Francis P. McManamon
Departmental Consulting Archeologist,
National Park Service.
Good morning everyone and welcome. Thank you, Paul, for your kind
introduction. Thank you, Dean Montgomery
for your inspiring remarks and for your emphasis on the very productive
partnership between the National Park Service and the University
I am delighted to be here, participating in this cooperative
venture between the National Park Service and the University
of Maryland. I’d like to thank some of the people who have
made this possible. Thank you to Kristen
Owens and Chris Morris of the University’s Academic Consulting Services. And to Lena Mortensen, Charlotte King and
Paul Shackel with the Center for Heritage Resource
Studies and to Barbara Little with the Archeology and
Ethnography program of the National Park Service.
As most of you know, the National Park Service has a long
history of interpreting our national heritage to the public in our national
parks. Among the earliest was Mesa
Verde. Our archeological heritage is
sometimes quite obvious in the visible remains of mounds, earthworks, cliff
dwellings, fortifications and other above-ground structures. Other parts -- the vast majority in fact -- of
our archeological heritage are much less visible. Many parks have archeological remains that
are nationally significant and tell vital stories about the long history of
this land, and yet are all but invisible.
For example, Cape Cod National Seashore was set aside by Congress
primarily for its recreation and natural resource values and yet there are hundreds
of archeological sites that tell stories of thousands of years of Native
American history that is far too poorly known by most Americans today.
“Diversity” is a word that is so overused these days that it
is in danger of becoming meaningless, and yet the concept and the reality of
diversity is deeply embedded in our heritage and identity. Archeology and the stories it can tell about
people in both the ancient and recent past does more than celebrate that
diversity; it can make diversity real and continuous for people today who are
struggling with issues that we sometimes mistakenly think are new. Diversity is not new. Cultural conflicts and clashes and accommodation
are not new. The challenges of living in
a changing environment are not new either.
Archeology can lend insight into our national civic dialogues, but not
if its results are limited to a small circle of archeologists. And that is why it is important that we are
here today: to talk about the public meaning of our archeological heritage and
to talk about how we can tell the stories more effectively. And archeological resources need
interpreting. Most are invisible. All are palimpsests of the physical evidence
of human activities that need deciphering.
In fact, the means of deciphering are also subjects for public
Of course, as you know, there are far more archeological
resources outside of national parks than inside park boundaries. And there are federal, tribal, state and
local laws that are designed to ensure that the value and importance of
archeological and other cultural resources like historic buildings and
structures are considered and weighed when there is development or other
potentially damaging activity. Many of
us in this room spend much of our days dealing with the details of compliance with
these laws, trying to protect and preserve the tangible remains of our heritage
for future generations.
Sometimes, projects driven by legal compliance and even
accidental discoveries of archeological remains force us to step back and take
a look at the bigger picture. Sometimes,
in fact, archeological resources cause quite a stir. I am thinking of two very well-known examples
that have received a great deal of national and even international media
coverage: Kennewick Man in Washington
state and the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan. Both of these are astonishing discoveries
that require an archeological perspective to understand.
These two cases represent very divergent time periods – from
approximately 9000 years ago to just a few of centuries ago. They both raise many important issues
surrounding management decisions and planning, scientific investigation, descendant
communities, broader public interest and the meaning of these important
discoveries in our national history.
Many of the issues they raise are not easy; nor is
their resolution quick. But
archeologists and interpreters do not need to shy away from difficult
issues. The National Park Service as a
whole has been grappling more effectively with difficult histories and with challenges
that have roots in our long past but continue into the present.
One of the new directions in the National Park Service today
is to take on the challenge of civic engagement and to use parks and park
stories as tools in our civic dialogue about the issues that face us
today. Archeology has a role in that
dialogue. Government at every level
faces increasing demands for accountability and the demonstration of public
benefits. Archeology has a role in the
delivery of public benefits to a wide range of communities and a responsibility
to let the public in on the important work that we do.
We need to find ways to effectively broaden the
conversation, to include archeology and the unique perspective it offers on the
distant and recent past, to provide members of the public with the opportunity
to understand and appreciate that long view of the past.
Again, thank you all for being here today. The National Park Service is committed to
improving the effective interpretation of archeology. We are encouraged by the groundswell in the
archeological profession that is looking seriously at improving the
presentation of archeology worldwide.
This conference and our discussions will not really be over
at the end of today or even tomorrow. We
are working with the University on offering some distance-learning courses and
other opportunities. I invite you all to
continue the dialogue, even as each of us is enmeshed in the day-to-day demands
of management decisions, maintenance issues, audits, reports and the small and
large crises we face routinely. It is
easy to get lost in the daily details, but energizing to remember that there is
a larger purpose in the big picture of public meaning.
I am looking forward to our discussions today. Thank you.
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