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Everything Connects – well, sort of.

January 9, 2015

I hope everyone else is enjoying the Member of the Month series – if I can call it a series when there’s only been two posts so far, but bear with me, I am trying to be more organised this year and hopefully it will become a monthly feature rather than me every now and again thinking ‘oooh, I wonder if so and so would do a post, that’d be interesting’ – I’m finding it fascinating and if there is anyone you’d like to know more about then do email me and I’ll get on it.

Anyway, I do hope that (despite only two posts) you’re enjoying this feature as much as me. I realise that I am incorrigibly nosy and love to know the ins and outs of other people’s lives, how they became involved in archaeology and particularly the history of archaeology. I’m always curious to know how other people think about archaeology, their definition of an archaeologist and how far they feel they resemble that definition. I want to know what others think about history, again what do they think history is and, just as importantly, what it isn’t. These in-depth biographical pieces will hopefully answer all those questions as well as discussing the more obviously relevant matter of the subject’s actual research.

But, there’s an additional practical purpose to this series. A few years ago HARN was much smaller, it was possible to know each member and know about their  research, whether it touched our own interests or not. Now we have so many members that’s pretty much impossible and so we’ve become a loose conglomeration of people working on various aspects of the history of archaeology, most of us don’t know that much about each other’s research and who is interested in the same people/eras/geographical areas as we are. To me, and to the other HARN administrators, it is important to find out as much about each other as we possibly can, identify common areas of interest and put members in touch with others working in the same line of enquiry. That’s why we ask for the short biography/ research outline to go along with names and contact details. It’s also why we are organising a conference in Glasgow this year and why we’ve tried to organise HARN sessions or socials at other conferences. As I think I’ve already mentioned – yes, it’s here – I’m intending to compile a list of HARN members’ research interests which should make it much easier for everyone to find their interest group and contact each other about relevant matters. However, the great advantage to the extended pieces by various members is the level of detail: I knew a fair bit about Sam from reading his blog, particularly his passion, humour and integrity but his post filled in the gaps, told us how he’d started on his journey into publicising illicit antiquities dealing and the destruction of cultural property. By contrast, all I knew about Monica was her short biographical piece and her very entertaining comments after some of my posts – these combined to spark my interest so I emailed her to ask if she’d consider doing a longer piece and she very kindly agreed. Now, I know I’ve talked before – probably more than once – about how HARN members are a valuable resource, how our combined knowledge and experience can act as an archive of the history of archaeology and Monica’s post exemplified this. From Monica I’ve learnt that in the late 60s in the USA archaeology degrees were being barely promoted, but Vassar ran some archaeology courses and it was possible to participate in fieldschools without studying for an archaeological degree. I also learnt a great deal about Latin American archaeology – a subject about which I knew very, very little and am now fascinated and want to know more. And I was heartened to learn that the HARN administrators are not alone in winging it – ‘Dan [Sandweiss] once told me that he and I do some things because we don’t know that we are not supposed to do them.’

As far as my own research is concerned Monica’s piece was enormously valuable – she reaffirmed that there was still an unofficial talent spotting network in place amongst professional archaeologists and keen workers would be steered towards those who could help them develop a career in archaeology, with Monica it was Margaret Jones who put her in touch with G. W. Dimbleby, professor of the Archaeology of the Human Environment at the Institute of Archaeology in London. Additionally, Anwen Cooper and I have been looking into Margaret Jones’ life and work for the forthcoming Mucking South Rings volume – you can be sure Monica is going to get further emails from me about this!

Think about it HARNers, out there amongst our membership there’s a good chance someone knows the answer to your questions. This network – whether it’s the blog, workshops and conferences, the member profile or monthly newsletter – is an incredible resource, so get in touch, update your profile, come to the conference, tell us about yourself and your work, see who else is working in your field and make those connections.

In the meantime, have a great weekend


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