Antiquities Coalition Joins UMD and the DC-AIA for International Archaeology Day 2015
November 2, 2015
By: Katie A. Paul
October 17th was the fifth annual Archaeology Day hosted by the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) – an event that began as a National celebration of archaeology in the United States and quickly became a day of international recognition. For International Archaeology Day 2015, the Antiquities Coalition’s Chief of Staff, Katie A. Paul, joined the AIA Washington, DC local society along with the University of Maryland for Cultural Heritage: Why do we care?
Understanding why we care about cultural heritage is a crucial question to address in today’s environment. With parts of the Middle East and North Africa in such deep turmoil and conflict, it is difficult for individuals to understand the value of cultural heritage when there are serious human rights conflicts that must be addressed first.
To begin this discussion, the event started with presentations from a panel of experts including the AC’s Katie Paul, Alex Nagel (Research Associate, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution), Sandra Scham (Vice President, DC-AIA), and Matthew Suriano (Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of Maryland). The presenters, all with archaeological experience, focused on the issues beyond the material and looked at the broader implications of cultural heritage under threat, and US responses.
The students attending the event were UMD undergraduates ranging from classics and archaeology majors to economics and international development and members of the public. After the four panelists presented the wide breadth of issues facing the state of cultural heritage today the discussion moved to small working groups. Participants were broken up into groups focusing on a variety of case examples that included challenges faced in today’s crises. Some of these scenarios included examples on financing of terrorism through illicit antiquities sales and the challenges faced by museums purchasing artifacts for safekeeping. Recent suggestions made by groups like the AAMD were questioned in light of storage facilities, and some of the scenarios raised more questions than answers. Whose interests are at stake? What role do social media play in a globalized world?
One of the greatest impacts of this event was that participants were able to leave taking away the human connection of cultural heritage and understanding the inherent problems faced by people and not just objects. Students were able to gain insight into why it is important to be more than an archaeologist when it comes to the issue of #CultureUnderThreat.
Thank you to the Local Washington, DC Society of the Archaeological Institute of American and the University of Maryland for all of their efforts in organizing this event.