Alexandria Archaeology at 50

In 2011, the City of Alexandria marked fifty years of archaeology, which began with excavations at Fort Ward in 1961.

Page updated on Jan 5, 2017 at 6:45 PM

Award for Excellence in Public Historical Archaeology SHA award 2012

On  January 6, 2012, the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) honored the City of Alexandria and Alexandria Archaeology with an award recognizing the program for 50 years of public service and excellence. The Daniel G. Roberts Award for Excellence in Public Historical Archaeology was presented to City leaders and staff at a banquet in Baltimore during SHA’s annual conference. The award was presented to the Alexandria City Council on January 24, 2012.

Established in 2011, this award was created and endowed by the staff of John Milner Associates, Inc., a cultural resource management firm, to recognize and honor their colleague Daniel G. Roberts, one of the pioneers in public historical archaeology. The award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in public archaeology by individuals, educational institutions, for-profit or non-profit firms or organizations, museums, government agencies, private sponsors, or projects.

Alexandria, the first recipient of this award, was specifically recognized for its outstanding public archaeological accomplishments due to its sustained commitment to public education, volunteerism, the Archaeology Museum, and unique public initiatives through the Office of Historic Alexandria, Alexandria Archaeology, Alexandria Archaeological Commission, and partnership activities with other City departments, the Friends of Alexandria Archaeology, and other groups and individuals.

According to Dr. Pamela J. Cressey, the City Archaeologist, “The award is a fitting tribute to the City’s and the residents’ commitment and innovation.”

City Councilwoman Alicia Hughes and Dr. Cressey accepted the award and were joined by Chair of the Alexandria Archaeological Commission Vince LaPointe, Director of the Office Historic Alexandria Lance Mallamo, City Archaeology staff members, and Mary Jane Nugent of the Friends of Alexandria Archaeology.

Earlier that day, Alexandria Archaeology conducted a symposium on “Fifty Years of Community Archaeology on the Potomac: Lessons from Alexandria.” The City conducted its first archaeological investigation in 1961 to restore a Civil War bastion and create a historical park on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the war. Presenters compared Alexandria to other local programs, and explored the development of archaeology in Alexandria, its findings, collections, and preservation code as well as the public interactive nature including the Alexandria Archaeological Commission. Discussants also examined partnerships, changing community values and topics including African American cemeteries, descendants, memorials, open space and planning.

Conference Papers

The City Archaeologists and Professor Douglas Appler organized  a symposium at the January 2012 annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology in Baltimore to recognize the golden anniversary of archaeology in Alexandria. The session entitled, Fifty Years of Community Archaeology on the Potomac: Lessons from Alexandria, reviewed the changing goals of archaeology as well as the Archaeology Protection Code and Alexandria Archaeology Museum and compared the City’s archaeology program to others in the nation. The session also included a presentation by members of the community—a past chair of the Alexandria Archaeological Commission, Kathleen Pepper; and  two founders of the Friends of Freedmen’s Cemetery, Lillie Finklea and Louise Massouh.

Fifty Years of Community Archaeology on the Potomac: Lessons from Alexandria

Presentation to the Alexandria City Council Work Session

At the Alexandria City Council Work Session on September 27, 2011, the  Alexandria Archaeological Commission  (AAC) gave a presentation, Archaeology in Alexandria 1961-2011: 50 Years of Community Commitment, in celebration of 50 years of archaeology in the City. Commission Chair Kathleen Pepper discussed the accomplishments of Alexandria Archaeology over 50 years, since the first archaeological investigation at Fort Ward in 1961, as well as the future goals of the department and its commission.

Artifact display boxes  with highlights from the City’s  archaeology collections  were presented to each councilmember and Mayor Euille for the duration of the meeting, underscoring their role as stewards of the collections. Each box represents a different historical time, place, and topic. All of the objects originated from an archaeological excavation, or site, within the city limits. Artifact display box topics include: American Indians, an enslaved washerwoman, sugar refining, Alexandria stoneware, the Civil War, a brewery, and health and beauty.