Friday, October 3, 2008

I have encountered many issues with cuts in the non-profit world, but this issue completely shocked me. I have posted two letters that were sent out last week in regard to the cuts of the archaeology program at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. The idea is tragic, much less the program itself is something that has been building over the last 70 years. The second response, is in response to the first announcement about the cuts. Upon reading the announcements, I realize that I am skeptical about what will actually happen in the end. What I do hope, is that the organization will not be another to succumb to profit cuts and generalized assumptions of what is truly important in examining and interpreting the past.

Read as follows:

Some sad news from the United States, which will not only have an impact on the discipline across the pond but which will also reverberate in the very vibrant fields of historical, post-medieval and industrial archaeology in the UK and Europe. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which in many ways pioneered historical archaeology and has always been central to the discipline over the last 75 or so years, has closed the Department of Archaeological Research.Professor Marley R. Brown III, who was selected by Ivor Noel Hume to direct the department in 1982, has been made redundant. Curatorial and laboratory duties have devolved to the Collections division, while the one remaining full-time archaeologist now works for the Department of Architectural History (in an rather ironic full swing back to the 1930's division of labour). Those of you who enjoyed the 1984, 1997, and 2007 SHA/SPMA events in Williamsburg, and of course all of us concerned about the past, the present and the future of the discipline of historical/post-medieval archaeology, will be anxious about this development.

PaulPaul Belford, BSc., MA., MIFA.Head of Archaeology and MonumentsIronbridge Gorge Museum Trust


Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of Jim Horn, V.P. of Research and Historical Interpretation at Co= lonial Williamsburg:As part of a recent reorganization, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has combined the departments of Archaeological and Architectural Research into a single department, the Department of Architectural and Archaeological Research, under the leadership of Edward Chappell.Colonial Williamsburg remains committed to archaeological research, excavat= ion, and field schools. The Foundation continues to support one of the largest archaeological units in the nation, consisting of staff and project archaeologists, laboratory and curatorial staff, and several part-time archaeological technicians. Staff archaeologists will be actively engaged in excavations in Williamsburg's historic area and elsewhere and curatorial staff will continue to have responsibility for the nationally known collection of artifacts and faunal remains. Hope this clears up any misconceptions regarding the Archaeology Program at Colonial Williamsburg.

Andrew Edwards
Staff Archaeologist
Department of Architectural and Archaeological Research
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Even though this is something I am completely passionate about, it it also a great example of the type of things that museum professionals deal with on a daily basis. Budget cuts are always a problem with non-profit organizations, and can cause severe problems for museums. We all know the economy is in a rough spot at this point, but my question is where do we decide what is more important?....Keeping an organization and running it at a lower standard with more financial security, or improving and maintaing research strength so that the pertinent information needed for accurate interpretation and living history programming can be presented to the public. It is a hard question......and one that will never be completely answered. Unfortunately, the museum world is at the bottom of the totem pole, and yet we are one of the most important facets of today's society since history is what makes us who we are!

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