(July 30, 2017)—I’ve managed to ride my bike in on the days that I come to the Archaeology Southwest offices for the internship that I’m working. It’s a somewhat long—and yes hot—ride to the office. They’re located downtown at the northeast end of Toole Avenue in the old Bates mansion, a 30-minute bike ride for me. On muggy monsoon mornings, it can be a challenge, but it’s worth it.
I find the location and buildings of this area of downtown interesting, which makes for a good bike ride. For one thing, it’s right off the train tracks and surrounded by the historic districts of old Tucson. The historic Bates “mansion,” where the offices are located, I would describe as a maze-like office and courtyard complex rather than a mansion. The conservation lab of Archaeology Southwest, interestingly enough, has been put in a room that once had an indoor swimming pool. It’s an architecturally interesting although odd space in this mostly Spanish Colonial-style complex. The conservation lab room features a baroque-esque domed ceiling, and with the boxes of artifacts and microscopes strewn about, it’s a somewhat jarring scene. The Bates property includes wedding rental spaces, too, and to access the conservation lab, you go up a staircase alongside a ballroom, the walls of which feature regionalist folk murals. I should mention, too, that just a block away from the Archaeology Southwest offices are Xerocraft makerspace and Bicas community bike program.
From the perspective of someone interested in art, conservation, and culture (I’m an art history educator), it has been very rewarding to be involved in this historic landscape, a term, actually, I’ve learned as part of the internship.
The Communications Coordinator at Archaeology Southwest, Kate Sarther Gann, asked me to write a post that “tells my story.” These sentiments related to working at the Archaeology Southwest offices, I think, do that. I’m currently working on a Ph.D. at the University of Arizona through the Art and Visual Culture Education program. My program at UA has a major focus on art and society as they relate to lived experiences, and I wanted to share my own experience of Archaeology Southwest as a place in that way.
But why Archaeology Southwest for an internship? You wouldn’t know it from the aforementioned narrative, but my main area of art historical research is in rock art. I’ve been working with Dr. Aaron Wright on some of his research related to the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site and the proposed Great Bend of the Gila National Monument. I’ve been assisting Aaron in developing an assessment framework that gages the integrity of rock art sites, a concept borrowed from cultural resource management. (The rock art at Painted Rocks, by the way, would be said to have low visual integrity, due especially to the extent of graffiti at the site.) I’ve also been assisting with the development of an information sheet on the Painted Rocks site like others produced by Archaeology Southwest that can be made available to visitors of the site.
I’m not quite at the point of proposing to my faculty advisors at UA a dissertation project. I’m still in the middle of coursework for the program. The Fall 2017 semester will be the start of my second year in the program, and no doubt it will be the busiest one yet for me. Although the dissertation proposal is a year or two off, I’m starting to narrow in on research that involves the interpretation of forms of visual culture (namely rock art), the interpretation of the past, and notions of place in informal educational settings.
I’m still new to the concept of Preservation Archaeology, but the holistic framework that Archaeology Southwest promotes are right up these alleys (well, one alley, to be exact—Ash Alley, Tucson, Arizona). I’m grateful for the opportunity to work for Archaeology Southwest. It’s already been a great experience.