Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Building alliances, seeking support

Hello everyone!
I have been constantly on the road past two weeks, spreading the word about the Utah Pottery Project and identifying allies and building bridges for the future. My inclusive vision for the future of this project requires a broad coalition of people beyond those traditional communities with interest in archaeology, i.e. academic scientists and humanists.

Last week I was in New York City at Americana Week. I went to both the American Antiques Show and the New York Ceramics Fair. I wanted to talk with researchers, collectors, and dealers interested in the history of American Ceramics. I had many interesting conversations with people, particularly at the Ceramics Fair, and several individuals offered to give their advice about the antique ceramic objects attributed to Utah manufacture in Utah museums. I will write more about New York soon and share some of the details of my conversations.

I left New York to head to Providence, Rhode Island. I was invited to speak about the Utah Pottery Project at Brown University. The Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World hosted group of scholars researching design and material culture, using both scientific and humanistic perspectives. The Material Matters Symposium 2009 included a series of very interesting speakers, and I will write more about our discussions when I am back in the office after my current trip. Many of the scholars and students at the symposium talked to me about how excited they were by what we are doing in Utah. One example was that some people thought that our idea of studying a series of ceramic workshops, examining questions of creativity and learning and the socially embedded nature of technological systems, all at the scale of individual potters, potting families, or small groups, excited them because our insights into archaeological problems would help them to think about pottery factories in the Roman world.

After just about 8 hours at home, I turned around and came back to Salt Lake City on a trip sponsored by the Chipstone Foundation of Milwaukee. I was here to meet a group of people gathered over pizza to talk about the impoverished nature of historical archaeology, decorative arts history, material culture studies, and other allied topics. We brainstormed about the potential for research and programs of public interpretation. After lots of interesting discussion, we broke up for the evening after agreeing to meet again soon. What was overwhelmingly clear was that we needed a social network of people interested in matters of material culture in Utah. We also agreed to think about how to solve some of the political and funding problems that have discouraged research in this area.

During the last two weeks, I've also made lots of interesting progress on planning for the dig in Parowan. Details of those developments will follow at the end of my meetings here in Utah.

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