I feel like I’ve yammered on about this a lot, but couldn’t find a post. Even if this topic is a repeat, it bears repeating. Here’s the rant.
State laws aside, the primary driver for CRM work is the National Historic Preservation Act. In this act, the ultimate responsibility for CRM compliance isn’t with the CRM firm. It isn’t with the permit holder who hires the CRM firm. It’s with the federal agency that issues the permit.
If it’s the agency’s responsibility to consider the effects of the project on historic properties, then it follows that any public archaeology is also the responsibility of that agency. The communication of the data is a key aspect of the CRM process. This is true at the beginning with stakeholder consultation and it needs to be present at the end of the process as well. Focusing solely on getting SHPO concurrence so that the project can proceed fails to do this and violates the spirit of the law, if not the actual letter.
This isn’t to say that the agency has to be the clearinghouse of any archaeological work, or that they have to hire a social media expert to engage the public with the results of their archaeology work. Instead, at the very least, the agency should establish the guidelines of how any archaeological work can (or should) be released.
This could range from merely releasing grey lit to encouraging public events. The internet is full of tools that would allow for engagement. The agency could provide guidelines and minimum requirements for public engagement. Many, if not most, archaeologists would be pleased to do this informally, for no (or little) extra charge.
Many archaeologists do this. If the Day of Archaeology is any indication, archaeologists love blogging about their job. Part of this is because we understand the importance of getting the word out about what we do. Another part is that archaeology is pretty damn cool and we want to share it with others.
Many CRM archaeologists don’t have direct communication with the driving agency. We often work with the permittees, instead. For those that work with agencies, or better yet—for agencies, try to emphasize the need for the follow-up communication. Encourage them to get the archaeology out there for the public.
Here are a few ideas:
- Be patient. This won’t happen overnight, and probably shouldn’t.
- Don’t be a jerk. That’ll get you nowhere.
- Besides the agency and the permittee, the stakeholders will need to be involved. This means that the process for public interaction might vary from project to project.
One other thought about this. Like everybody else, we like to give our impressions about our jobs/projects on the internet. This is clearly based on informal, personal, opinions and should be respected as that. In some archaeology projects, I’ve seen cases where many (most or all) of the participants are encouraged (required) to blog. There will often be dissenting opinions when this happens. We need to recognize that there can be informal opinions that don’t necessarily toe the official line. We also need to recognize that there is an official line. We need to develop mechanisms for dealing with the multiple perspectives and reconciling these perspectives against our ability to differentiate evidence and opinion. These are universal problems and not restricted to public archaeology. I have no good advice in how to achieve this.
There it is. That’s my rant.