Portland State University. Department of Anthropology
Date of Award
Master of Science (M.S.) in Anthropology
1 online resource (vi, 125 pages)
Community archaeology -- Oregon -- Sauvie Island -- Case studies, Archaeologists -- Attitudes, Archaeology -- Public opinion
Community archaeology's broader objectives include increasing public understanding of archaeology and making archaeology more relevant to people's day to day lives. Fulfilling these goals could be beneficial to the public in terms of their gaining more agency in, and more access to, archaeology; and it could be beneficial to archaeologists in terms of increasing public support for archaeological work. While many community archaeologists report success, few authors critically evaluate the experience and outcomes of community archaeology. As a result, little data-based understanding exists about what is gained through community archaeology. This project explores that question through three primary means: 1) a community archaeology field research project on Sauvie Island in Portland, Oregon, in which I interview public (n=16) and professional (n=6) participants before and after their involvement in fieldwork, 2) interviews with local professional archaeologists (n=15) from various backgrounds, and 3) a broad baseline face-to-face survey of the Portland area public (n=254). The latter two data collection methods provide supporting and comparative information intended to add layers of meaning to the analysis of the Sauvie Island field project participants' thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to the field project.
My results show that the majority of the non-archaeologist public have positive and often enthusiastic attitudes towards archaeology. These attitudes remain or are reinforced through participation in community archaeology. This trend appears to exist irrespective of partial public understandings of archaeology, wherein many members of the public are aware of real aspects of archaeology, but simultaneously express inaccurate perceptions of the nature of archaeology. Archaeologists demonstrate misunderstandings of the public, particularly in terms of public participation in community archaeology leading to the destruction of sites or the breakdown of scientific rigor. These fears often lack data-based or experiential support, and are less present in archaeologists with more experience working with the public. Generally, archaeologists enjoy interaction with the public in participatory contexts, and see various benefits to public involvement.
My research shows that tying archaeology to present day life, to intimate technical details of the archaeological fieldwork experience, and to engagement with the natural landscape, are crucial aspects of increasing archaeology's relevance to the public. Despite misunderstandings on both sides, mutually beneficial public/professional involvement in community archaeology is possible.
Plumer, Martin John, "How Can Community Engagement in the Local Past and Archaeological Research Be Mutually Beneficial? A Case Study in Community Archaeology from Sauvie Island, Oregon" (2018). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4543.