Dr. Capilouto and Dr. Blackwell:
We understand that the decision to reorganize of the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences will effectively close the Kentucky Archaeological Survey (KAS) and the Program for Archaeological Research (PAR) as of May 29, 2019, and that all staff positions will be eliminated. As the organization representing professional archaeological research in the state, we are writing to voice our opposition to this move. As a public land grant university, the University of Kentucky is dedicated to improving people’s lives through excellence in education, research, and creative work (http://www.uky.edu/sotu/2015-2020-strategic-plan). These goals are compatible with the mission of KAS to educate the public about Kentucky’s rich archaeological heritage and provide a service to other state agencies.
Of the concerns expressed over to us regarding the elimination of these programs, one of the most consistent is the loss of training in the practical aspects of professional archaeological career preparation. Many of the currently practicing professional archaeologists in this state received their early training in fieldwork and laboratory analysis through the experiences provided by KAS and PAR. The absence of these two programs will leave a void which cannot currently be filled elsewhere in this state. Academic preparation, is of course, primary, but classroom education simply cannot take the place of on-the-ground experiences in the field and lab. Furthermore, as you know, those students interested in careers focusing on Kentucky archaeology and heritage management will not be adequately prepared by participating in field or lab work in other regions of the country. Kentucky has its own set of unique cultural and environmental landscapes that require in-state dedicated research.
Aside from this, KAS has also provided an invaluable service supporting state and underfunded projects, such as inadvertent discoveries. Often, the work performed for these undertakings could not be provided by private consulting firms due to the expense involved. These KAS projects rely on volunteer and student labor, educating and heightening the awareness of archaeology for all. Some of the best research in the state has derived from these projects.
KAS and PAR have supported private consulting firms in providing specialized services not available in-house to these firms. These include faunal analysis and the flotation of soil samples. There are no in-state alternatives to off-set this loss of services to private firms. Furthermore, there will be great loss of intangible benefits derived from tapping the historical and technical institutional knowledge of Kentucky archaeology reflected in the long-term staff of KAS. Collectively, these staff are an integral part of the long and rich tradition of Kentucky archaeological research that is now threatened by this decision to close KAS and PAR.
Finally, KAS has become the public face of archaeology to the residents of the Commonwealth. The numerous educational outreach initiatives over the past twenty years have done much to shape the public’s current perception of archaeology. The children in today’s schools are now conversant in the Native American chronological and cultural periods, as we have seen first-hand from the questions these kids pose to us at school lectures. Adults are enlightened by the many short, readily consumed booklets and videos on topics across the state, as well as by the many public lectures offered by KAS staff. Participation in public events such as Living Archaeology Weekend and projects such as Davis Bottoms have made archaeology more available and understandable to the public. We need for this involvement to continue. It is important that the public have informed information as we as a nation seek to recognize and become more sensitive to our country’s diverse cultural heritage.
We strongly urge you to encourage the Dean to reconsider his decision. The University of Kentucky should continue to support the KAS and PAR in their efforts to provide current and future students with extraordinary educational opportunities, and to continue the proud tradition of high-quality Kentucky archaeological research.
Anne Tobbe Bader
Kentucky Organization of Professional Archaeologists
Duane Simpson, President-Elect
Alex Bybee. Secretary/Treasurer
Matt Davidson, Communications Officer