On May 1-2, twenty-eight teachers and the members of the Long Island and Westchester AIA Societies enjoyed a weekend experience in Boston, MA at the Harvard Semitic Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts. As a member of the ASOR and AIA education outreach committees, I organized the program to provide teachers with professional development credit while meeting the curators, seeing the exhibits, and reviewing the curriculum material of two of the leading museums in the country. As a special bonus, the group met the new executive directors, Douglas Clark and Bonnie Clendenning of ASOR and the AIA respectively. This meeting provided the opportunity to exchange views about what types of programs teachers and non-professional members want to see and what the archaeological organizations offer.
The program consisted of a series of alternating activities. Speakers included Dr. Rita Freed, Norma Jean Calderwood Curator of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern Art at the MFA on “History of the Egyptian Collection” and “Nubia,” Adam Aja, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard U:university on “Using Archaeology to Understand the History of Israel and the Philistines: Two Case Studies,” Dr. Peter Feinman on “When Israel and the Arabs Were Allies.” Guided tours were given at the MFA on the Egyptian and Nubian Collections and by Kimberley Connors at HSM o the new reconstruction of an Iron II Israelite home. Special thanks is due Dena Davis for her assistance in putting the program together. The pottery session that concluded the program for the teachers was a highlight according to high school teacher Carol Giardenelli: “The opportunity to hold the oil lamps and other pottery from thousands of years ago was one of the biggest thrills of my life. I know that sounds corny but to hold something like that with the knowledge of who might have made it is astounding to me. Thank you for that opportunity.”
My interest in developing the program was precisely to offer both teachers and non-professionals a different experience than they normally receive when visiting a museum. As high school teacher Ruth Haukeland said, “the conference’s most salient feature was the variety of activities. I loved combining lectures, on-site museum visits, and workshops with hands-on experience. Thanks so much for a great weekend. Teachers deserve to be students sometimes!” My hope is that such experiences can be repeated at the HSM and MFA and be expanded to include other museums and institutions that are part of ASOR (and the AIA). One suggestion from elementary school teacher Melanie Jakway was “for more hands-on materials that we can take back to our schools, e.g., pictures, to be able to share with our kids – activities that can excite children in the archeological study of ancient cultures.”
If other institutions are interested in developing a similar weekend or summer program please contact me at email@example.com.
ASOR Outreach will hold a workshop for teachers at the San Antonio Museum of Art. It will include lectures, a Museum tour, and hands-on activities taught by Ellen Bedell, Neal Bierling, Beverly Chiarulli, and myself. For the first time, Beverly, who is the former SAA (Society of American Archaeology) Outreach Chairperson and current SAA liaison to ASOR, will attend an ASOR annual meeting. Please see the annual meeting program (www.asor.org) for abstracts describing the wide range of activities to be presented.
Recently I attended the Public Education Committee meeting at the annual conference of the Society of American Archaeology. Two important decisions were made there that directly relate to ASOR.
- To create an “Archaeology Alley” at teacher conferences: teacher conferences at the national, state, and regional levels permit organizations to set up displays of their education materials. The SAA intends to develop a portable exhibit that can be used at these different locations and would like to do so in conjunction with other archaeology organizations. This specific task led to a more general recommendation.
- To develop inter-society relations, programs, and activities among SAA, ASOR, AIA, ARCE and other organizations to reach out more effectively to the teachers and the non-professional public.
My hope is that ASOR will develop a more comprehensive and inclusive education outreach program that includes working with other archaeological organizations and its member institutions.
ASOR Outreach Committee