by Courtney Agenten, Leadership Team Chair
“Seeds are a phenomenon to me. Tiny forms of life that, when watered and exposed to rays of light, reach up, break through the soil, and grasp onto life. In steady persistence, their roots spread and anchor as they grow into towering trees, strong enough to climb.” – Sarah Dubbeldam, Darling Founder
Project Archaeology can be compared to a towering oak tree—once a tiny seed planted in rich soil, watered, and lit by a network of visionary archaeology educators. The soil was prepared in the late 1980s by an interagency group of archaeologists who recognized that education was the best way to protect cultural heritage over the long-term; law enforcement simply wasn’t enough. Project Archaeology was born; nourished by the knowledge, experience, and drive of thousands of archaeologists, indigenous community members, formal and informal educators, historic preservationists, museum educators, and many others who worked together to deliver high-quality, award-winning educational materials and professional development to teachers. It has sustained the passion to pursue a world in which all people understand and appreciate their own culture and history, and that of others for more than 30 years.
It was hard to watch as Project Archaeology was uprooted from its 20+ year home at Montana State University (MSU) last year. Similarly, while the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the lead federal agency since 1992, is stepping away from managing and administering the program, the agency remains committed to supporting the program. Even though our MSU branch has broken off and BLMs role has changed, other partners have and will be grafted to continue transforming classrooms into communities of student archaeologists who connect culture to their own lives and desire to protect our past.
Rather than seeing years of successful work withered and abandoned, the Project Archaeology Leadership Team advised that the National Program be transplanted to two outstanding, new partners, Southern Utah University (SUU) and the Institute for Heritage Education (IHE), who can revitalize, rebuild, manage, and support the program and its distribution network. The Leadership Team, an advisory board comprised of archeologists, teachers, and indigenous members of our state programs, has expanded its role to direct the program in a proactive effort to maintain the vision, identity, and reputation of Project Archaeology.
Utah Project Archaeology Coordinator and previous Leadership Team member, Samantha Kirkley, enthusiastically offered to accept management of the program and distribute books through SUU. She is highly experienced at engaging the public with Project Archaeology and will serve as Professional Development Director. The College of Humanities and Social Sciences supports the program by providing access to countless University facilities and services.
For more than 10 years Project Archaeology leaders grappled with the challenges of providing long-term sustainability for the program. A non-profit organization dedicated solely to supporting heritage education emerged as the best solution. I am thrilled to announce that we have formally recognized the Institute for Heritage Education as our national non-profit partner, and Jeanne Moe, the Board President, will serve as our Curriculum Director and senior program advisor.
We welcome partners of all types into the Project Archaeology family: federal, state, and local agencies; universities; museums; private non-profit organizations; professional education and archaeological organizations; schools; and many others. Expanding and strengthening partnerships will be essential to nourish and sustain Project Archaeology. With the dedication of our partners Project Archaeology will grow stronger and fulfill its mission to use archaeological inquiry to foster understanding of past and present cultures, enhance education, and preserve our archaeological legacy. It has been a difficult journey, but Project Archaeology will be bigger and better than ever because we have significantly broadened our base of support, established powerful new partnerships, and discovered new strengths within our existing network of stakeholders.
Look for more blog posts as we introduce our directors and leadership team, highlight state programs and new curricula, provide new research results, and show you where we are going. Stay tuned and come along for the ride!