My last week in Washington D.C. has been filled with times of reflection as I assist in the completion of Phase II of the USS Scorpion Project and say my goodbyes to the staff at the American Anthropological Association (AAA). I am incredibly fortunate to have been allowed to experience first-hand the inner workings of the AAA. There is a great deal of work that needs to be done in order to keep anthropologists connected and informed as well as to publicly promote the discipline in order to maintain government funding for future research for members of the AAA. I am pleased that I was able to help, if even in a limited capacity, with the daily tasks. This experience has been and will continue to be a personal asset to me as I move forward with my career in the field of anthropology.
In addition to working at the AAA office, I also served as an intern to the Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) of the Naval History & Heritage Command (NHHC) located at the historic Navy Yard in Washington D.C. This command is responsible for promoting and preserving Naval History and is also home to a Navy Art Gallery and Navy Museum. I worked primarily in the conservation lab, the main UAB office, and out in the field. In the lab I was able to undertake an inventory of all artifacts. Basically, I was able to personally inspect everything and make sure that all items were accounted for; bullets, cannon balls, chamber pots, dinnerware, lanterns, and weapons. Every drawer I opened held my new favorite piece!
I was surprised to find that I would have an opportunity to assist the UAB team in the field. I was not aware that when I applied for this internship I would also be fullfilling a dream of mine to work in the field with archaeologists on a historic shipwreck. The shipwreck is the USS Scorpion, a War of 1812 ship that was scuttled in 1814 in the Patuxent River. The team consisted of a lead archaeologist, Dr. Robert Neyland, four archaeologists, one conservator and five interns. The UAB team worked in conjunction with the Maryland State Highway Administration and the Maryland Historical Trust. I arrived just as Phase II was beginning. The previous phase was to determine the exact location of the ship before excavation could begin and to acquire funding and supplies. Days in the field began at 6 am, the team would meet and load the van and head out to the Patuxent River where we would unload the van, and load a boat that would take us upstream to a floating research barge that was anchored in the middle of the river. My duties included all levels of gear set-up and operation, assisting with a continuous rotation of divers and taking notes and photographs of all daily events. My experience as a scuba diver and my training as an emergency oxygen provider and emergency first-responder proved to be a great comfort to the divers. I was also able to catalog and provide inital care to artifacts brought aboard by the archaeologists. Personally, I felt an emotional connection to the artifacts and to the ship itself, having served as a Marine and knowing that Marines served aboard this ship in defense of our country was a powerful experience for me. I felt that I was honoring their service and sacrifice by making sure that this site will never be forgotten through the archaeological process.
Prior to coming to D.C. I was resolved to not advance my education further by attending graduate school, however I feel that this may in fact be a viable option for me. I know more of what I want to accomplish in my life and after having met professionals at various stages of their academic careers I feel that I have a greater understanding as to how I will go about fullfilling my own academic goals.
I cannot express in enough words my profound gratitude to all the people that worked so hard to provide me with this life-altering experience. I would like to thank the entire AAA staff, especially Damon Dozier, I have learned so much from all of you, thank you for welcoming me into your midst. I would also like to thank the UAB, Dr. Robert Neyland, Alexis Catsambis, Heather Brown, Brad Krueger, Kate Morrand, and George Schwartz, I now know what I want to do and exactly how I will do it, thank you all for shedding light upon my future.