November 22, 2013
by Michele A.F. Kidwell
A few years ago, the Archaeology Committee of The National Arts Club embarked upon an endeavor to expose young people to their shared humanity, best understood through the discipline of archaeology. If one could reach the current generation, one had the ability to enrich her/his life in a most meaningful manner as well as, hopefully, their family and those with whom this individual would interact in the future. To save a person is to save the world, and to engage that same person is to engage the world. We believe that through archaeology discerning youth can be intellectually enriched by learning about discoveries of artistic and cultural materials spanning civilizations.
Board member of the Archaeological Institute of America, Douglas A. Tilden, and Ben S. Thomas, AIA’s Director of Programs, were initially consulted and provided invaluable advice from the commencement of this innovative project through the present time as committed members of the Educational Initiative Advisory Board. Program participants included teenagers enrolled in the Advanced Placement Yalow Small Learning Community and the International Baccalaureate program at Washington Irving High School, located in the vicinity of the Arts Club, and Hunter College High School, where an Archaeology Club was created especially to inspire interested students in this important endeavor. Additionally, each high school and instructor involved received subscriptions to Archaeology magazine to further assist in understanding diverse cultures.
Classes participating in the program toured the King Tut exhibit at Discovery Times Square’ in NYC as well as its Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition. A visit to the African Burial Grounds National Monument accompanied by His Excellency Ambassador Isaiah Z. Chabala of Zambia, likewise on the Advisory Board, commemorated the Second National Archaeology Day.
Lectures held at each school proved an integral feature. An additional privilege was learning directly from James Delgado about “Ironclads, Blockade Runners, and Submarines: Archaeological Perspectives on the Civil War” at Washington Irving and from Patrick Hunt, who discussed “Hannibal: The Reality and Myths” at Hunter.
Illustrated programs by these eminent speakers following their National Arts Club lectures the previous evenings were greatly enjoyed and offered attendees the opportunity to comprehend the actual experiences faced by distinguished individuals in the field rather than just through glorified films and pose questions at the conclusion. A unique presentation by Doug Tilden ranged from a virtual dig in Belize to excavations in Egypt with many detours along the way plus units on Egyptian art offered by Maureen Clemmons and Michele A.F. Kidwell. Our gifted high schoolers are invited to attend monthly archaeology talks on varied subjects at The National Arts Club, where they have been most warmly welcomed and their presence acknowledged.
A special feature of the Educational Initiative has been the naming of Tilden Scholars judged on the basis of an assigned essay related to an event and bestowed in honor, jointly, of the Club’s mansion being the former home of Governor Samuel J. Tilden and for his relative—our benefactor –Doug Tilden.
For a competition in connection with a forthcoming lecture about Abydos at The National Arts Club, Hunter students were requested to interpret the Narmer Palette, with Professor Dr. Zahi Hawass, a member of the Advisory Board, personally selecting the winner. Other board members whose expertise has been deeply appreciated are Professor H. Arthur Bankoff of Brooklyn College, Cherie Adrienne Butler with the National Parks Service, Peter Herdrich former CEO of the Archaeological Institute of America, and Jennifer J. Raab President of Hunter College.