International Archaeology Exchange Program at SunWatch

Lynn Simonelli, Dayton Society of Natural History

Over the past three years, the Dayton Society of Natural History has participated in an international exchange for students of archaeology through the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). This Council was founded in 1965, and advises the World Conservation Union; the World Heritage Committee; and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the nomination of new sites to the World Heritage List. ICOMOS has established 21 International Scientific Committees around the world, and "seeks to establish international standards for the preservation, restoration, and management of the cultural environment" (see website: www.icomos.org).

Since 2001, we have hosted an international intern to assist with annual summer excavation at the Wegerzyn Garden Center Site (33My127), as well as with reconstruction at SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park (33My57). These international interns work as part of a large crew of paid interns, staff, and volunteers. Thus far, interns have come to Dayton from Albania, Spain, and Ireland. Each one has been carefully chosen from a pool of applicants to the US/ICOMOS International Summer Intern Program. Successful applicants are young practicing professionals in the field of historic preservation and each one of our ICOMOS interns has had extensive archaeological experience in their country of origin.

The ICOMOS Summer Intern Program places these young professionals from around the world with host organizations in the United States. To date, there are only a few organizations that participate as hosts in this program: the Historic Charleston Foundation, the Dayton Society of Natural History (DSNH), and the National Park Service (NPS). Only the DSNH and NPS offer internships in archaeology, and between us we offer only two positions for international archaeologists. Other interns interested in historic preservation, architecture, conservation, architectural history, landscape architecture, and additional related fields can choose from various sites for their internships, generally within the NPS, but more opportunities for archaeological internships are needed.

Our interns have greatly benefited personally and professionally from the experience. Often, fieldwork opportunities are limited in their home countries or are confined almost exclusively to salvage work. Our 2003 intern, Siobhan Duffy from Ireland, stated "If I ever get to work on an excavation here that's run with anything near the level of organisation and integrity that Wegerzyn is, I'll be extremely happy."

It does cost us more each summer to host an international intern than it would to hire a young person who is local. We must provide a stipend to US/ICOMOS, housing for the intern, and transportation. We believe that the cost is easily offset by the benefits for both the intern and for our program. Hosting an intern is much more than a work arrangement. It becomes a mentoring environment in which both parties, host and intern, gain from the exchange. Each summer, we have modified our excavation program based on the insightful suggestions of our international interns. We have been able to improve the quality of our work by incorporating both the perspectives and skills of international archaeologists. In addition, each of our ICOMOS interns has been much more than "just another" crewmember - they have been colleagues.

Fieldwork in the United States is entering a transitional phase. Although most fieldwork is performed within the CRM sector, CRM companies are having a difficult time recruiting college graduates with experience. The decreasing number of university field schools and the short duration of many makes the situation difficult for a student seeking this necessary experience, especially in foreign countries. Museum-led excavations, like our own, may be helping to alleviate this problem. Through our paid internship program, we strive to provide a quality learning experience for our interns, while maintaining high standards of quality in excavation.

We have had other positive results from this collaboration. Private funders of our program enjoy being responsible for bringing an international student to the United States to study. This has made the fund-raising process easier and has resulted in numerous local public relations opportunities. It has also allowed our organization to become visible to the international archaeological community.

We have greatly benefited from participating in this program, in both tangible and intangible ways. We highly recommend that other organizations consider participating as hosts in this program and that students of archaeology and historic preservation consider applying for an internship through this international exchange.

 

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