Just yesterday, I was asked to participate in the “Blogging Archaeology” blog carnival for the 2014 Society for American Archaeology Conference. Of course, as an avid archaeology/history/material culture blogger, this is what I’m all about! (You can find out more about what a blog carnival is here.) Each month, a question related to archaeological blogging is posed to the participating bloggers. Those who choose to answer the question link the post back to the host of the session, and at the end of the month, the responses are compiled for a broader look at what archaeological bloggers are thinking, doing and working on. It brings visibility to archaeology bloggers, and creates a forum for creating discussions and forming academic relationships.
In any case, the Blogging Archaeology question for November is two-part.
1. Why blogging? – Why did you, or if it was a group- the group, start a blog?
I started my first blog in the senior year of my Undergraduate research at Brockport. At this point in time, I was just beginning to work on my MA part time, and was really searching for my personality as a historian, as I had been uncertain what direction to take with my career up until then. I had recently started an internship at a small, unkempt local history museum in Brockport and had the task of choosing a series of objects with which to preserve, research, display, and create a collection. It was this activity that turned my sights to material culture – the area of historical study that I am to this day working with. Of course, I had already emerged myself in the world of archaeology earlier in my undergraduate career when I participated in a field school in Petra, Jordan. But it was only when I made the connection between my love for archaeology and my interest in material culture (paired with a side of the digital, of course), that I realized the potential for blogging about my new-found interest.
I started to blog weekly during this particular museum internship, mostly about the various artifacts that I was finding during my work there (and I mean literally, finding – this place was a mess, and some of the best articles of clothing that I found for my exhibit came from under boxes, buried in closets, and shoved in dresser drawers. You can actually see my earliest blog posts from this time in my historical career here, on my old blog (no longer in use).
After blogging about my material culture finds at the museum, I fell in love with the interface between the digital and the material. A blog was the perfect place to share images of the items that I was working with, as well as my research on them. I began to expand my interests in terms of blogging, and started making trips to local historical sites, solely for the purposes of photographing them, researching them and sharing all of this information in a blog post. My blog became sort of a local history travelogue, mostly relating to locations in the Rochester area, but every now and again expanding outwards to cover my travels (for example, all of the archaeological sites I visited in Ireland in the summer of 2012).
Blogging about historical and archaeological sites, and various aspects of material culture became a creative outlet for me, as well as a way to share my own research with the world – while working on my MA thesis, “Romanticism and Ruralism,” I shared my entire process of writing and researching on my blog, and was completely open about all of my sources, images, quotes, etc. When the work was finally finished, I chose to publish it digitally on my blog, because I love the idea of other historians and students being able to use it as a resource, whether that be to snag a great image for a paper, or locate a source from a quote. This sort of digital accessibility became my ultimate goal as a public historian.
2. Why are you still blogging?
I am still blogging because I still get the same thrill out of sharing original research and information. I still love the idea of pulling together historical ideas, images, links and data and putting them out there as a resource for others. While not every one of my posts is about a place I have myself visited (I do work full time here!!), I post at least several times a week about recent finds in the archaeological community, often relating them back to my own work and research. My particular areas of interest include Irish history and archaeology, and Near Eastern archaeology. You will often see posts regarding those regions on my blog, as well as the occasional historical outing. I also like the idea of my blog functioning as a resource for archaeology enthusiasts – a place where they can expect weekly updates on the new and exciting archaeological discoveries from around the world.
On the flip side, blogging has actually done a lot for me. The sharing of my thesis via my blog landed me a spot as a keynote speaker at the recent Association for Gravestone Studies inaugural NY Chapter meeting in Green-Wood Cemetery, in Brooklyn. The combination of my blogging and currently working in marketing/social media helped me hop onto an ongoing project called the Rochester Reform Trail, which is an NEH Landmarks Workshop in the summer of 2014 in Rochester (I am the social media outreach coordinator). So, who knows! Blogging has done some pretty cool things for me so far. Maybe, just maybe, it will be that little added push towards my dream digital-public-history career. Worth a try!
I have expanded my digital presence in terms of my history-travelogue blogging as of late. Instead of just photographing and researching a blog-worthy site, I now take Vine videos of the site to embed in my post, I provide maps, directions and topography, I link to other related historical sites, etc. I know Vine sounds a bit cheesy, but it actually functions as a really great tool for quick videos that are easily embedded and shared, and give readers just a taste of the location that a picture cannot capture. I especially like using them to capture the sounds of a site, for example in my post about Rock Island Lighthouse in the Thousand Islands, or Tibbets Point Lighthouse in Cape Vincent. The Vine videos really add that extra something to the posts, I think.
All of these serve as ways to further interest people in historical locations, local and abroad, and pull the world of the historian out of the library and into the field. This is the sort of blogging that keeps my blog up and running – it is the sharing of visual, material and digital culture that inspires me as a historian and a blogger.
I am looking forward to these Blogging Archaeology Session questions every month leading up to the SAA 2014 Conference, so stay tuned for more insights about archaeology blogging, digital public history and material culture!
If tweeting about the Blogging Archaeology session, use the hastags #BlogArch and #SAA2014