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U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service

25 Simple things you can do to promote the public benefit of archaeology

PDF of: 25 Simple Things you can do to promote the public benefit of archaeology (465 kb)

Archaeologists have a special responsibility to promote the public benefits that can be derived from the practice of archaeology and the appropriate investigation of archaeological resources. A variety of other groups, some with very different and quite destructive perspectives on archaeological resources, busily pursue different agendas for use of the archaeological record.

If archaeologists do not act to counter these, who will? This brochure provides a wealth of suggestions about what you can do to be an advocate for archaeology.

What are some public benefits of archaeology?

Teachers and students find that archaeology can help teach principles of math, science, geography, and logic
as well as history and human diversity.

Community leaders find that archaeology can build community links in the present as well as the past.

Cultural groups find that archaeology can contribute to the preservation of their history and traditions.

Ecologists find that archaeology reveals information on environmental stability and change.

Historians find that archaeology provides both new information to complement the written record and
important new questions about our past.

Avocational Archaeologists find the opportunity to make a direct contribution to research about the past.

Senior Citizens find that their broad range of skills and expertise contribute to archaeological research.

Writers, newspaper reporters, and television producers find that archaeology is educational entertainment that sells.

Tourism councils, Museums and Parks find that authentic archaeology brings people in and keeps them coming back.

Planners and Citizens find that archaeology can contribute to a sustainable community where cultural heritage is valued and nurtured.

    Spread the Word -- Enthusiastically

  1. Include public outreach in all of your projects. Provide tours. Develop or contribute to a WWW page

  2. Hone your writing skills and use them. Write letters to the editors of your local newspapers.
    Learn to write for specific audiences. Above all, avoid jargon!
  3. Talk about the values of archaeology, historic places and preservation and highlight local archaeological activities.
    Practice the effective "sound bite."

  4. Cooperate with the media and build contacts with history and science writers and broadcasters.

  5. Get the most out of the National Register of Historic Places

  6. Nominate sites and multiple properties to the National Register of Historic Places.

  7. Use state and local registers as well to honor and document important sites.

  8. Request an Author's Packet from the National Register of Historic Places and write a Teaching with Historic Places lesson plan.

    Get on the tourism train

  9. Contact state travel offices and local convention and visitor bureaus with accurate, interesting information on archaeological travel destinations.

    Improve undergraduate and graduate education


    Include discussion of public archaeology in all of your courses: business, legal and ethical issues, and the responsibility to communicate with the public about archaeology. Ensure that students learn that archaeological sites are found in their communities, not only in exotic locales.

  11. Educate the administration of your school about the importance of public outreach.


    Request courses in public archaeology and methods of public education.

    Join up: There is strength in numbers

  13. Join the professional council and the avocational society in your state. Keep your dues current, attend meetings, and participate by giving papers or writing for journals. Provide your insight as a Professional, a Citizen, and a Constituent.

    Provide your insight as a professional, a citizen, and a constituent

  14. Know your local, state, and federal legislators and let them know what you think. (The League of Women Voters is one source of information.)

  15. Learn about issues that impact archaeology, such as federal land management, resource protection, and historic preservation. Check out the Government Affairs section of SAA's Web page.

  16. Communicate the business and financial contributions of archaeology to the Chamber of Commerce in your community.

    Get involved with local communities

  17. Contact all local community interest groups about your work. Know local cultures, history and customs.

  18. Be sensitive to the traditional knowledge and values of Native Americans and other ethnic and racial minorities.

  19. Speak to local organizations, civic associations, and clubs.

    Build bridges

  20. Contact and cooperate with other professionals to promote a multidisciplinary approach to Cultural Resource Management.

  21. Talk to developers, civil engineers, and planners and write articles for their professional journals.

  22. Initiate and maintain contact with historical societies and local historic preservation commissions.

  23. Work with agricultural, environmental, and land trust organizations to promote consideration of cultural resources in open space, or protection through easements or other preservation strategies.

    Build a constituency of teachers and students

  24. Support and participate in the public education activities of your professional societies.

  25. Volunteer to be a resource person for teachers to help get archaeology in the curriculum.

  26. Encourage your school system (and particularly your own children's teachers) to subscribe to SAA's Archaeology and Public Education and to use the National Park Service's Teaching with Historic Places series of lesson plans.

    For information on the National Register of Historic Places and Teaching with Historic Places contact:

    National Register, History and Education
    National Park Service
    1849 C St. NW, Mail Stop 2280
    Washington, DC 20240
    phone: 202-343-9536
    fax: 202-343-1836
    email: nr_reference@nps.gov

    For information about general public education and outreach activities in archaeology programs and projects contact:

    Department Consulting Archeologist Archeology and Ethnography
    National Park Service
    1849 C St. NW, Mail Stop 2275
    Washington, DC 20240
    phone: 202-343-4101
    fax: 202-523-1547
    email: DCA@nps.gov

    For information on the Public Education Network and Archaeology and Public Education contact:
    Society for American Archaeology
    900 Second St, NE, Suite 12
    Washington, DC 20002
    ph: 202-789-8200
    fax: 202-789-0284
    email: public_edu@saa.org

    For information on the Public Education Committee contact:
    Society for Historical Archaeology
    P.O. Box 30446
    Tucson, AZ 85751
    phone: 520-886-8006
    fax: 520-886-0182
    email: sha@azstarnet.com

    Other organizations of interest:

    National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers
    Suite 342, Hall of the States
    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20001-1512

    For information on Public Archaeology
    Review contact:
    Center for Archaeology in the Public Interest
    Department of Anthropology
    425 University Blvd., IUPUI
    Indianapolis, IN 46202-5140

    For information on Anthro Notes Bulletin for Teachers contact:
    Anthropology Department
    National Museum of Natural History
    Smithsonian Institution
    Washington, DC 20560

    Some other useful internet sites:
    National Association of State Archaeologists

    Archaeological Institute of America

Produced by United States Department of the Interior

National Park Service
National Register of Historic Places
Society for Historical Archaeology
Society for American Archaeology

Produced under a cooperative agreement with the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO)

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