(July 20, 2018)—As William Lipe’s writings continue to remind new generations of archaeologists, public outreach is a key component in conservation archaeology efforts. At the Preservation Archaeology Field School, we stress the importance of communicating about our work with the public, and public outreach events are built into the curriculum. Fortunately for us, a group of 18 people cannot move into the rural Cliff–Gila Valley and go unnoticed, and we have several opportunities to interact with local residents and neighbors.
Our field school hosts a public lecture series each year, and this year we had record attendance. The talks featured current research in ancient hunting and farming practices, applied anthropology, stone tool technologies, geoarchaeology, and plant domestication. During these events, our lab fills up with students and community members, and this gives us time to talk with people about their interests or update them on our excavation progress. I value these interactions because I always learn more about the recent history of the area and the concerns people have about protection of cultural resources.
Our largest public event is the Archaeology Fair, which is held at the end of the field season at the Nature Conservancy’s Lichty Ecological Research Center at Gila River Farm. The students present a research topic or hands-on activity directly related to work in the Upper Gila, giving them a chance to engage the public in archaeology and practice their presentation skills. Once again we had a large turnout, and I met local residents as well as people who traveled from Silver City—and even as far away as Las Cruces!—to hear about our work and tour the Gila River Farm site.
As archaeologists, we have an ethical obligation to share our work with the public, and as guests in this beautiful region, we strive to find ways to give back to our generous hosts. These events provide one way to accomplish these goals, and the interest shown in our work and the welcome we receive each year is heartening. My experience in the Upper Gila inspires me to find new and creative ways to work with the public and advocate for Preservation Archaeology.