastline; once people are placed in the path of danger, and given those people’s position in relation to any number of societal statuses – their race, education, and income, for example – the hurricane becomes the precipitating factor in a disaster which, particularly in New Orleans, had been [Read More]

Stewards of Memory: Terrorism and Public Archaeology

Public archaeology is deeply connected to issues of heritage. Our National Register of Historic Places, our archaeological reviews, our love of old things are all tied back to how physical manifestations of memory shape our experience and identity. We use museums, memorials, and mansions to construct a story of our shared past, to idealize and sometimes idolize our history. Many of the moments we memorialize are surrounded with death and devastation – the National Battlegrounds of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, for instance, or monuments to the victims of the RMS Titanic or the Donner Party. When people die, our urge is to preserve their memory, to mark the loss somehow. This urge is intensified when lots of people die, or when the circumstances of their deaths are unexpected or violent. To rise into national consciousness, the tragedy must appear to be out of the control of the victims, further heightening the loss of unfulfilled potential. FEMA is tasked with providing support and assistance, including the work of archaeologists, to survivors – people who have gone through what is likely to be the worst moments of their lives, who have lots loved ones, homes, and belonging and who are experiencing [Read More]

Rupture and Rebirth: California’s Earthquakes

Earthquakes aren’t just a hazard in California, they’re events that Shannon Lee Dawdy (2016) describes as ruptures in everyday life, creating schisms in time, space and community, and with a revelatory power to uncover things hidden in the earth and in the habitus of living. Rupturing events can take many forms, but I will here be focusing on those caused by disasters which are of large scale or wide impact. National disasters typically fit both of those descriptors, and the Stafford Act, the legislation which created and authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency provides that the President may provide federal assistance in response to any natural catastrophe, fire, flood, or explosion. “Natural catastrophes” here include “any hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, winddriven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought”; it is important to note that fire, flood and explosion may be of any cause, including human action – as we will see in a future post. National disasters, when viewed through Dawdy’s lens as a rupture, create a situation in which the values, priorities and vulnerabilities of a community are stripped to the bone. Earthquakes are a present danger, a premonition of an apocalyptic future, [Read More]

Public Archaeology and Disaster

Trish Markert and guest blogger Kevin Gibbons have done an excellent job exploring the physical and political implications of climate change and Michele Turner has given us a look at the American legal system and archaeology. With thanks to them for their insights, I’d like to spend a little time delving into one of the issues at the heart of archaeology and climate change: disasters. I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise when I say that archaeologists have long been interested in disasters (Pompeii, anyone?). What many do find unexpected is that archaeology is also practiced during disasters. Any time that a community is threatened by earthquake, fire or hurricanes, their collective past – their heritage – is also threatened. Disaster management is about more than simply providing clean drinking water and a place to shelter from a storm. Some of the most important work is done when survivors return to the home passed down to them by their grandparents, or when the church where their children were baptized reopens its doors. Communities are created through a sense of shared belonging – whether this is through growing up in the same neighborhood, following the same football club, or developing [Read More]