Thursday, April 22, 2010

Some temporary changes

I was recently informed that a blog such as this one that disseminates information about an ongoing archaeological project is strongly looked down upon (and could lead to legal ramifications for the author) by the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), the governmental organization that issues permits. More specifically, the issue is in distributing information about a project before the report containing such information has been submitted to INAH. All archaeological data must be submitted to INAH before it is distributed in any other way. After such reports have been submitted and approved, the data can be distributed however the researcher sees fit. Unfortunately, this means that archaeological blogs in Mexico cannot post about on-going projects and finds. Consequently, I have temporarily hidden all posts that included data from our ongoing excavations, and will repost them once the reports have been accepted by INAH. In the meantime, I will continue to post about the project generally, but will not be able to include any of our recent finds.

I was very saddened to learn about this policy, and it pains me to have to hide my posts, because I see this blog as an ideal way to engage the public and all other stakeholders in my research. I strongly believe that engaging all stakeholders is an important component of doing archaeology in an ethical manner. I strongly dislike the tendencies within archaeology and other academic disciplines to hoard data and to distribute archaeological findings only within academia. Indeed, the Society for American Archaeology Principles of Archaeological Ethics includes the following:

Principle No. 4: Public Education and Outreach

Archaeologists should reach out to, and participate in cooperative efforts with others interested in the archaeological record with the aim of improving the preservation, protection, and interpretation of the record. In particular, archaeologists should undertake to: 1) enlist public support for the stewardship of the archaeological record; 2) explain and promote the use of archaeological methods and techniques in understanding human behavior and culture; and 3) communicate archaeological interpretations of the past. Many publics exist for archaeology including students and teachers; Native Americans and other ethnic, religious, and cultural groups who find in the archaeological record important aspects of their cultural heritage; lawmakers and government officials; reporters, journalists, and others involved in the media; and the general public. Archaeologists who are unable to undertake public education and outreach directly should encourage and support the efforts of others in these activities.

Of course, blogs are not the only way I engage with the public. I interact with the local public through site tours and talks, for example. Blogs, however, make it easier to interact with the public on a national and international level.

And of course, INAH does not forbid the use of blogs altogether. Once the reports are in, I may distribute as much data as I would like on the blog. But I enjoyed the ability to share with you readers our latest and greatest or mysterious finds. I think that including on-going finds is one way to more effectively engage the public. There is something about the immediacy of it that is important, that is lost in annual or final reports or even articles.

I do think that archaeology as a discipline is moving in the right direction. Every year more and more researchers include blogs and other forms of public outreach in their projects, and scholars are coming up with new ways to engage stakeholders using the wonderful tool of the internet. I think it is only a matter of time before such efforts are more widely appreciated. In the meantime, I will do what I can.


RAJ said...

Sorry about this; but hope you will keep us updated on how your interactions with people are going, and look forward to the ultimate return of information to this blog.

Alberto Frutos Andrade said...

Hi Lisa!!
im sorry to know abaut this, even i can´r go to Xlatocan i used to read whit exitement your blog, how ever i´ll keep doing it, but is not fear what does the legislation do, i hope every thing´s going very well, good luck and please let me know how things are going, say hi to every body arround there for me, tahnk you, see you, have a nice day

Alejandra Alonso said...

Thank you for being sensitive about the consequences of having all the arky information disclosed in your blog. I am sure you will find other great ways to communicate with the local, and non-local people about your work, and the importance of the site, the culture, and the findings you are doing.

It seems to me that you are doing a lot just by being aware that the information you provide could be used in a wrong way, or could put in danger our heritage from destruction and looting (which saddly we all know that happens everywhere in Mexico).

I encourage you to promote as much as you can, responsible engagement of the local authorities, smallholders, and other non local people, in the task of preservation the archaeological resources found, or to be found in the area you are working,

You are right, when saying that you will be able to disseminate the information through different means when you turn in your final report to mexican authorities, but it is always good to consider the consequences of doing so and finding the right balance on releasing information according to the local conditions of protection the cultural heritage at risk is in, this will take you to other great engagements in the practice of public archaeology.

There is much to do in order to promote right policies and full action for preserving our archaeological resources from destruction! The little thing you just did by removing the info, was just a responsible, admirable thing to do!

Thanks, and good luck in your project.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Hello... We have read the last update of your blog .Your point of view and your review are very interesting regarding the difficulties you have founded to expand your last archaeological projects. We have an architecture and archaeology blog called ARKEOPATIAS and we are very interested in your participation and share with us your experiences in those issues having your perspective as a foreigner person working in Mexico and all the problems what it implies. We hope you like the idea to participate with your comments with us, it will be a pleasure to have you as a guest in our blog and know all your opinions. Kind Regards