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Posts from the ‘Archaeology’ Category

An Interview with Jessica Richardson Smith, Museum Anthropologist and Research Services Librarian at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

Jessica Richardson Smith is the Research Services Librarian at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. She pursued three majors—Anthropology, Latin and Greek, and Geology for her Indiana University BA degree from the College of Arts and Sciences. While at Indiana, she used the museum practicum course in the Department of Anthropology to gain a range of experiences working in the Midwest Archaeological Laboratory. That work resulted in a published paper—Tools of the Trade: Chipped Lithic Assemblages from the Hovey Lake (12Po10) and Ries-Hasting (12Po590) Archaeological Sites, Posey County, Indiana (with Cheryl Ann Munson, Meredith B. McCabe and Dean J. Reed). She earned a master’s degree from the Department of Anthropology at the George Washington University and leads the Wymer’s DC project.

Jason Baird Jackson (JJ): Before we circle back and discuss your experiences at Indiana University and George Washington University, I’d love to begin by finding out about the mission of the Historical Society of Washington and your role there. What are your core responsibilities as a Research Service Librarian?

Jessica Richardson Smith (JRS): Sure! The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. is a 122-year old educational and research institution that collects and shares the history of Washington, D.C., emphasizing the local community over the federal city. We are a team of seven who strive to produce diverse public programming and exhibitions, as well as public access to our collections. That’s where I come in as the Research Services Librarian. The core of the Historical Society is our research library which houses over 100,000 photographs, over 800 manuscript collections, and hundreds of maps, prints, and objects—all on D.C. history.

My day-to-day duties consist of working with researchers in our library to help them find the information they need. Whether they are writing a scholarly article or just bought a house and want to learn about its history and their new neighborhood, my job is to help facilitate their needs with what our library can offer. Another facet of my job is to know what the other repositories in the city have. If the Historical Society doesn’t have some piece of information, I want to know where I can direct them.

I love my job—I never do the same thing twice and each day I am learning more and more about this city, our collections, and our members. On any given day, I may meet members of our community and learn about their projects and passions, research a topic in our collection for a researcher working remotely, or help troubleshoot a long-shot research query that someone submits based on a decades-old memory. Every day is something new and every day is something interesting. The best part is when I can apply what I learn one day to a question we get the following week. That’s great. It makes you feel like you are making real headway into learning the complex history of a city like D.C.

Also, because we are a small institution with a big mission, my colleagues and I are expected to wear many hats. In addition to my librarian duties, I also participate in shaping our public programming and exhibitions; I conduct photo research for our publications; I digitize material and tackle rights assessment questions; and I track our library statistics. Each of these things are being juggled on a day-to-day basis, which can be demanding but also very fulfilling.

The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. is located in Washington's historic Carnegie Library, dedicated in 1903.

The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. is located in Washington’s historic Carnegie Library, dedicated in 1903.

JJ: It sounds like you are in a sweet-spot in terms of scale. Your institution is big enough to be doing important, interesting work but small enough that you have not gotten trapped in a specialist silo in which you do only one task over and over again.

Washington is such an incredible place for museums, libraries, and archives. What is it like to work in a small-but-old museum/library in a city of large-but-old museums/libraries? Do you feel connected with GLAM (Gallery, Library, Archives, and Museums) professionals around the city or, like many of our colleagues elsewhere, do the day-to-day demands of the job keep you from connecting to colleagues around the city?

JRS: I can’t speak for what it is like at other institutions, but I think we do a good job of collaborating with our fellow institutions in the city, particularly those with a local focus. The D.C. Public Library, National Archives, Library of Congress, National Building Museum, the newest Smithsonian, the National Museum of African American History and Culture—these are all institutions we work alongside and collaborate with in order to forward our mission of preserving local D.C. history.

As the Research Services Librarian, my daily duties are often intra-institution focused but I regularly refer our library patrons to other institutions around the city when we don’t have particular resources. While this means I don’t personally interact on a daily basis with my GLAM colleagues, there is mutual awareness of our work through referrals. At the Historical Society, our main collaboration with our GLAM colleagues is through joint public programming, from conference plenaries to archival fairs, workshops, exhibitions, etc.

JJ: I am especially glad to hear that you have not only pathways to connect with colleagues, but that your institution is well-situated enough to support, and to see the value in, outreach, research dissemination, and professional development activities like those you have just mentioned. One of my reasons for being interested in your connectedness to the cultural institutions of DC is that you were trained at the MA level there, at George Washington University. That institution has a unique advantage in that it trains students in a city with so many public collections and so many collections-oriented professionals. Before we turn to your undergraduate experiences at Indiana, could you describe your graduate studies? What did you study? What role did hands-on work play in your career? Read more

Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy

The Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy (aka CHAMP) is a very active initiative at the at the University of Illinois. Led by anthropologist Helaine Silverman, it involves a huge number of Illinois faculty and organizes a wide range of conferences, talks, and projects. CHAMP has announced a busy series of lectures for October. Check out its website for more information on CHAMP’s activities. Here are the upcoming lectures.

3 p.m.
Food, heritage and intellectual property in Europe
Lecture by Dr. Erica Farmer (James Smithson Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Institution)

4 p.m.
Negotiating the “increase and diffusion of knowledge”: Policy, practice, and values around cultural heritage at the Smithsonian Institution
Lecture by Dr. Erica Farmer (James Smithson Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Institution)

5 p.m.
GSLIS 126 (501 E. Daniel)
Why UNESCO Matters: The Destruction of Cultural Heritage around the World
A panel presentation:
Lynne Dearborn (Architecture): The destruction of vernacular architecture
Laila Moustafa (LIS): The loss of Islamic manuscripts
Helaine Silverman (Anthropology): Looting the archaeological record
Kari Zobler (Anthropology): The devastation of Syria’s cultural heritage
Co-sponsored with the UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship

4 p.m.
Lucy Ellis Lounge, first floor in FLB
Vikings in America? Swedes in the American Ethno-Racial Hierarchies in the 19th Century
Lecture by Dr. Dag Blanck (English Department, Stockholm University)

Lincoln Hall room 1064
The Colonial Occupation of Piura: The Historical Archaeology of the First Spanish Settlement in Peru
Lecture by Dr. Fernando Vela (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

Reblogged: “Thoughts on How to Get a Museum Job” by Robert Connolly

For those seeking museum jobs or who are training and mentoring junior colleagues for such work, check out Robert Connolly’s recent post “Thoughts on How to Get a Museum Job.”

Find it here:

My older list of Web Resources for Museum Job Seekers can be found here:

George Sabo Named Director of the Arkansas Archaeological Survey

Here is some very good news from the University of Arkansas and the Arkansas Archaeological Survey.

George Sabo III, a professor of anthropology and environmental dynamics at the University of Arkansas, will be the next director of the Arkansas Archeological Survey, a division of the University of Arkansas System.

Sabo, who has served as an archeologist with the survey for more than 30 years, will replace  Thomas J. Green, who will retire June 30 after more than 20 years as director of survey, a statewide research, public service and educational institution with 11 research stations. UA System President Donald R. Bobbitt selected Sabo after a national search for a new director.

Read more in the full press release. Congratulations George!

Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era

There has been a real posting drought lately here at Shreds and Patches. In part this is due to a hyper abundance of matters worthy of posting about. So much has been going on that there has not been time to write about it all. With this note, I want to announce just one of these current events.

This month the University of Nebraska Press has published Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era. I am the editor of this book, but the real stars are (1) the remarkable Euchee/Yuchi people whose stories the book begins to uncover and (2) the nine talented, generous scholars who joined me in this undertaking. I want to thank them, the University of Nebraska Press, and the Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians for supporting this project and for being patient with me as I pushed it slowly along to publication. I have hope that the book will be useful scholars and students and, especially, to the Euchee/Yuchi community whose interests and goals prompted us to try to put it together.

One nice thing is that the press issued the book in paperback rather than in hardback, thus the price is more modest than is often the case with scholarly books. The book is also available from Amazon in a Kindle-friendly edition. (I have not checked this out myself yet.) If the book generates any royalties, all of these will be paid by the press directly to the Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians for its use in historical and cultural preservation work.

Thanks again to all of the participants in this project.

Wanted: Anthropology Minded Museum Directors

There are a number of museum directorships of relevance to anthropology and folklore studies open right now. The University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University and the Museum of Anthropology at Northern Illinois University are among them.  Most relevant to me, because the museum is so central to my graduate teaching and my collections research, is the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University. I especially hope that a large group of strong candidates apply for the Mathers Museum position. It will be exciting to see where each of these institutions head when they welcome their new leaders.

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History Openning: Curator of Archaeology

Job Opening: University of Oklahoma – Assistant/Associate Curator of Archaeology AND Assistant/Associate Professor of Archaeology.

Wenner-Gren Foundation Takes Major Step for Open Access

Anthropologists have reason to cheer with news from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research that the biannual symposium proceedings published by the Foundation as an extension of the journal Current Anthropology will now be made available in open access form. Wenner-Gren Foundation President Leslie Aiello describes the move and the rationale behind it in a [toll wall protected] contribution to the latest issue of Current Anthropology [volume 51, page 727, December 2010] See: DOI: 10.1086/657920.

The two supplements published in 2010 are freely available via the journal’s page at the University of Chicago Press.  Formatted like the journal, these are book-sized edited collections organized thematically. Discussing the history of the Foundation’s Symposium efforts, Aiello writes:

The first Wenner-Gren Symposium was in 1952, and since then, more than 170 symposia and workshops have been sponsored by the foundation. Many of these have resulted in landmark edited volumes that have made significant contributions to the development of our field (see In today’s electronic age, the foundation wants to ensure that its symposia continue to have a significant impact and reach the broadest possible international audience. We believe that open-access publication in Current Anthropology is the best way to achieve this goal.

This is wonderful news and a real advancement. One more reason to say thank you to Wenner-Gren for its dedication to the discipline of anthropology. Wenner-Gren joins other scholarly foundations working to advance the cause of a more just, rational, and effective system of scholarly communication.

Note:  While there is not a press-release on the Foundation website regarding this shift, there is a discussion of the move to publishing the symposium in connection with the journal (rather than as edited books). This announcement also discusses several recent symposium volumes.

The Cost of Applying for that Academic [Anthropology or Folklore] Job on the Final Day

This note encodes a particular observation on the academic job search process that I have witnessed on several occasions as a faculty member involved in, or witnessing, a number of faculty searches in anthropology and folklore studies. There is plenty of good advice out there on the academic job search but I do not recall anyone ever making the following observation.

This note applies to searches that are not of the “wide open” variety. That is, I am speaking about cases where a department wants a particular set of specialties.

Anthropology job searchers play close attention to the job ads in their field. A sometimes puzzling development is when a department runs their ad again with a new, later due date. It may be obvious that this happens when the search committee is not happy with the size or qualities of the applicant pool. What is not so obvious is the effect that last minute applications have on this process. I am talking to you last minute applicants!

As the due date for applications approaches, those managing the search have to make an assessment. Is the pool large enough to pass muster with college or university HR officials? In many institutions, the powers that be will not allow a search to move forward to the screen and interview stage if there are too few applicants.  Too few applicants is a sign that something has not gone right.  In some institutions, the human resources authorities want to see that the pool has attracted an appropriately diverse pool in terms of gender and other demographic variables. For multiple practical reasons, the assessment of the pool typically has to happen before the original due date is reached. If the due date is reached without being extended and the pool turns out to be inadequate, the search might be declared “busted.” Particularly under current economic conditions, faculty searches are very prized occurrences and no one wants to risk seeing the plug being pulled from above.

So, in a hypothetic search for a specialized colleague, it is almost due date time and there are too few applicants. Rather than risk a range of problems, the department extends its deadline. Then, minutes before the original deadline, a wave of applications arrive. Arriving on the last day are just enough solid applications to cause the original pool to be viable after all.  If those late appliers had applied earlier, the original deadline would have stuck and they would have been part of a small but viable pool. For any one of them, their chances would have been better had this happened. Now, in this example instance, they have to wait around a month or more to see what happens. Their chances are harmed because delay=risk. (A Dean can close an in-process search for all kinds of reasons.) They are also harmed because the pool, with additional time, will attract additional candidates. Additional candidates=additional competition.  This scenario happens in the real world and the N number of applicants who turn their stuff in on the last day are the cause.  They mess things up for themselves and they mess things up for the hiring department. Applying at the last minute is, of course, better than not applying at all, but if you are an applicant, it is not in your self-interest.

If you are applying for an anthropology or folklore (or etc.) job with a narrow area or historical focus or in a specialized or emergent research area or for a job with a complicated mandate or in an off-the-beaten-path location, paying attention to this potential dynamic is very much in your interest. It is simply better to be an excellent candidate in a small but viable pool in a search that is unfolding quickly and early in the annual hiring season.

Worldwide List of OA Journals in Anthropology

Thanks to for compiling a worldwide list of (gold) open access journals in anthropology and neighboring fields. (Many folklore and ethnology titles are included.) In addition to listing known journals with links, a search utility has been set up on the site. Find the OA anthropology journal list here: . This is a great resource for a number of reasons, including the presence here of titles such that have not been included in the Directory of Open Access Journals. The listing should be of special value to higher education librarians and the students and faculty that they support. had already established itself as the best blogroll in anthropology (see here), so this was a logical and wonderful next step.

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