I spent over twenty years as an archaeologist/ tour guide in the southwest. In that time I saw many wonderful sights and had some amazing experiences. All of that was due to my commitment to share my archaeological experience with others.
I was lucky. I managed to convince Helen Murdock and Nancy Thompson of Pima Community College that this was a great potential draw for their community outreach program. That was the easy part. I took them on a whirlwind tour of Chaco Canyon and Canyon de Chelly in three days and they were convinced.
After that it was simply my willingness to set aside four or five days, several times a year and work non-stop for those days making sure that everyone got as much as possible from the excursions into prehistory. It was great, I got to go to my favorite places and I was willing to take people along with me to share the experiences. Pima College did all the advertising and made all the arrangements, it was a a godsend second job for an archaeologist turned teacher.
During most of this euphoric time another archaeologist was laboring in a parallel fashion to increase archaeological education for the greater good of the public. His name is Al Dart and his mission since establishing the non-profit organization Old Pueblo Archaeology has been to bring the fascination of the field of archaeology to children and adults alike.
Al brings unquestioned credentials to the endeavor as an archaeologist and professional educator. He received his bachelor’s in anthropology at the University of New Mexico, a master’s from the University of Arizona and has worked extensively in Arizona and New Mexico. He maintains high professional standards for all he does and demands that any program that represents Old Pueblo Archaeology also achieves those goals.
As a founding member of the board of directors for Old Pueblo Archaeology I have witnessed first-hand Al’s unwavering commitment to his vision of public archaeology awareness. It has not been an easy road to follow. There are times when it appeared the organization must dissolve into obscurity due to lack of public and private support. And yet time and time again through sheer force of will and tireless devotion to his dream Al has managed to keep the doors open and the programs available.
And yet lacking a handful of donations this year, the end of that dream could occur at any time. Archaeology is a non-renewable resource. What we see now will never be replicated once lost through inattention, the forces of progress or blatant vandalism. I join with Al in believing that only through aggressive education can we preserve and possibly protect the archaeology that still remains for us to marvel at.
Ignoring the problems means the loss of amazing cultural heritage.
That time may be fast approaching. As we all know, our economy especially in Arizona, has been sluggish at best. In times like these non-profits often are forced to rely upon what little they have managed to stash away to keep the wolf from the door. That wolf is howling outside OPAC as I write, rattling the door jambs and shaking the windows.
If, like me, you believe in Al’s mission and the concept of Old Pueblo Archaeology it is time to do what you can to help preserve this important organization. There are numerous ways to help. You can go to their website and become a member, you can attend the free Third Thursday talks held at various restaurants in and around Tucson and add a donation to your evening’s entertainment. Or quite simply you can donate to Old Pueblo Archaeology’s outreach program which helps fund scholarships for the various educational programs sponsored by the organization. 1)
If you would like to mail Old Pueblo Archaeology Center a tax-deductable, let me repeat that, a tax-deductable donation, please make your check payable to “Old Pueblo Archaeology Center” (or simply OPAC), and please write “Armchair Marcaeologist Donation” on the check’s memo line (so we can track donation sources and I can see if anyone reads this stuff I write), and send it to:
Old Pueblo Archaeology Center
PO Box 40577
Tucson AZ 85717-0577