via Tuklas Pilipinas, 25 May 2020: Last week I participated in a discussion with several cultural heritage practitioners in the region hosted by Tuklas Pilipinas and Nayong Pilipino foundation. The impression I got from my fellow discussants was that we were still trying to make sense of the new normal, now that most if not all field operations have been suspended for the foreseeable future. The upside is that a lot of us now have time to spend writing and processing data! The following is the media release from Tuklas Pilipinas – thanks to Nayong Pilipino and Tuklas for the opportunity!
Nayong Pilipino and Tuklas Host Umpukan sa Nayon: Archaeology and Cultural Education in Changing Times Online Discussion
“How can archaeology and cultural education adapt to a “new normal” in these changing times?” This question was answered in the online discussion “Umpukan sa Nayon: Archaeology and Cultural Education in Changing Times”, last Tuesday, May 19, sponsored by the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NP), in partnership with Tuklas Pilipinas Society Inc.
Five archaeologists and cultural workers from Southeast Asia highlighted creative strategies and insights on how archaeologists, museum curators and other heritage workers can adapt to cope with difficulties brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Given the nature of archaeology as a field, laboratory and community-based activity, the speakers all recommended practical approaches to adapt to changing times brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Common problems in all countries represented include, but are not limited to, the inability to travel to archaeological sites to conduct archaeological excavations; the cancellation of local and international conferences; the closing of museums and heritage sites, and the inaccessibility of labs and archaeological materials for analysis.
Dr. Noel Hidalgo-Tan, the web administrator for the website “Southeast Asian Archaeology” reported that because all pending programs were postponed for 2021, he has been collating links to archaeology-related updates online lectures, virtual tours, coloring pages and other news related to cultural heritage in Southeast Asia that are shared on his website. He also stated that there are opportunities for increased online learning, data consolidation, writing and online collaborations during this time. Hidalgo-Tan is also Senior Specialist in Archaeology at the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaeology and Fine Arts (SEAMEO-SPAFA) based in Thailand.
Thippawan Wongadsapaiboon, an archaeologist under the Fine Arts Department of Thailand, reported that although archaeological excavations in Thailand are not totally banned, projects with more than five participants have been canceled. As an effect, ongoing archaeological projects must manage to excavate without hiring local laborers. Other archaeological surveys and data gathering must be finished within one day, or else they will be canceled. Data obtained from recent projects and other updates must also be published online as soon as possible. She also suggested that local volunteers to protect archaeological sites can be done post-lockdown to aid archaeologists in monitoring areas that they cannot access.
In Indonesia, Agni Mochtar, a researcher at Balai Arkeologi in Yogyakarta, shared that archaeologists have adopted the work-from-home setup. The cancellation of archaeological excavations had allowed them to catch up on report- writing, and to engage an audience on social media through more frequent postings and promotions of archaeological photos and previous archaeological publications. The need for conducting archaeology by Southeast Asians was also emphasized. This could be done by creating opportunities for consolidation, cooperation and contemplation, especially during the current pandemic.
In the Philippines, J.C. Salon, the Officer-in-Charge of the Cagayan de Oro (CDO) Museum in Mindanao, emphasized that the CDO Museum is focused on ensuring that accurate information is disseminated. At present, the museum continues to operate with only one staff member, who accessions collections. He proposed the digitization of museum collections.
John Peterson, the President of the International Scientific Committee on Archaeological heritage Management and a Professor of Anthropology at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, Visayas, Philippines presented tools that may aid archaeologists, anthropologists and other cultural heritage practitioners can explore for research opportunities. He proposed the creation of Geographic Information System (GIS) storyboards through interactive maps, surveys, and photos. “More authentic knowledge comes from community participation—making the community involved,” he said.
In reaction to the panel, Ms. Patricia Panganiban of NPF posed the question “is there a need to rethink how we do archaeology?” In response to this, Hidalgo-Tan suggested that in disseminating information at this time, archaeologists should match accessibility to what is available to the people. Other topics that were discussed during the open forum was the accessibility of archaeological information to far-flung areas that do not have internet access.
It was also suggested that traditional communication platforms such as television may also be revisited. Through audience participation, it was also conveyed that activities such as digitization, collections management, the planning of future exhibits and the translation of existing archaeological reports may also be done at this time.
Ms. Kate Lim, Tuklas PIlipinas’ President, ended with a call for collaborations among archaeologists, cultural heritage practitioners from private and public sectors. She emphasized that there is a need to be connected, and while there is uncertainty in these changing times, it is also crucial to work on both personal well-being and the welfare of society.
This online discussion was the fourth installment of NPF’s “Umpukan sa Nayon” series, which are discussions on topics related to National Cultural Heritage to celebrate National Heritage Month this May. It was moderated by Ms. Natasha Kintanar, Tuklas Pilipinas’ Executive Director.
The NPF is a government foundation created by Philippine Law (Presidential Decree No. 37) in 1972. It is mandated to promote, encourage and initiate research and development projects and activities in social sciences, humanities, social and amelioration and similar fields.
Tuklas Pilipinas is a Non-Government Organization that centers on archaeology as a basis for strengthening heritage literacy in the Philippines. It is composed of archaeologists and heritage advocates that apply community education, exploration and engagement approaches to communicate archaeological data to the general public, most especially the youth. (Report by Kathleen Tantuico)