In late October a number of students accompanied Prof. Sanford to the annual meeting of the Archaeological Society of Virginia (ASV), which is the state-wide organization for amateur, avocational, and professional archaeologists. This year the ASV conference took place in Virginia Beach, allowing the students to hang out on the ocean shore at times, see a few dolphins, collect some shells, and pet the locals’ dogs that were out for exercise. Seafood was close at hand as well. Students making the trip included preservation majors Jessica Bittner, Ginnie Gerrish, Megan Rosengrant, and Zach White; archaeology special major Robin Ramey; and, anthropology major Erin Dandridge.
From the student perspective, the ASV conference provided a beneficial experience for all who attended, due to the varying types of research and methods presented by amateurs and professionals alike. Conference goers represented a wonderful mix of professionals, students, and the general public, with interests ranging from prehistoric and historical archaeology, to bioarchaeology and plantation archaeology. The intervals between presentations allowed people to further discuss the implications of research, published or not, in a less formal setting with other professionals. For instance, the undergraduate anthropology program at Virginia Commonwealth University held a showcase for their 3-D printer which scans objects and recreates artifacts for further analysis or educational purposes. The VCU students hypothesized on the benefits of 3-D scanning and printing, whether for how artifacts are measured, made, or visualized, while reducing the need to physically handle the original and at times, delicate objects.
Robin Ramey and Erin Dandridge presented a paper on the archaeological work at the Oval Site on Stratford Hall Plantation, a research project that provides the focus for the Department’s summer archaeological field school. They found that making the transition from student attendee to conference contributor can be difficult to navigate. Besides having to write the conference paper and develop a coordinated PowerPoint presentation during the school semester, there is the pressure of presenting in front of a public audience. Like other archaeological conferences, the ASV gathering is a welcoming one for undergraduate participation, allowing students to begin the professional process earlier in one’s career and with a level of security and support. It formed a relaxed and encouraging environment in which to give a first conference presentation and learn from more seasoned presenters. Besides congratulations from their UMW colleagues, Erin and Robin received nice compliments from audience members at the conference session.
The range of archaeological work discussed at the ASV conference was impressive and served as an example for how research is undertaken and then presented in a professional format for a mixed audience. Interests for future undertakings were sparked amongst UMW listeners, whether utilizing new technology to gain a fresh understanding of artifacts or determining conclusions through unique investigative methods. The diversity of presentations and speakers involved – historians, different types of archaeologists, representatives of the ASV’s local chapters, and academics, showcased how a rchaeology brings together people from different fields and perspectives. The UMW students who took this opportunity to learn about archaeology in Virginia would like to thank the Center for Historic Preservation for the necessary support and encouragement.