Margaret Comer will organise and chair a symposium at the Annual Conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology entitled ‘Archaeology, Memory, and Politics in the 2020s: Changes in Methods, Narratives, and Access’ on 5 January 2023.
Abstract: Only a few years into the 2020s, paradigm shifts have taken place in the ways that archaeology and heritage studies conduct research, work with communities, and communicate narratives about the past. During the COVID-19 pandemic, sites had to rethink their methods of disseminating knowledge and narratives of the past, prompting a focus on digital and distance research and education. As the Black Lives Matter movement fostered an enormous wave of social justice activity, direct action and public debate raised pressing questions about what pasts should be remembered and memorialized, unsettling many received narratives. Amidst the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, studying and understanding how the recent past is retold and ‘weaponized’ have taken on renewed urgency. This symposium brings together global and varied case studies that seek to understand and theorize such changes, asking: how can these movements toward inclusive and equitable research and retelling of the past be sustained?
Dr Comer also presents a paper ‘Good Practice in Digital Commemoration of the Holocaust: An Analysis of COVID-Era Digital Programming at the Time of the 75th Anniversary of Liberation in Europe’, authored by Gilly Carr (University of Cambridge), Steve Cooke (Deakin University), and Margaret Comer (Tallinn University) in the above session.
Abstract: As the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II and the end of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma, 2020 was expected to be filled with Holocaust memorial ceremonies, cultural events, and educational programming. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic began in Europe, sites that had previously emphasized the value of on-site visits and programming suddenly found themselves unable to receive visitors. Digital remembrance techniques and programming suddenly became critically important to these sites’ missions to remember the victims of the Holocaust, provide a space for memorialization, and educate the public. We identified and analyzed changes in digital remembrance at 27 Holocaust sites in the first months of the pandemic; based on this data and existing literature about digital remembrance, dark heritage, and remembrance of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma, we outline a set of creative good practices for digital remembrance at these sites.
The session is supported by Translating Memories.
On January 6, Elizabeth Anderson Comer presents the paper ‘Memory Activism, Archaeology, Reparative Heritage, and Human Rights at Catoctin Furnace – 1972 to 2023’, authored by Elizabeth Anderson Comer (Catoctin Furnace Historical Society, Inc.) and Margaret Comer (Tallinn University) in the symposium entitled ‘Retrospective: 50 Years Of Research And Changing Narratives At Catoctin Furnace, Maryland’.
Abstract: On February 11, 1972, Catoctin Furnace was inscribed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society, Inc., was chartered on February 8, 1973. An initial cultural resources study undertaken by Contract Archaeology, Inc., of Alexandria, Virginia, in 1971, as well as the National Register nomination form, are remarkable in the omission of any mention of enslaved workers. In fact, the majority of furnace workers between 1776 and 1840 were enslaved Africans, and the furnace owners were the largest slaveholders in Frederick County. During the ensuing 50 years, archaeological, architectural, cultural landscape, forensic anthropological, aDNA, geomorphological, and related studies have focused attention on the role of enslaved and freed African American workers, fueled by the discovery of an African American cemetery in 1979 during a Phase I survey.