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Technical Brief 2 Arizona Archaeology Week: Promoting the Past to the Public

Published by the DOI Departmental Consulting Archeologist/NPS Archeology Program, National Park Service, Washington, DC, October 1988.

The Federal archeological community has identified a need for an organized and comprehensive public outreach effort at the national level which can provide a framework for regional and local public support for America's archeological resources. The goals of the program are to: (1) foster a feeling of ownership of and responsibility for our common heritage, (2) increase public understanding of the science of archeology, (3) enhance public awareness of the current problem involving archeological resources such as looting, (4) increase understanding of how the public's actions affect archeological resources, and (5) increase public involvement in legitimate archeological activities. This Technical Brief represents one part of the program by providing guidance in developing public awareness. It presents the Arizona Archaeology Week as one example of how successful public outreach programs operate.

Archaeology Week represents one component of Arizona's award winning Public Archaeology Program which also includes the Site Steward Program (volunteers assisting Federal and State land managing agencies in monitoring the condition of selected archeological sites), public school curriculum development, and media involvement. Evolving over the past six years, Archaeology Week fosters the preservation of archeological resources throughout the State and seeks to bring archeology to public attention. The broad-reaching success of the Public Archaeology Program in Arizona and Archaeology Week in particular was recognized in 1986 at the State and National levels through a "Take Pride in America" award in the state government category to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for its coordination of the Public Archaeology Program.

Technical Brief No. 2 examines the development of Arizona Archaeology Week over the past six years, and takes a detailed look at its history, growth, and components.

The Governor's Ad Hoc Archaeology Advisory Group

Plagued by a legacy of vandalism, Arizona's archeological resources were offered a measure of relief in 1983 by former Governor Bruce Babbitt who invited archeologists and citizens to participate in the Governor's Archaeology Advisory Group. Sparking the beginning of an important initiative, the Archaeology Group laid the groundwork for development of public archaeology programs in the state. They promoted an action plan for protection of archeological resources which focused on the Homolovi Ruins, a group of sites which had suffered extensive vandalism. The Archaeology Group's efforts culminated in the legislative establishment of Homolovi Ruins State Park in 1986, the first archeological park to be operated by the Arizona State Parks Board, and for which an innovative interpretive approach is planned.

This strong emphasis on involving the public in archeology is seen in other efforts of the Governor's Archaeology Advisory Group, including development in 1982 of the nationally popular "Thief of Time" poster (the forerunner of the Archaeology Week posters).

Seeking active public participation, the Archaeology Group initiated Arizona Archaeology Week in 1983 and served as the principal sponsor of this program until 1986. The Archaeology Advisory Commission formally replaced the Archaeology Group in 1986 and took over sponsorship of the Archaeology Week celebration. The Archaeology Commission is a statutory body that works closely with and advises the SHPO.

Taking Pride in the Past

The development of Arizona Archaeology Week reflects a continuing tradition of commitment to public awareness and involvement. Taking place in the spring of each year, Archaeology Week is a program of events oriented toward informing the public about archeology in the state and involving them in archeological activities. This program has developed into a major public relations effort which involves over 40 different Federal, State, municipal and private organizations.

Initially, Archaeology Week consisted of a small State Capitol Museum exhibition and a few events with limited publicity. As successes were met with these activities, other components were added and approaches became more sophisticated in response to the changing needs of the program, its increasing level of participation, and the desire to reach a greater variety of audiences.

Because of its growing complexity, Archaeology Week requires careful planning and persistent coordination by the SHPO. The major components of this celebration include:

  1. initial planning meeting and selection of theme,
  2. adults' and children's poster design competitions,
  3. State Capitol Museum exhibition and related activities,
  4. Governor's and Mayors' proclamations,
  5. "Volunteers in Archaeology" Award,
  6. statewide events,
  7. publicity,
  8. follow-up: thank you letters and the annual report.

Each of these components and their associated responsibilities are discussed below.

1) Initial Planning Meeting and Selection of Theme:

From 1983 to 1986 Archaeology Week planning was handled on an ad hoc basis, and a planning meeting was held either in November or December, approximately three to four months prior to Archaeology Week. However, because of the increasing number of events and participants in this program, for the last two years a planning meeting has been scheduled at least six months prior to the celebration of this statewide event. The principal purpose of the planning meeting is to reach consensus on the dates for the celebration, select a theme, identify organizations that will be sponsoring exhibits at the State Capitol Museum, brainstorm for new ideas, discuss what did and did not work the previous year, and assign various responsibilities as needed. This meeting is followed up with a relatively detailed memo to all Archaeology Week participants which reiterates decisions that were made. Communication is an important part of this program, particularly since only one general planning meeting takes place. The SHPO facilitates this communication effort by providing periodic updates on Archaeology Week plans and reminders at significant stages in planning, such as deadlines for submitting information for the calendar of events brochure, distribution of the brochure and poster, and set up for the Capitol Museum exhibition.

The use of a theme for Archaeology Week began in 1986 and has provided a focus for the annual events and activities in subsequent years. In 1986 the theme was "The Past Made Public," promoting the efforts of archeologists to share their interpretations of the past with the public. In 1987, "Take Pride in the Past: 100 Years of Arizona Archaeology" served as the annual theme in celebration of the centennial of organized archeological research in the state. The 1988 Archaeology Week focused on the theme "Volunteers in Archaeology: Protecting Our Heritage," honoring the contributions of volunteers whose efforts are so important to Arizona archeology. Each year the theme is incorporated into many of the events and activities and is also promoted on the annual poster.

2) Adults' and Children's Poster Design Competition:

1988 Archaeology Week Poster
1988 Archaeology Week Poster.

One of the most important components of Archaeology Week is the annual adult poster design competition which encourages artists and archeologists alike to lend their talents to promoting awareness and appreciation of Arizona's unique cultural resources. Sponsored by the Arizona Archaeological Council (AAC), Archaeology Advisory Commission and SHPO, the contest results in a poster that is distributed statewide to advertise the program and promote the theme for Archaeology Week. The poster design has undergone a dramatic evolution over the past six years, culminating in the high quality design for 1988.

Since 1984, the AAC has provided a cash prize for the winner of the annual poster contest. In previous years the Arizona Department of Transportation, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service, Franzoy-Corey (local engineering/architecture firm), and Salt River Project (local utility company) have lent their support by printing the poster.

Archeologists have begun to realize over the last few years the importance of instilling in our children a sense of stewardship for our cultural heritage if Arizona's dwindling cultural resources are to survive with integrity to be appreciated by future generations. Working toward this goal, in 1988 the SHPO approached the AAC Schools Committee with a proposal for a cooperative effort in cosponsoring a statewide children's poster contest to involve kids in Archaeology Week. The results were overwhelming, with 295 individual entries being received from 27 separate school classes ranging in grade from kindergarten through high school. Winning entries were displayed in shopping malls prior to and during Archaeology Week in major metropolitan areas across the State. First place ribbons were awarded to one student in each class, and all others received a certificate of honorable mention. Feedback from teachers indicated that this was a very popular program, and many took their students to view their artwork at the malls.

3) The State Capitol Exhibition and Related Activities:

Flintknapper Demonstration
Flintknapper Chuck Hoffman demonstrates manufacturing techniques used by prehistoric Native Americans to produce their stone arrowheads and other tools. One of many demonstrations that took place as part of the State Capitol Exhibition during Archaeology Week. (Photo courtesy of Arizona State Parks, SHPO)

Reaching legislators and a broad spectrum of the public is the goal of another major component of Archaeology Week: the annual exhibition at the State Capitol Museum in Phoenix. Offering the public the opportunity to explore various aspects of Arizona archeology in exhibits and displays, the State Capitol Museum exhibition also provides the chance to view prehistoric crafts demonstrations (flintknapping or stone tool manufacture, pottery decoration, ceramic manufacturing techniques). What started out as a small exhibit with one display in 1983 has expanded every year so that in 1988 there were 19 displays available to the public. A public reception is held at the Capitol each year and in 1987 featured Hopi Indian dances which illustrated the connection between past and present cultures in Arizona. Invitations to the reception and any associated activities are sent to the Governor, all legislators, and others as appropriate. Notices are posted in public places and are also advertised through the media.

An information table is set up in the rotunda at the Capitol Museum for the duration of Archaeology Week. Staffed by volunteers from the Arizona Archaeological Society, the table serves as a center for distribution of a variety of brochures and information on Archaeology Week activities at the Capitol Museum and around the State.

4) Governor's and Mayors' Proclamations:

To attain State and local government support for Archaeology Week, a proclamation signing ceremony is held with the Governor during Archaeology Week. Draft proclamations are submitted to all mayors of incorporated cities and towns in Arizona requesting their support for this program. The number of cities and towns participating has been gradually increasing over the years, and 22 submitted signed proclamations to the SHPO in 1988. The proclamations are displayed at the Capitol during the exhibition.

5) "Volunteers In Archaeology" Award:

The Archaeology Advisory Commission initiated a special award in 1988 as part of the Archaeology Week events. The "Volunteers in Archaeology" award is sponsored to honor an individual who has contributed his or her time and energy to promoting the protection and preservation of Arizona's archeological resources through public education or other means.

The first award was presented to Louie F. Curtis during Archaeology Week by Governor Rose Mofford and the Advisory Commission. Mr. Curtis, age 70, was jointly nominated for the award by the Coconino National Forest, the Arizona State Museum, Homolovi Research Program, and the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society for his contribution of "countless hours and tireless energy to the protection and preservation of Arizona's archaeological resources..." This award is particularly appropriate for Archaeology Week because so much of its success is due to the efforts of volunteers like Mr. Curtis.

6) Statewide Events:

Archeological site tours, open houses, tours of archeological laboratories, public lecture series, talks by archeologists at local schools and Chambers of Commerce, video and slide programs, exhibits in libraries and other public places, free admission days at museums and parks, demonstrations of prehistoric crafts, and archeology "how-to" workshops for children and adults are examples of the other events offered to the public. In 1988, over 100 separate activities took place in over 26 communities statewide. Federal agencies play a particularly active role in sponsoring many events across the State, and their efforts are augmented by avocational societies, museums, private consultants, and others.

7) Publicity:

Dancers from the Hopi Mesas
These dancers are from Hopi Junior and Senior High Schools from the Hopi Mesas performing traditional Native American dances at the State Capitol Exhibition and public reception during Archaeology Week. (Photo courtesy of Arizona State Parks, SHPO).

Getting information out to the public on Arizona Archaeology Week is a major effort by many organizations. News releases for print, radio, and television media are prepared for many of the events that take place as part of the planning and implementation of Archaeology Week. The SHPO takes care of general news information. Sponsors of activities across the state handle their own promotions within their local areas.

In 1983, the Archaeology Advisory Group and SHPO coordinated the production of radio public service announcements (PSAs) which featured Harrison Ford (who played the movie role of Indiana Jones). These were used for several years to promote Archaeology Week. Prior to 1987 the SHPO distributed a bulky Public Information Packet to media and all those on the Archaeology Week mailing list, but this packet received little attention due to its format. In 1987 a brochure was developed to be used as a medium for disseminating information on events and activities on a statewide basis. Four thousand copies of this brochure were printed and distributed during that year. In 1988, due to increased demand, 14,000 copies of the calendar of events were distributed statewide.

The brochure format with its concise listing of events available to the public represented a marked improvement over the bulky packet used in previous years. The brochure provided a handy means for the SHPO and event sponsors to advertise their activities by distributing the brochures at meetings and public places (e.g.. libraries, Chambers of Commerce, etc.). The brochure is organized by date of event and place to facilitate its use by the public.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) played a significant role in publicity. In 1987, the agency produced PSAs for television and radio featuring Ted Danson. Danson, an Arizona native and star of the television series "Cheers," is the son of long-time Arizona archeologist Dr. Ned Danson. The PSAs urged public involvement in "the adventure of discovery" and protection of cultural resources. They were a cooperative effort between the BLM Phoenix Training Center, BLM State Office, Arizona State Museum, and the SHPO. The PSAs were distributed in cooperation with the SHPO for Arizona Archaeology Week activities during both 1987 and 1988.

8) Archaeology Week Follow-up: Thank You Letters and the Annual Report:

Once Archaeology Week is over, thank you letters are sent out which request information on the activities of all sponsors. Within three months after Archaeology Week an annual report summarizing the statewide results is prepared and distributed to all participants and others (Governor, State and Federal legislators) as appropriate. Initiated in 1986, the annual report provides updated documentation on Archaeology Week, allows evaluation of the effectiveness of many of the components, and serves as a useful marketing tool to send when asking for assistance or contributions. 1988 was the first year that reliable Statistics were available on the number of people that had been exposed to Archaeology Week, and perhaps to archeology for the first time. It is estimated that at least 122,473 people in Arizona attended Archaeology Week events and activities, and it is possible that over 1 million people were reached through the various media. Archaeology Week was featured statewide in at least 26 newspapers, 20 newsletters and magazines, 6 radio stations, and 9 television stations. This is based on information provided to the SHPO by Archaeology Week participants and represents a minimum accounting of the media in which publicity appeared. The circulation figures for the print media provided some insights into the number of people who potentially heard about Archaeology Week. Although it is likely that there is overlap among the readership of many of these publications, it is possible that 1,419,159 people were reached as a result of the print media. No figures were available for radio and television coverage.

Governor's Proclamation
Governor's Proclamation. (Courtesy of Arizona State Parks, SHPO)

These and other results are published in the Annual Report, providing the SHPO, Archaeology Commission, participants, and others with feedback on the scope of activities and their successes or failures. Although this is difficult to directly measure, some of the successes of Archaeology Week include the enhanced visibility of the SHPO and its programs, increased interest and volunteership for the Site Steward Program, greater interest in community archeological parks, and broader interest in popular information on archeology and avocational archeological groups. The Annual Report is also provided to the State Legislature and over the past few years there has been an increased awareness among legislators regarding cultural resources issues. The report is also useful for informing those who request information from the SHPO on Arizona's Public Archaeology Program.


The past six years have focused on developing a comprehensive public oriented program involving thousands of people. As its centerpiece, Archaeology Week draws together many different groups one week per year and presents archeology in a positive manner. The keystone to the success of Archaeology Week has been the spirit of cooperation among Federal, State, county and city agencies, private archeological consultants, academic institutions, museums, avocational archeologist, and teachers in the public schools. Without this teamwork, Archaeology Week would be a less effective program.

Every year Archaeology Week convinces a few more people about the importance of preserving our heritage and the need to protect cultural resources. The program focuses on the positive rather than the negative side of archeology (don't pothunt or vandalize, don't pick up artifacts, don't destroy our cultural heritage, etc.). It focuses on how individuals can get involved in a positive way, on what makes archeology interesting and on what the past has to offer. Some of the most successful events are those that provide people a "hands-on" experience with archeology, while teaching them that there is a right way and a wrong way to do archeology.

One of the other impacts of Archaeology Week has been to make state legislators more aware of archeology as a public interest. It is a positive experience to discuss a successful volunteer public program with legislators rather than focusing on funding needs or changes in legislation. Keeping legislators informed of the number of participants in public archeology events is a critical component of Archaeology Week served by distributing the Annual Report to state legislators. This awareness is useful when discussing issues such as site vandalism, needs for site protection, archeological parks, and establishment of a rehabilitation grants program -- all of which are current topics in Arizona.

Archaeology Week is now a regular event in Arizona and our progress in cultural resources programs and public awareness has convinced us that other states could benefit from similar programs, perhaps a national Archaeology Week similar to the current National Historic Preservation Week. Whether this becomes a national event is not critical, although a national Archaeology Week would encourage those States that are not now participants to promote such a public program. Public oriented efforts such as Archaeology Week clearly demonstrate public interest in archeology. The support generated by these programs is proving to be invaluable in enhancing current legislation and furthering the protection of our cultural heritage.


Questions regarding Arizona Archaeology Week may be directed to:

Anne Howard, SHPO
1300 West Washington
Phoenix, AZ 85007
(602) 542-7138

Suggested Reading

Hoffman, Teresa L. and Shereen Lerner
1988        "3rd Annual Report for Arizona Archaeology Week." Unpublished manuscript, Arizona State Parks, SHPO.

1986        "The Use and Abuse of Archaeological Sites: Educating the Public." Paper presented at the 1986 Society for American Archaeology meeting, New Orleans.

Hoffman, Teresa L.
In press        "Bringing Archaeology Into the Classroom." Heritage Education Quarterly.

1988        "Arizona Archaeology Week: Expanding Public Awareness Through a Federal and State Partnership." Cultural Resources Management Bulletin, 11 (July 1988):31, 35.

Rogge, A.E., editor
In press        "Fighting Indiana Jones in Arizona." 1988 American Society for Conservation Archaeology Proceedings.

Simon, Brona, editor
In press        "The Carrot, Not the Stick: Strategies for Protecting Archaeological Resources on Private Property." American Archaeology.

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