Public Archaeology projects through Hands on Heritage generally focuses on two objectives: the training of undergraduate archaeologists and anthropologists as field and research specialists within an authentic, historical framework, and opportunities for training and support to individuals interested in history as a career or as an enhancement to an academic career. It also provides a hands-on introduction to cultural heritage and archaeology to children and people of all ages.
The Public Archaeology Dig at Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail (2005-2010) benefited thousands of visitors through the exposure to an authentic, archaeology dig.
Robin Van Auken, the Principal Investigator for Hands on Heritage is a female, professional anthropologist with a master’s degree and specializations in Historical Archaeology. The director meets the qualifications specified by the Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA 15069) and the Pennsylvania Archaeological Council (PAC). These are derived from the federal regulations 36 CFR 800. An adjunct instructor at Lycoming College, the director’s role was as an applied researcher charged with teaching, advising and mentoring a volunteer archaeology staff.
The Muncy project introduced students of all ages to the basic methods of professional field archaeology and participating students and volunteers received training in methodology, including excavation, field photography, survey, mapping, and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Artifact preservation and conservation, classification and compilation of artifacts into a database also were components. In addition to publications for the general public, researchers generated articles for professional journals in a variety of subjects.
In addition to the academic impact, the Public Archaeology project included on-site outreach programs such as community lectures, exhibits on archaeology, and demonstrations.
Public and private school students were invited to make annual field trips to the excavation site and laboratory to participate in tours and hands-on activities with artifacts. The historical society volunteers accepted invitations to speak at schools and organizations and had educational handouts both for children and adults.
The Principal Investigator, her students, and volunteer staff created mobile exhibits that focused on the history of the canal, the archaeological excavations and the biological development of the nature trail as it progresses. Throughout the multi-year project, digital video and photos documented the research, excavations, landscaping, construction, visitor interviews, and program development resulted in a series of videos and DVDs. Information about the project was distributed through Internet sites, museum publications, promotional brochures, educational pamphlets, and site tours.