The Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference Snowbound Adventure
This past week I attended the 44th Annual Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference (MAAC). Archaeologists from throughout the Middle Atlantic states participate in this conference and it is one of my favorites. I first started attending MAAC in the mid-1980s. I can’t believe I’ve been attending this same conference for 30 years. At that time, I was part of a cohort of graduate students whose advisors and mentors were the founding members of the conference. It’s nice to participate in a scholarly event where you feel you are a part of the academic lineage.
Back in “the day”, about 100 archaeologists would gather each year to share their research, ideas, and fieldwork stories in the conference rooms and in the bar. I don’t know how it is for other scientific disciplines, but archaeologists always surprise hotel managers at conferences with the sheer volume consumed at the bar. This year, the conference had approximately 260 archaeologists in attendance, including many new undergraduate and graduate students. This conference has always made an effort to be welcoming to students, encouraging them to present their research, no matter how new or inexperienced they are. Experienced professionals listen, give feedback, and encourage more work; students are our future colleagues after all, and we want them to come back and do great things. This year, MAAC sponsors were able to provide financial support for 21 students to attend the conference. In addition, over the past year, we have established an endowment fund with over $20,000 to provide student sponsorships for years to come.
While this conference mostly meets at the beach, either Ocean City or Virginia Beach, this year we were in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, not far from Philadelphia. I headed back to Martinsville on Sunday after the last session of papers ended and I finished my duties as treasurer of the organization. It was a long weekend of really interesting presentations and lots of ideas for future research. All was fine in the northern part of the drive, but when I hit Virginia it was a different story.
I am a Yankee, so I don’t mind driving in the snow, but as I watched one car after another speed by me on the highway and land on the shoulder of the road, I decided to remove myself as a target and just find a hotel. I am giving a big shout-out to the staff of the Holiday Inn Express outside of Stephens City, Virginia – the morning staff brought their own snow scrapers and brooms so guests would have tools to clean off their cars so they could leave.
Professional meetings and conferences are an important part of having an academic career. Most of us work in locations where there are few, if any, other scientists in our disciplines. Meeting with colleagues who speak the same language and have similar experiences and understand you when you say things like “did you see the parallel flaking on that bifacially retouched lithic tool?” is invaluable. While we have professional journals, newsletter, and blogs to read to keep up with what our colleagues are doing in their professional lives, there is nothing like gathering together in a group and sharing a lot of ideas with a lot of people to make you feel energized and excited about your research again.