Starting the year off with a conference, from 5-8 January 2022 the members of the Alexandria Archive Institute / Open Context (AAI/OC) team virtually attended the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and Society for Classical Studies (SCS) Joint Annual Meeting. The team ran our “Let’s make a data story” workshop and there were a lot of other cool talks we enjoyed!
As participants and attendees in these sessions, here were some of our highlights from the meeting.
Eric: There’s so much range and breadth to the sessions and the presentations, I have a hard time selecting favorites. I guess that range of topics is what attracted me to archaeology in the first place. I really enjoyed how several presentations at the meeting emphasized how archaeology and the ancient world have such significance to different publics today. The session Current Events And Heritage Protection: Efforts To Protect Culture At Risk* highlighted the tremendous courage and dedication of many members of local communities and institutions in Southwest Asia to protect and conserve cultural heritage against vast forces of ideologically motivated destruction and the global antiquities market. Similarly, a paper presented by Elizabeth Greene and colleagues “Toward an Inclusive Maritime Heritage: Community Perceptions of Mediterranean Connectivity Beyond Antiquity” did a great job humanizing contemporary climate change and conflict driven maritime migration in the Mediterranean by presenting the material culture of current migrants with ancient analogs.
And of course, because the session was so close to my main professional focus, I loved all the discussion and ideas presented in the Limitations Of/On Open Access In Archaeology colloquium. It was great to see the debate advance to highlight how if open access is to succeed in “democratizing” archaeology, so many other labor, authority, collaboration, and ethical practices also need reform.
Leigh: One of my favorite parts about the meeting is having the ability to reconnect with so many friends and colleagues while also meeting new people and engaging with new (to me!) research. While all of this can be much more difficult to accomplish in a virtual space, I found that panel and workshop organizers were keen to encourage conversation and make connections whenever possible.
One of the sessions that I think models this kind of community-building the best is the Ancient MakerSpaces (AMS) Workshop, which serves as a venue for students, scholars, and librarians who want to share digital works-in-progress. I’ve been able to attend the entire AMS workshop for the past two years, and it’s so exciting to see the pedagogically and scholarly innovative digital projects these presenters are working on, making some new personal connections and contacts along the way.
Meghan: Presenting and attending this year’s meeting closed a loop for me that began in 1998, when as a new undergraduate, AIA was the first archaeological organization I joined. Though I’ve remained a member on and off since, my work never took me in a direction that led to AIA conference attendance until now. I was so thrilled to find that the organization was forward thinking, and that presenters were wrestling with the same issues that fill up my day-to-day thoughts.
Inclusion came up repeatedly in presentations, as did ethics, and the role of archaeology in public discourse. I have to nod to the session I was in though, and my favorite paper of the conference, Allison Mickel’s Open Access Advocacy as “Communist, as Capitalist: OA’s Uncertain Effects on Academic Labor”. It was a rousing critique of academic labor practices, and made me consider archaeological excavation as service in a way I hadn’t before.
Paulina: My favorite part of the meeting was seeing so many academics of color and historically minoritized academics in action. While there may be some confirmation bias, as I attended sessions like the Presidential Plenary on Decolonizing Archaeology: Exciting Community Collaborations In The US And Around The World and one on Black Athena Before Black Athena, I loved being in a space where I got to see groups of POC academics share their work and ideas.
Specifically, I loved that the plenary reminded the audience that collaborative and decolonizing archaeology is not new or a fad but a way we change the discipline. Additionally, I loved learning about 19th century black scholars who have engaged in important Africa-centering classics research since that time but were subsequently ignored by the discipline. Lastly, it was great to sit in on the Trans in Classics working group’s discussion and to hear about their work creating gender inclusive Latin resources and reading resources. Overall, I liked that this conference demonstrated how archaeology and classics engage via research and educational resources with enduring inequities in society.
Sarah: The first day of the meeting for me was a “digital archaeology sandwich”! I started off bright and early with the Digital Archaeology Interest Group meeting and closed with the Digital Technology Committee meeting that evening. Having attended the AIAs for a number of years now, I am delighted to see the growing interest in all-things-data as reflected in the number of attendees at these working groups and digital-related sessions. This is happening across the discipline. At the ASOR conference last November, the forum Chuck Jones and I organized on “Best Practices for Digital Scholarship” had 60 attendees taking part in an active discussion of data publishing. What a change from the earliest versions of such sessions that were seen as successful if they had more audience members than panelists!
At this year’s AIA meeting, a theme that ran through the various data-related sessions I attended was the need for more recognition of the value of data management in such things as tenure and promotion review processes. Did you know that the AIA has a document that provides guidelines for the evaluation of digital technology and scholarship in archaeology? The Digital Technology Committee (of which I’m currently the chair) developed this addendum and is committed to keeping it updated, so check it out, share it around, and get in touch with me if you have feedback about how it can be improved.
These moments remind us how important attending virtual conferences is and how much fun they can be. Furthermore, we’re excited to transpose our workshop from the meeting into something we can share more widely with the community.
*Links on session titles go to the session pages in the the AIA/SCS secure platform. These are intended for individuals who registered for the 2022 meeting but missed the talks mentioned in this article. Recordings of the talks will be available for a few weeks after the meeting.