June 4, 2020
As we have ramped up our efforts leading to the celebration of the 10th anniversary of International Archaeology Day (IAD) in 2020, we have had to confront the impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on our global event. IAD 2020 is going to look and feel very different from our previous celebrations of archaeology.
Since 2011, IAD has grown every year. Last year, IAD, was celebrated through 1,200 live in-person (mostly) events that showcased archaeology in diverse communities around the world. But in 2020, amidst a pandemic and its consequences, a traditional IAD does not seem possible. Yet we know that, like us, hundreds of Collaborating Organizations across the globe remain as dedicated as ever to sharing the stories of mankind’s struggles and resiliency with public audiences and that IAD still offers a great opportunity for all of us to work together to spread an important message about our shared humanity.
In May, the AIA began a series of listening sessions to check in with collaborators, get updates from their institutions and organizations, and start brainstorming about redefining the shape of IAD for the fall. The sessions have been a bright spot during a troubling spring and we have found the opportunity to reconnect with our colleagues in a wide variety of roles across the cultural sector to be both comforting and highly rewarding. While a small amount of time has been spent commiserating and grieving what was, the focus of each session has been an earnest exchange in which we learn from each other and brainstorm how we as archaeologists, curators, educators, and volunteers can continue to serve the public in new and creative ways.
IAD collaborators both large and small that find themselves navigating unknown terrain shared plans and ideas related both to reopening to much smaller audiences with social distancing protocols in place as well as to turning to virtual programming options. All of our participants enthusiastically embraced the idea of continuing to network and support one another through additional online sessions centered on specific topics of mutual interest. Popular topic ideas included creating kits for hands-on learning at home, what works online and what doesn’t, engaging volunteers and interns remotely, making school outreach virtual, online presentation tips, and more.
For the fall, IAD event organizers are split between cautiously preparing for in-person fall events and shifting to planning for digital programming. A few are looking at hybrid approaches. For both scenarios, we have heard a lot of creative ideas. The theme for in-person event planning has been decentralization and how to engage audiences without some of our usual tactile toolkits. Creative ideas include self-guided tours, lectures in parking lots, timeline-style signs and displays along park pathways, virtual scavenger hunts, and even drive-through exhibits. Those looking to retain more of an activity fair style event are carefully looking at hands-on experiences using materials that would be used once and taken home by participants rather than touchable artifacts, replicas, or activities that involve surfaces being repeatedly touched by multiple visitors.
For those focusing on digital offerings, everyone has agreed that even those with prior social media and technological know-how have entered unchartered territory. Our collaborators face many challenges as they move forward with translating hands-on programming to online platforms and are noticing changes in people’s internet behavior and interests during the pandemic. Digital ideas and efforts include looking at putting together kits to bring hands-on experiences into people’s homes, live programming and virtual tours online, creating activities for digital classrooms, live presentations, and new types of social media engagements. A lot of these efforts are currently being refined through trial and error and our listening session participants were able to share some of their experiences about what has and has not worked so far.
Greatly encouraged by the interactions and flow of ideas during our initial listening sessions, the AIA has decided to continue to host online sessions for our collaborators throughout the summer. These sessions will center around themed topics that have come up repeatedly in our general listening sessions. The first three sessions will be:
The AIA is committed to supporting our collaborators during these challenging times and will continue to encourage cooperative efforts, provide appropriate resources, and promote the activities of our partners through our website and social media pages. Today, the lessons archaeology can provide about human resilience and transformations in society are more important than ever and we remain committed to connecting the public to archaeology through programming like International Archaeology Day even as it takes on new formats.International Archaeology Day Blog