October 20, 2012 is the Second Annual National Archaeology Day. Okay – so there is National Hot Dog Day, National End of the Middle Ages Day and on and on . . . so do we need another National Day, like National Archaeology Day? I posted some of my thoughts on this a few weeks back on another blog. But in reflecting on the question, specifically for the C.H. Nash Museum in Memphis, I had some further thoughts.
At Chucalissa, we curate collections excavated from archaeological sites throughout the Midsouth, especially in West Tennessee. Our Museum is located on a Mississippian Platform Mound complex that has seen over 50 years of archaeological research. I suspect that the C.H. Nash Museum curates more excavated materials and their associated records than any other location in the tri-state area. That is, we are a significant repository and resource for archaeological knowledge of the region from over 10,000 years ago up to modern times.
The C.H. Nash Museum is also an integral part of the University of Memphis, a public institution supported through the tax dollars and tuition paid by the citizens of Tennessee. At Chucalissa we share the same educational mission as the University of Memphis. In fact, our mission statement mandates that we “. . . protect and interpret the Chucalissa archaeological site’s cultural and natural environments, and provide the University Community and the public with exceptional educational, participatory, and research opportunities on the landscape’s past and present Native American and traditional cultures.”
National Archaeology Day is an excellent opportunity to act on that mandate. More importantly, we intend for National Archaeology Day to be a jumping off point for Memphians to become involved in the cultural heritage of the land on which they live. We will feature tours of the site, museum, and repository. We will highlight the exhibits in our natural environment including an arboretum, traditional medicinal plant sanctuary, herb garden, and of course the prehistoric architecture built by those who lived on the landscape 500 years ago. On National Archaeology Day we will premier our replica Mississippian era prehistoric house and traditional foods garden.
In addition to tours, we will feature activities in which the visitor can take part, like dart throwing with an atlatl, crafts, flintknapping demonstrations, visits to our hands on archaeology lab, the African-American Cultural Heritage exhibit and more. We invite you to bring in your own prehistoric artifacts collected from the surface of farm fields for identification by professional archaeologists. We will also have a speaker or two talk about their archaeological research in the region. You will also have the opportunity to help process prehistoric artifacts excavated from the Chucalissa site.
All of the above will be packed into a short 6 hour period from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturday, October 20, 2012. On National Archaeology Day we will highlight many of the opportunities that residents of the Midsouth can take advantage of at Chucalissa throughout the year. For example, every month we host a Volunteer Saturday at Chucalissa where the interested public can help with tasks ranging from landscaping our gardens to creating exhibits. Crafts and tours are available on a regular basis for all. On National Archaeology Day we highlight these opportunities for the public to take part in the cultural heritage of the land on which they live.
Stay tuned for more information and mark your calendar now to spend October 20, 2012 at the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa for National Archaeology Day.
Robert Connolly is the Director of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa