At my recent visit to the Rhodes Collection at the Emma Clark Library in Setauket, I reaffirmed my conviction that the best resource we have as scholars and as humans is other humans. I often tell this to my students and to younger colleagues in the Ph.D. program. Unsure of what the best approach would be to a seminar paper? Ask somebody who’s been there before. Feel “in the dark” about how to present at a conference? Ask somebody who’s presented before. Looking for a hands on approach to local/regional history and wondering what the best way is to meet new people whose interests overlap with your own? Well…in this specific case: Talk to your local archivist.
That day, I spent the better part of an hour talking with the wonderfully informative archivist at Emma Clark Library about potential resources for information on Long Island Native American and Africa American communities. It would have taken me dozens of hours of online research to find even half the resources she pointed me to, and her resources pointed me to even more resources. I’ve followed up on a few of these leads, but one of them is particularly exciting to me: local archaeological excavation.
Long Island, and the Three Village Area in particular, is home to a host of archaeological excavation sites related to Native American and African American (both slave and free) communities. Since the archivist gave me the names of a few individuals who lead the archaeological and anthropological research in the Three Village Area, I contacted one whose name has been suggested to me time and time again during my archival visits over the past eight months, and I asked him if I could join his team on an excavation. I was in disbelief when I received an extremely friendly, down to earth reply that accepted my proposal!
Preliminary work will take place in March, and depending on a number of factors, the heavy duty work will occur this summer.
I’m tremendously excited for a few reasons.
- It’s an awesome opportunity to meet a leading expert in the field and actually collaborate with him.
- It’s another form of research that I can carry with me into the future and hopefully use for my own research and publication.
- It’s hands-on work, which I always like.
- It’s hands-on work that’s outdoors, which I always love.
- It’s making me nostalgic for the year I spent as a geotechnician in the Alaskan bush between my M.A. and my Ph.D.
- Archaeologists get to dress like the intelligent heroes of the present and ancient world that they are: