Worlds Apart: Conferencing as both Classicist and Archaeologist

As the new academic year launches into full swing, I find myself looking back over the spectacular year(s!!) From Stone to Screen has had, and I wonder what lies in store for the rest of 2015, and especially 2016. I recently compiled a ‘CV’ for our project, showcasing all of our accomplishments, including articles, conference papers, posters, videos, press releases, and awards – I know I’ve said it a million times before, but I am overwhelmingly proud of all the success we’ve had, and continue to be amazed by the dedication of our volunteers. We do our best to maintain a solid connection to our supporters on a regular basis through this blog, and one aspect of that is that our team members try to write a blog post after each major conference or event, like Kat’s summary of the AIA annual meeting, or Lisa’s announcement of our success at the GRAND I3 competition.IMG_6877

But, sometimes life takes over and the good intentions of writing a post immediately after an event get lost in the hustle and bustle, and deadlines get pushed further and further back. I’m guilty of this, and two major conferences that we presented at this year – the Society for American Archaeology Annual Meeting, and the Annual Meeting of the Classical Association of Canada just happened to bookend a major cross-country relocation for me and my family. I let things like packing up 7 years of graduate life in Vancouver (and two people and two dogs into one Uhaul cargo van!), resettling in Toronto, and preparing for another field season in Greece get in the way of other responsibilities.


So, now that summer is definitely over, I am devoting some much-needed attention to my to-do list, and that includes this post about From Stone to Screen’s role in two very different conferences this past spring.

Society for American Archaeology

This April was the first time I attended a meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), in San Francisco, CA. I was blown away by how many people were at this meeting. Seriously, it makes the AIA Annual Meeting look TINY. It is also much less formal – Classical Archaeologists and Classicists have a reputation for being…well…stuffy, let’s say. The receptions at the AIA Annual Meeting are full of suits, ties, dresses, and often polite conversation with a new acquaintance who is, unfortunately, constantly looking over your head to see if someone more important is around. The SAA is much less informal. Remember Kat’s game ‘Spot the Classicist’? Well, a friend of mine told me that his favourite game at the SAA is to walk out front of the conference hotel where the hoards congregate for their ‘fresh air’, and to silently play – get ready for this, it’s terrible: ‘Archaeologist or Homeless person?’. Political incorrectness aside, I figured out pretty quickly that the implication was based on the outfit choices – if you can count a neck beard as part of an outfit, that is. One doesn’t often associate professional conferences with Tevas and cargo pants, but what are conferences if not venues to learn something new! (Note: this is a joke. I care not at all how people dress and think personal choices in style are not to be judged harshly. For example, I have been known to willingly and happily wear a gold fanny pack.) In all seriousness, the resources available at the SAA were pretty impressive, and the quality of the talks was above par, even if the sheer volume of talks was a little overwhelming!


Our set-up, complete with t-shirts and postcards!


Kat, Lisa, and I had put together a pretty ambitious poster, basically showcasing the entirety of the project’s history: from the acquisition of the collections, to social media, website-building, fundraising, and future collaborations. It was a beautiful poster and I was thrilled by the feedback we received – I even met a student who had worked at the Athens Epigraphical Museum using RTI on squeezes, which is one of our upcoming projects for the 2015-2016 school year (RTI, that is, although we are planning on continuing our work at the Athens Epigraphical Museum as well!). What else can I say about the SAA? Oh yes, it was held in sunny, beautiful San Francisco – conveniently, where the 2016 AIA Annual Meeting will be held…so I HAD to scope out some of the sights in preparation for January:


San Francisco Street Cars!


Classical Association of Canada


The lovely University of Toronto

As a classical archaeologist, I am constantly straddling the worlds of Classics and Archaeology. And as you probably guessed from the title of this post, students and scholars in my field need to bridge a wide gap of Classics- and Archaeology-related skills, including the ancient languages of Greek and Latin, modern languages including French, German, Italian, and Greek, and depending on your specialty, Geography, Geology, Statistics, Ceramic Analysis, Art History, and the list goes on and on! Add in the complex and growing field of Digital Humanities, and you have to add in such complementary skills as code-writing, website building, database management, and, in our case, artifact curatorship. The From Stone to Screen project has given us an excellent platform to exercise almost all of these skills, and after having presented OUR small-scale digitization project to so many audiences over the years, we wanted to see who ELSE was working on similar projects, and was dealing with the similar hurdles that other Classicist-Archaeologist-Digital Humanist-polymaths were facing. So, Gwynaeth and I put out a call for papers for the Annual Meeting of Classical Association of Canada for a panel called (upon my stubborn insistence and love for Olivia Newton-John, naturally) ‘Let’s Get Digital!’. Our panel was accepted and we had a truly fantastic group of academics present their own small-scale digital projects – not only did we hear about some amazing work being done around North America, but we had the invaluable opportunity to speak in a forum-type setting about similar challenges, successes, resources, and financial and academic hurdles that we all face. And then we said ‘Cheers!’ over a lovely lunch on a sunny Toronto patio.


Lunchtime representatives of the ‘Let’s Get Digital!’ Panel

Here are the awesome projects that shared their passion for digital antiquity with us at the CAC:

  1. The Ancient Graffiti Project – A database and search engine for all the graffiti at Pompeii and Herculaneum, presented by Rebecca Benefiel and Holly Sypniewski.
  2. The Homer Multitext Project – A collaborative resource for presenting and critically analyzing the manuscripts of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, presented by Stephanie Lindeborg and Neel Smith.
  3. Mapping Ancient Cities with Google Earth – An alternative approach to understanding the networks of ancient Antioch, using a tool available to everyone! Presented by Kristina Neumann.
  4. Mapping Mythology – An interactive map of classically-themed artwork in New York City, presented by Jared Simard.

We are grateful to the CAC for accepting our panel and giving us the venue to share our DH research in the field of Classical Antiquity. However, as much as the organizers and the panelists appreciated and enjoyed this opportunity, I was slightly disappointed with the attendance at our session. We were lined up with the CAC Women’s Network panels, which is always a hugely popular session (and one which I was remiss to be competing with because then I too had to miss it!). Still, I had hoped for a better turnout than the dozen or so audience members we had…it made me realize that our field still has a long way to go to promote interest and integrate DH into traditional Classics research. I’ll spare everyone the clichés involving analogies of DH and the future of scholarship (get on the train before it leaves the station, kids! You know, that sort of thing!) – instead I will spend my energy promoting this and other awesome forms of DH scholarship in the field of Classical Antiquity. Oh, and I will do my best to ensure that a digital panel not only becomes a staple of the CAC program from here on out, but that it becomes so popular that there is standing-room only.


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About Chelsea Gardner

A PhD Candidate at the University of British Columbia, Chelsea works on several archaeological projects in Greece and is the Project Manager for From Stone to Screen. Chelsea loves travel and all things related to Classical Archaeology, even when it involves uploading metadata or encountering spiders in the field.

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