(as published in Arch Notes New Series 12(4))
The dog days of summer are upon us. It would be nice to enjoy them with a glass of cool iced tea under a shade tree, but of course most archaeologists are out in the field filling those long days with hard work. The results of those endeavours are usually unseen and unappreciated by most people. Very few of the excavations taking place this season will ever attract the attention of the general public, let alone other archaeologists. Perhaps this is what lies behind the oft-repeated mantra that we undertake archaeological investigations to save the past for the future. An unstated corollary might be that the present really doesn't care that much. Of course, that is a harsh and unfair assessment. Most people, when they come across an archaeological excavation are very keen to learn about the site and the work. How many times have you been told that a person always wanted to be an archaeologist? We are among the few lucky ones to have persevered and reached that elusive goal either as professional or avocationals.
But how many of us make a point of trying to keep the public informed about the archaeological work we are undertaking on their behalf (which is really what we purport to be doing)? Yes, it may be fair to state that we are not being paid to do so. It may also be that the proponents we are working for do not want or need the attention, or that it would unwise to announce the existence of a site in order to protect it from vandalism. Perhaps that is all understandable. But let's not loose site of whose heritage it is. While we may argue with much conviction that it belongs to particular segments of our society or to all of society, the one certainty is that it does not belong to any individual or to any corporation. At the same time, developers who are paying to have sites inventoried, tested and excavated do have an interest in the information. Balancing these interests while ensuring that the archaeological resource does not pay the price, is the challenge and the responsibility of the archaeological community. The good of the archaeology must remain our primary motivation.
Two sad notes to pass along. In June a good friend to many Ontario archaeologists and the OAS, John Reid, passed away. In Ottawa, Gordon Watson, one of the founding members of the Ottawa Chapter of the OAS departed this world in mid-July. Both of these individuals gave real texture to the practice of archaeology in Ontario in quite different ways. John is best known for his work on U of T field schools while Gordon took up the study of archaeology following his retirement and then carried out research in the Ottawa Valley. Both are sadly missed. Both have left behind examples worthy of emulation.
Lastly, by now you have all received your copy of OA 77/78. A very solid volume honouring the distinguished career of Dr. Marti Latta. Congratulations to all involved in producing the volume, the editors Mima Kapches and Pat Reed, as well as the authors and OA editor Andrew Stewart. But especially, 'well done Marti'. You have positively influenced a generation of U of T students and this will have a long-term ripple effect over the next generation of wide-eyed students yearning to understand the past. Through the legions of students that you trained, your gentle guidance, with John Reid looking over your shoulder, will be heard for a long time to come, albeit through a different voice. We look forward to reading more from you in upcoming articles and publications.