Archeology and Education: The Classroom and Beyond

Editor(s): K. C. Smith; Francis McManamon

Year: 1991


Increasingly archeologists recognize the importance of engaging the public by making archeology more accessible. Like any other archeological endeavor, public education programs require good planning and effective execution. The articles in this volume provide examples that meet both these criteria. They provide background information, advice about logistics, and theoretical, professional, and/or practical justifications for such educational programs. They are assembled to assist others in developing and implementing similar programs.

Calls for efforts to open archeology to the public have become widespread and have come from such differently placed advocates as Ian Hodder, leading theorist of post-processual archeology, and Jean Auel, best-selling author of Paleolithic romances. The calls are accurate; there is a great need for more public education efforts and there are significant activities under way. The three major national archeological organizations, the Society for American Archaeology, the Society for Historical Archaeology, and the Archaeological Institute of America, have made important commitments to public education, as has the recently incorporated Foundation for American Archaeology, which will have a variety of public education functions. Other professional societies, Federal agencies, State agencies, and individual archeologists are becoming more involved in public education efforts. (See Rogge and Montgomery[1989] for another collection of examples of such efforts.)

Within the public sector, there exists strong support by political leaders to emphasize public education and participation efforts. Both President George Bush and Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan, Jr. have named education as an important goal and have backed up these statements with modest funding increases. Secretary Lujan has listed more and better public education and opportunities for the public to participate legitimately in archeological projects as one of four key aspects of a national strategy for Federal archeology (Lujan 1990).

Public education and participation encompass a wide variety of activities, indeed. With many archeological organizations and individuals involved, it is essential that efforts be well coordinated. One aspect of coordination is compiling and distributing information about existing activities and programs. The Departmental Consulting Archeologist and Archeological Assistance Program of the National Park Service are attempting to do this through the LEAP (Listing of Education in Archeological Programs) Clearinghouse (Knoll1990). Also needed is information about the general public and special publics that we want to reach; we need to know about their perceptions of the past and what they would like to learn about it (Stone 1989). We need to identify specific audiences that should be the focus of attention, such as educators and students, Native Americans, planners and developers, legislators, and managers in public agencies (Gelburd 1989; McManamon 1991).

Reaching the general public also will require techniques, activities, and messages thatarcheologists have not to date used widely. Most people have, at best, a modest interest in archeology, but they are positively inclined toward it. Popular magazines regularly include stories about archeology. Clearly there is a foundation of public interest in archeology and archeological sites on which to build. Our task in reaching the general public is to maintain this positive inclination and strengthen the interest, understanding, and level of support. Public education and participation include a wide variety of activities, which should become more important parts of the management of America's archeological resources. Success in this area will require a coherent plan and cooperative approach, and an understanding that the effort has both long and short range goals.

During its 1990 annual meeting in Tucson, AZ, the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) offered, for the second consecutive year, a symposium dedicated solely to archeology and education. In association with the scholarly papers presented, the SHA co-sponsored a training program for teachers of the Tucson Unified School District designed to show educators how to incorporate archeology into their classroom activities.

Aside from the electric enthusiasm produced among symposium attendees and teacher participants, this education program, entitled "Archaeology and Education: The Classroom and Beyond," was significant for other reasons. After years of valid cries from some professionals about the need to teach the public the value of archeology, the problems with pot hunting, and the merits of cultural resources management, the symposium offered solid testimony about what is being done to attain these objectives.

The articles derived from this symposium make clear that ideas and actions are coming from all quarters: from educators bringing archeology to youths through innovative programs; from archeologists now cognizant that public education is as elemental to the research process as analysis and publication; and from academicians concerned with the instruction of college students and teachers. Moreover, the quality of the symposium papers, both in content and presentation, demonstrated that the contributions of archeological educators to a professional forum are as valid as those of archeological researchers. Indeed, in some respects they are more valid because they deal with universal strategies that can be applied by anyone interested in sharing archeology with the public, regardless of research focus, context, or chronology.

Originally the information in this record was migrated into tDAR from the National Archaeological Database Reports Module (NADB-R) and updated. In 2014, as part of its effort to improve tDAR content, the Center for Digital Antiquity uploaded a copy of the document and further improved the record metadata.

Cite this Record

Archeology and Education: The Classroom and Beyond. K. C. Smith, Francis McManamon. 1991 ( tDAR id: 250286) ; doi:10.6067/XCV89S1S0B

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NADB document id number(s): 1306191; 4060994

NADB citation id number(s): 000000277400; 000000249037


General Note: Originally this record was automatically added to tDAR from NADB. In 2014, a copy of the document was added and the record metadata was updated. There was a second record (tDAR id: 291819) for this document, which has been marked as "duplicate".

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