Societies News

February 18, 2022

The Milwaukee Society: Making Lemonade out of Lemons

Confronting the challenges associated with the pandemic, the Milwaukee Society has been persistent in its commitment to providing programming for its members. While they haven’t been able to gather in person since 2019, they have hosted national and local virtual lectures, expanded their web resources, and redesigned their bi-annual newsletter, The Artifact. Jane Waldbaum, the former President of the Milwaukee Society, shares a full update on what’s been going on in Milwaukee below.

“Like most local societies, the Milwaukee Society has found the past two “Covid years” depressing and challenging. We have not had an in-person meeting of our Society since 2019. While we have transitioned to virtual meetings, we have had to cut back on the number of lectures hosted and cancelled our usual fun, in-person celebration of IAD for 2021. This curtailed set of programs is in stark contrast to our normal, active pre-Covid annual program of two nationally sponsored lectures plus 4-5 locally hosted talks, an International Archaeology Day program with a different theme each year, and occasional trips to local museums when they feature exhibits of archaeological interest.

Making lemonade out of lemons, our local team, ably led by President Jane Peterson of Marquette University, tries hard to provide some virtual programs to our roster of members and “friends” (local enthusiasts who like to attend lectures but have not yet made the commitment to join AIA) as well as to pass on information about other programs of interest, such as Archaeology Abridged. Our Society is split among professionals, students and lay persons, and we have long committed most of our efforts to public outreach.

An early and popular attempt was an illustrated informational sheet that we prepared and circulated to our members and friends back in spring 2020, and posted on our Society’s website. This describes local archaeological sites within easy driving distance of Milwaukee, that people could visit on their own as a safe, outdoor activity. Some of these sites are even within Milwaukee itself. Just this spring we moved our local newsletter, The Artifact, from print to digital format, saving our Society money and making circulation easier. The Artifact showcases upcoming programs, and features news of the Society and readable articles by local graduate students and professionals on their current research. It has come out semi-annually since 1994 and is sent by email to all local members as a membership benefit and later posted on our website. The new e-version is a far cry in layout and visual appeal from our original black & white 2-column version, thanks to outgoing editor Josh Driscoll and new editor Lydia McDermott, both grad students at UW-Milwaukee.

Two recent, locally hosted, virtual lectures supplemented our nationally sponsored ones for the 2021-22 season and showed that even with unusual limitations, we are able to extend our reach to new audiences.  The first, in November 2021, was by our Wisconsin neighbor Dr. Nicholas Cahill of the Department of Art History at UW-Madison and the AIA-Madison Society, on the site of Sardis of which he is the current Director.  The talk, featuring spectacular visuals, summarized more than 60 years of archaeology at the site. The virtual audience included several people from Nick’s home base in Madison, WI, along with many of our usual Milwaukee-area viewers.  The second lecture was by Milwaukee’s own Dr. Alice Kehoe, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Marquette University, on “Traveling Prehistoric Seas: Boats, the Oceans, and Archaeological Evidence for Pre-Columbian Voyages.” Alice’s talk attracted 64 unique viewers of whom five were international and several were out-of-state. Both the Cahill and the Kehoe lectures were recorded and are available on the Milwaukee Society website here. Alice will also be featured in the March 2022 Member Spotlight. Stay tuned!”

While many of us think we’re not doing enough during the pandemic to mimic pre-Covid life (an impossible task!), the Milwaukee Society is assuredly doing an incredible job to support its members during a difficult time. We appreciate all our Societies do to fulfill the mission of the AIA and thank them for their patience and perseverance over the last two years! And a huge thank you to Jane for sharing the latest news from the Milwaukee Society. Be sure to look out for Alice’s Member Spotlight next month!

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The AIA is North America's largest and oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to archaeology. The Institute advances awareness, education, fieldwork, preservation, publication, and research of archaeological sites and cultural heritage throughout the world. Your contribution makes a difference.