A few years ago, during American Archaeology Field School, one of my students asked about Cultural Resource Management in Pennsylvania. I told her about CRM and about PA Act 70, which has devastated professional archaeology in the Commonwealth, and encouraged her to research the topic as an independent study, a capstone project for her American Studies major.
Just Below Your Feet
As we discussed the idea, I encouraged her to create a multimedia project with her research. Instead of writing a scholarly paper on the topic, I suggested she publish her research immediately, educating the public as she educated herself. If she’s to help public archaeology survive into the 21st century, when people barely look away from their mobile phones or computer keyboards, then she needed to capture their attention using the instruments they prefer: convergent media on the Internet.
Stephanie Bowen, a senior Archaeology/American Studies major at Lycoming College, studied the effects of PA Act 70 on Cultural Resource Management archaeology and preservation and, with another Lycoming student, Sara Griggs, created a documentary film, “Just Below Your Feet.”
Here’s a snapshot of an email she sent to potential interviewees:
In the 10-plus years since the passage of Act 70, no study has been conducted on the effect of this law. My goal is to investigate how PA Act 70 has helped or harmed Pennsylvania archaeology and to determine if the government has been successful in meeting the archaeological needs of the Commonwealth.
Some cultural heritage professionals perceive that PA Act 70 has contributed to a lack of cultural preservation on the state level. By recommending archaeology be conducted by the state, has the Commonwealth assumed too large a burden for its resources? Has this resulted in a loss of historical and cultural knowledge, research and employment?
Lycoming College graciously donated enrichment funds for the team to travel, and Northcentral Chapter 8, Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, also sponsored the project, helping the duo solicit donations.
Steph created a Facebook page to promote the documentary. See it here:
The team traveled throughout Pennsylvania, as evidenced by the “Crazy Person Wall” above, which features a map of the state and pins with string stretched to all of their filming locations. They interviewed professional and academic archaeologists, spoke with landowners and developers and politicians. The massive project provides unparalleled insight into Act 70 and the status of archaeology in Pennsylvania, which should serve as a lesson for all of the United States.
It was an exhilarating experience to be adviser and mentor for Stephanie. Her enthusiasm for, and dedication to public archaeology revives the same feelings within me. To say I’m proud of her achievement is an understatement. I’m overwhelmed and humbled.