(January 26, 2016)—Two weeks ago, many of us here in Tucson enjoyed attending the 15th Biennial Southwest Symposium. It’s primarily a research conference for professionals, somewhat like the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) meetings I wrote about back in April. Unlike the SAA meetings, however, this conference is focused specifically on Southwestern archaeology. About 300 of us gathered in the University of Arizona’s Student Union to listen to talks on this year’s theme, “Engaged Archaeology.” Presentations focused on research that engages modern communities in a variety of ways, particularly engagement with descendant communities.
One of the highlights of the symposium for me was the public session that kicked off the conference. It was great to get a glimpse of the interior of the Scottish Rite Temple, a building whose exterior I’d often admired during trips to the nearby Children’s Museum with my kids. Attendees enjoyed watching the world premieres of the archaeology videos made by several states participating in the Making Archaeology Public Project. I might be a bit biased, but I was especially excited about the preview of the Arizona video currently in production by Doug Gann and colleagues.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Another highlight was viewing the conference posters, including a set of posters by some of our own 2015 Preservation Archaeology Field School alumni. As you may have noticed from previous blog posts, we tend to encourage our students to present posters rather than papers at professional meetings. Although it takes a lot of preparation, summarizing a complex research project in a single 3×4’ roll of paper with informative graphics and minimal text is a great way to gain a better focus on the most fundamental and exciting aspects of our work.
Posters also encourage one-on-one conversations in which presenters and viewers explore common interests and engage with the subject matter on a deeper level than other types of presentations allow. It’s often hard to catch up with a speaker to discuss a talk delivered hours before, but at poster sessions conversations come naturally. This is important for everyone, but especially for students who are exploring newly discovered interests and making new professional connections.
During the weeks leading up to the conference, emails flew back and forth as our students adjusted figures and font sizes, converted paragraphs to lists of bullet points, and searched for typos, and a few of us had some late nights before finally sending the posters to the printer. That hard work paid off, and we are happy to share the results with you in our archive of posters presented at professional conferences.