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Walking the Walk in Public Archaeology

Walking the Walk in Public Archaeology
City Archaeologist Joe Bagley discusses the archaeology of the North End with a group of visiting Pecos Pueblo students.

City Archaeologist Joe Bagley discusses the archaeology of the North End with a group of visiting students from Jemez Pueblo and Phillips Academy.

In the 2.5 years I have been City Archaeologist of Boston, I have had the pleasure of giving over a dozen walking tours of archaeological sites throughout the City.  I find walking tours to be an idea way to engage the public in archaeology when active digs are not available to view. Walking tours work best in areas where greater concentrations of archaeological sites exist.  I find that a combination of archaeological sites, potential archaeological sites (places where sites could be, but nobody has dug yet), history of street layouts, and landscape history describing physical changes in the surrounding area are ideal to keep everyone’s interest and fill in the time it takes to walk between sites. In Boston, my three typical walking tours are the North End, Boston Common, and Charlestown.  In all three, I have created a looped path through the area’s streets and walkways.  In our North End walk, we cover lots of topics red light districts, 17th century privies (outhouses), and Paul Revere.  Boston Common covers hangings, native camps, Fishweirs, British Revolutionary War troops making a mess, and Victorian heartbreak.  Finally, our Charlestown tour covers climate change, War and Peace, tavern politics, and whitewashed history. One of the best and most promising aspects of walking tours (though I admit to not yet taking advantage of this) is the fact that walking tours can be made into self-guided tours.  Either with a self-printed map and guide, through video, or through a podcast, you can take the tour, record its important data, and allow people to give them the tour at any time.

City Archaeologist Joe Bagley discusses the history of Boston Common during a recent walking tour

City Archaeologist Joe Bagley discusses the history of Boston Common during a recent walking tour

Interested in an upcoming archaeology tour? Join me on May 3rd from 11-noon for my Charlestown Archaeology walking tour. More details here: http://charlestownhistoricalsociety.org/ If you can’t make it, watch this space for October Archaeology Month event announcements, which will include two walking tours offered by yours truly. As you can see, it takes some thinking out of the box to make an engaging, funny, and entertaining tour as you attempt to avoid getting run over in a cross walk or walking backwards into a historic reenactor in full period costume.  If you can’t make the history hands-on, you still have to make it fun! ~Joe Bagley, City Archaeologist

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