Module introduction and overview:
Sonia Atalay states, “Community-based archaeology foregrounds the knowledge and experiences of community partners to guide the process of archaeological research, ensuring it is grassroots and ground-up, with communities as partners rather than as people whose heritage is simply the object of study.” Archaeology has from its beginning been intertwined with the larger public with the knowledge produced being meaningful beyond the ivory tower. Today, we see community-based archaeology occurring around the world.
We recognize that community-based archaeology takes numerous forms and varies in terms of scope and approach. Moreover, introducing community-based archaeology into an Introduction Syllabus can be challenging, particularly, as community-based archaeology is based upon established relationships between community and academics that can take time to build. Thus, we seek to provide a range of options and pathways for thinking about incorporating community-based archaeology into an introduction to archaeology course. These include small modules with prepared materials that can be explored in a day to examples of semester-long projects. Additionally, we have provided a resource list of possible readings and websites that can be consulted and that learning experiences can be built around.
A Note About Relationship Building: At the heart of community-engaged archaeology is the relationships of trust and authenticity between the professor and community partners. This can take time to develop. Starting small is still community-engaged archaeology. Inviting a community member to speak in a class or doing the day of service project below can be the entirety of the community-engaged module. They are also great opportunities to build relationships that may lead to deeper engagement in future iterations of the course.
Topic 1 – Transnationality and Diaspora Community Archaeology
In this section of the module a combination of readings, videos, and discussion questions focus on the archaeology of transnational and diasporic communities in the United States. The readings focus on the archaeology of Chinatowns, with Ng’s work centering on transnational archaeology of both Chinatowns and home villages in China in the late 1800s, while Alex’s 2022 article is a condensed, popular version of Kennedy et al, which dives into changing diets among early Chinatown communities. These works can be supplemented with Ng’s video discussing the community aspects of her research, while the longer “Making Ties” movie goes into detail on the work involved in the transnational Cangdong Village Project. These resources can take from 30min to several hours of class time, depending on the combination of readings, videos, and discussion questions selected.
Ng, Laura. 2020. Between South China and Southern California: The Formation of Transnational Chinese Communities. In Rose, C. and Kennedy, J.R., eds. Chinese Diaspora Archaeology in North America. University Press of Florida.
Kennedy, J.R., Bingham, B., Flores, M.F. and Kemp, B.M., 2022. Ancient DNA Identification of Giant Snakehead (Channa micropeltes) Remains from the Market Street Chinatown and Some Implications for the Nineteenth-Century Pacific World Fish Trade. American Antiquity: 87(1), pp.42-58.
Presentation by Dr. Laura Ng
Making Ties – The Cangdong Village Project from Barre Fong
What communities does Ng engage with in her research on transnationalism? What role can archaeology of Chinatowns and home villages play in the construction of modern transnational identities?
How can community archaeology help fill in or correct gaps, omissions, and stereotypes that are prevalent in historical records? Provide examples from Kennedy et al.’s work on fish bones and think about how their results have changed our understanding of Chinese diaspora communities like the Market Street Chinatown.
Topic 2 – Day of Service: Cemetery Reclamation (note this can also be multiple days of service)
For this topic, we use a service-learning model. Essential to this form of pedagogy are reflection activities that help the student process and articulate their learning from their service experience. There are numerous reflection models. One popular one is the DEAL model. The components are Describe, Examine, and Articulate Learning. Particularly in the Examine part of the reflection, students can be pushed to think clearly about connecting their experiences to particular course objectives and/or key concepts discussed in the class. Such reflections can also be tied to pre- and post- activities that help the students better understand their assumptions.
In Richmond, VA, like many other locations in the US, historically black cemeteries have been purposefully neglected through a number of racist structures and actions. Today, groups of descendants and friends have organized clean-up efforts to restore the cemeteries and connect these sacred spaces back to the community. Students will partake in one clean-up day over the course of the semester. Every student will be responsible for completing two journal entries. One before they go and one after. The topics of these journal entries are discussed below.
Pre-Cemetery Visit Journal
- What experiences do you have with cemeteries?
- What role do you see cemeteries playing in a community?
- What do you think is important about the physical space and material makings of the cemetery?
Post-Cemetery Visit Journal
- Describe your time at the cemetery. What did you do? What did you see? Who did you work with? How did you feel?
- How did this experience either connect with your previous understandings about cemeteries or how did it make you think about cemeteries differently?
- How did you see depositional processes, think n-transformations and ctransformations, playing out in the cemetery? (note: this is just one example of how to tie the experience to specific course content)
- What did you personally take away from this experience? In what ways did archaeology shape your understanding of this space?
Topic 3 – Archaeology and Civic Identity – African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act
In the US House of Representatives, the African American Burial Grounds Preservation Act has just been introduced. This bill proposed by elected members of congress and focused on the distribution of tax-payer money directly affects every student. The goal of this module is for students to explore the connections between archaeology and their developing civic identity.
- During or after the first day of class, have the students read the text of the bill and have them write a short reflection piece that asks them to briefly summarize the bill and then provide their reactions to the bill.
- Towards the end of the semester, the students should re-read the bill and again write a short summary. Then they should discuss how this class made them read the bill differently.
Project 1 – Cemetery Project
The following semester-long project grew out of a multi-year partnership between the University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Friends of East End Cemetery. At the heart of this project is community-engagement with the Friends helping to shape the project from conception to completion. One important aspect, community members were invited as experts to attend a public session to discuss the student’s projects and provide feedback while the students were still working on the project. In this way, the students were not just sharing what they learned, but rather co-creating the final project with community experts.
Community-Based Learning Project:
East End Cemetery Gravestone Project
This project is part of an interdisciplinary Collaboratory involving faculty and students from several different departments at UR and VCU as well as community partners. Students in this class will contribute to the project by closely analyzing a particular gravestone (typology, style, symbolism as well as spatial analysis in GIS), researching the person(s) it commemorates, adding and transcribing related historical documents in the East End Cemetery Archive, and creating a digital narrative synthesis (video, slideshow, storymap, or illustrated .pdf with thorough source citations) of their research for eventual online publication. Groups will present work in progress to other Collaboratory students and community members at a virtual gathering in early November and will incorporate feedback received there to guide further research and revisions before submitting the final product on November 20. This is not a traditional thesis paper, nor a creative essay – it should be an objective factual report of the monument, with careful interpretation based on scholarly research. For more information about the cemetery and related research projects, see ‘Course Projects’à ‘East End Cemetery’ on Blackboard.
- use detailed photographs of an artifact to produce an objective, formal record
- gain experience interpreting artifacts through stylistic and symbolic analysis
- learn how to use spatial analysis in archaeological interpretation
- understand how grave markers, past and present, express social identities
- realize how material culture can tell untold stories of the past
Timeline and important dates:
- Week 7: introduction to the project and the East End Cemetery archive; sign up for project groups
- Weeks 8-10: groups begin researching the marker type and symbolism
- Thursday, Oct. 22 – class session with Erin Hollaway Palmer (journalist, founding member of Friends of East End, and co-creator of eastendcemeteryrva.com) on biographical and archival research methods
- Thursday, Oct. 29 – class session with Beth Zizzamia (UR’s GIS Operations Manager) on spatial analysis of cemetery data in ArcGIS
- Friday, November 6, 4 pm – virtual presentations of work in progress with other Collaboratory classes and community members
- Friday, November 20, 5 pm – final project due (video, slideshow, storymap, or illustrated .pdf, plus uploads and transcriptions of documents to Forum)
Part 1 – Close observations
Using photos provided in our Google Drive folder for this project and any others available on Find A Grave or eastendcemeteryrva.com, students will study a particular gravestone and its context as closely as possible (material, condition, dimensions, type, decoration, associated features, etc.). Record all aspects of the form and decoration of the marker(s) using the ‘Grave Marker Description’ form in the Forum archive (revise, add, or transcribe as necessary, if this form already contains some information).
Part 2 – Analysis of marker type, symbolism, and epitaph
How typical or atypical was this type of gravestone at the time it was made? What does this gravestone ‘say’ about the person whose burial it marks, through words and/or symbols? Use Stories in Stone. A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism(now available at https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/richmond/detail.action?docID=5329990) and other resources linked in the project folder on Blackboard (in Course Projects) to explore the significance of the gravestone type, inscription(s), and symbolism. Try to ‘leave no stone unturned’ in your search for all the possible things this grave marker can ‘tell’ us.
Part 3 – Historical and archival research
In our class session Thursday 10/22 (with Erin Hollaway Palmer, Friends of East End) you will learn methods and tools for genealogical and historical research. You will then use these skills to enrich and expand your gravestone analysis with historical documentation. Any documents you find relating to the individual(s) you are studying (death certificates, draft cards, marriage records, obituaries, other news articles, etc.) should be saved to the Google Drive folder for this project (subfolder: ‘Documents to be uploaded to Forum’) and then uploaded to and fully transcribed in Forum. (We will go over this process in class together.)
Part 4 – Spatial analysis
In our class session on Thursday 10/29 (with Beth Zizzamia, GIS Operations Manager), we will explore GIS data collected at the cemetery, to examine how a particular gravestone feature (e.g., type, epitaph, decorative motif) is spatially and chronologically distributed in the cemetery. How does this feature ‘map out’ in the cemetery, in space and time? Is it associated with graves in a particular zone, or is it widespread? What are the death dates on the markers that have this feature? Does it seem to have been popular at a certain time or with certain families? How might the spatial analysis of this gravestone feature across the cemetery affect your understanding of what the particular gravestone you analyzed ‘says’ about the person whose burial it marks?
Part 5 – Synthesis
- Prepare an illustrated presentation of no more than 5 minutes, to present your preliminary synthesis of all this research to other Collaboratory students and community members for feedback in a Zoom event on Friday, November 6 at 4 pm, with DRAFT shared with me for review/feedback by Wednesday, November 4. (During the Zoom event, you will also be expected to offer feedback to the students presenting work for other classes.)
- FINAL PRODUCT: Use the suggestions for further research and constructive criticism received at the Nov. 6 event to revise and polish your report as a video, narrated slide show, story map, or illustrated .pdf, with thorough citations, submitted by 5 pm on Friday, Nov. 20.
This project will constitute 20% of the overall grade in this course, and each group will receive a single/shared grade based on the following rubric:
15 points – Depth of analysis and investigation into symbolism and significance of marker type and decoration
15 points – Depth of historical/biographical research
10 points – Effective use of GIS analysis
10 points – Thorough and accurate recording and transcriptions of documents in Forum
10 points – Professionalism of presentation and feedback at Nov. 6 event
10 points – Receptiveness to feedback and suggestions
10 points – Accurate and thorough citations
20 points – Overall level of polish, care, accuracy, and thoughtfulness reflected in final product submitted on Nov. 20 for eventual online publication of Collaboratory student work
Project 2 – Sons and Daughters of Ham
This semester-long project is part of a developing relationship between the University and a community group of mostly descendants dedicated to preserving a historic African American burial ground next to campus. These projects have led to the creation of two reports that played an important role in a recent legal victory that passed ownership of the burial ground back to the community group.
Project 2: Ham Cemetery and Bandy Field
Due via collaborative Word document in Box folder, ArcGIS webmap, and individual statement by the end of the day on Mon. 12/61
For Project 2, the class will build upon the collaborative report written by the 2020 class about the Sons and Daughters of Ham Cemetery with a more detailed and focused inquiry, report of investigations, and proposal for future research focused on the site of Ham’s Hall (the meeting hall for the Council of Ham). Different components of this project will be completed by different groups of students but the end product should be a single, coherent report with thorough and accurate research, citations, and illustrations including the ArcGIS webmap.
|GROUPS: (Sign-up list at in project Box folder, https://richmond.app.box.com/notes/886440525989)
|1 – Managers and Intro./Background
|Organize structure of report and guide other groups to make sure all the pieces come together; introduce site history and research goals
|2 – History of the Council of Ham
|Deeper research on Ham’s Council #175 in Henrico as well as the other Council of Ham in Richmond and the United Sons of Ham organization (using newspapers and other historical sources)
|3 – History and archaeology of African American benevolent organizations
|Contextualizing the Council of Ham with research on other African American fraternal organizations of the time and what we know about them from both historical and archaeological evidence
|5 – Plan and map
|Digitization of the field plan drawing created on Nov. 16, incorporation of that vector drawing into ArcGIS webmap, and polishing that map for presentation/publication
|4 – Artifacts
|Cleaning and cataloging of artifacts collected in 2021, including some collected in the spring (detailed descriptions and identification/analysis, comparative research) – this will require time working with the artifacts in the lab on Monday or Tuesday 11/29-30 (see me for scheduling)
|6 – Proposal for future research
|Writing a detailed proposal of future excavation focused on the remains of the council hall, outlining research goals as well as the methods to be used and a plan for community archaeology
|7 – Editing (*WORK WILL TAKE PLACE BETWEEN Dec. 6 and 14*)
|After the other groups have submitted their work, the editing team will compile the pieces and edit and revise the whole report to make it ‘publication’-ready, for sharing with descendant families and community members
Browse the ‘UR2 – Sons and Daughters of Ham’ Box folder. There you’ll see a number of sub-folders with files and links that will be useful for this project in different ways, including:
- articles and links to sources on the history of Bandy Field and Ham’s Council and Cemetery
- Gambles Mill archaeological survey report and other reports to use as models
- unpublished correspondence and legal paperwork about the history and ownership of the site
- an Excel list of people known to have been members of the Council of Ham ○ death certificates and other biographical documents from Ancestry.com (more could exist)
- links to guides for studying bottles
- photos, and much more
Watch “Archaeology of African American Benevolent Societies” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUuiLgnEYSY – panel discussion hosted by Dr. Alexandra Jones, Archaeology in the Community (September 2020)
Start browsing books, articles, and other useful resources available in the library and online, like:
- Skocpol, T., Liazos, A., and Ganze, M. 2006. What a Mighty Power We Can Be. African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Little B.J. and Shackel, P.A., eds. 2014. Archaeology, Heritage, and Civic Engagement: Working Toward the Public Good. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
- Manarin, L.H., and Dowdey, C. 1984. The History of Henrico. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1984.
- Palmer, Colin A., ed. 2005. Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas. Farmington Hills: Cengage Gale.
- Rainville, L. 2014. Hidden History: African American Cemeteries in Central Virginia. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.
Use https://virginiachronicle.com/ to search local newspapers, esp. the Richmond Planet
Search the library catalog, Google Scholar, etc. for other sources on African American archaeology, African American benevolent/beneficial/mutual aid societies (use a variety of search terms), the history of Henrico and Richmond, community archaeology, historical archaeology, artifact identification, etc.
This project will constitute 15% of the overall grade in this course. The class will produce a single report, but you will each be graded on your own contribution, based on the following criteria (as applicable):
○ Individual statement (up to 1 page) explaining your personal contribution to the project
○ Depth of research and analysis (leave no possible stone unturned)
○ Clarity in presentation of information, whether in writing, drawing, or map
○ Thoroughness and accuracy of citations or other details
○ Overall level of polish and care taken in the work
https://www.archaeologyincommunity.com/ – An organization dedicated to doing community engaged archaeology, based out of Washington, DC
Mapping Greenwood Project – An emerging community-engaged project focused on the history of the Greenwood district of Tulsa, OK
Montpelier’s Rubric for Engaging Descendant Communities – a critical guide for how organizations and researchers ethically engage with descendant communities
The New York African Burial Ground Project – One of the first projects that fully embraced community-engaged approaches to archaeology and has helped to define what community engaged archaeology looks like today