Dr Yvonne Inall, AAIA Blog Editor, and Dr Stavros Paspalas, AAIA Director, reflect on the first year of the AAIA blog.
As the year draws to a close it is natural to reflect on the year that has been, and what a strange and turbulent year 2020 has turned out to be. Many of our social interactions moved online this year, and December also happens to mark the first anniversary of the AAIA blog.
Our first post, a welcome from Stavros, was published on 16 December 2019. We had no idea what kind of year lay ahead of us, or how important this new avenue of engagement would become for the AAIA in 2020. The key objective of our blog was to “facilitate the voices of Australian and Greek researchers and amplify their work on a globally accessible platform”. As so many avenues of communication were stalled or curtailed this year – conferences, fieldwork and events were cancelled; funding and budgets were cut – our blog became a means by which we could reach out to the wider world, unimpeded by the global pandemic that has so thoroughly dominated 2020.
Our blog has covered a wide spectrum of topics with contributions from researchers at AAIA Member Institutions and beyond. We were pleased to be able to share news of archaeological projects conducted under the aegis of, or supported by, the AAIA: the survey at Perachora (Macquarie University), that on Kythera (AAIA with Ohio State University) and the excavations of the Paphos Theatre Project, Cyprus (the University of Sydney with the AAIA).
Dr Amelia Brown and her students reported on the University of Queensland’s “Ancient Greece Study Tour”, and Dr Gijs Tol (University of Melbourne) and Dr Jeremy Armstrong (University of Auckland) introduced a new research network: MAARC, providing opportunities for collaboration and interaction for Australasian scholars working in the Mediterranean.
As the year unfolded, we witnessed and recorded the impacts of the global pandemic on archaeological fieldwork and research. Dr Emlyn Dodd shared his experience of a curtailed fieldwork season, as the pandemic closed in and Greece locked down around him. Emlyn was fortunate to be able to return to Australia before the borders closed. Tom Romanis, the AAIA Volunteer Manager, pivoted our volunteer program to operate purely in the digital realm and offered guidance to others faced with the sudden need to re-imagine what volunteering looks like in 2020. Dr Lita Tzortzopoulou-Gregory offered relief from lockdown with a virtual tour of Paliochora, Kythera.
We have been thrilled to share the research of postgraduate students across Australia and abroad. The posts demonstrate the quality and diversity of research being conducted by our emerging scholars. Emily Poelina-Hunter (University of Melbourne) outlined her innovative research into Cycladic figurines, examining their incised decoration for indications of ancient tattooing practices. Caitlan Smith (University of Western Australia) examined Greek sculpture for insights into ancient athleticism, and Richard McNeill explored similarities and differences in community interactions with water catchments in Kythera and the Victorian gold fields.
We continued our long-standing relationship with the former Nicholson Museum, which entered a new chapter this year, with its relocation to the new Chau Chak Wing Museum, where it takes up its new home as the Nicholson Collection. Candace Richards (CCWM) brought the Woodhouse Archive to life, sharing some of its rich and rare photographs of Greece at the turn of the twentieth century. We are fortunate enough to have some spectacular Woodhouse prints gracing the walls of the AAIA’s Sydney office, where they command the attention of visitors, and it was wonderful to share this amazing archive with the wider world.
John Wade took us back to the beginnings of the Zagora Archaeological Project, reliving the inaugural 1967 season, and we lamented the death of Dr Jim Coulton, who had been at Zagora at the beginning, and who is remembered as a generous mentor, much-loved teacher, and an exceptional archaeologist. We passed the baton to the next generation of archaeologists as Olivia Gao (University of Sydney) offered her experience and advice on how to not only prepare for, but also enjoy, your first experience as an archaeological student volunteer, digging in the Mediterranean.
Over the course of the past year we have published 29 posts, representing researchers and students from close to a dozen institutions, across Australia and overseas. Our blog has been doing its work of reaching out to the world and we are pleased that close to 5,000 visitors have viewed our blog more than 8,000 times. While these numbers may be small compared to the output of larger organisations, they are growing, and encouraging, for an educational and research institution with limited resources. We have a dedicated staff, passionate members and supporters who make a tremendous difference.
The AAIA blog is achieving its goal, engaging a growing band of readers, and has inspired a good number of you to contribute. Indeed, we actively encourage new contributions, and we hope many more of you will be inspired in future. Our blog editor, Yvonne Inall is keen to work with emerging and established scholars alike to engage with the general public.
Looking back on this past year, we are very pleased by the work that the AAIA blog is doing. Importantly, it bodes well for the future of Australian and Greek scholarship, and we are proud that the AAIA is able to offer opportunities to make research accessible to the world at large.
We extend to you all our wishes for a safe and secure festive season, and look forward to sharing more amazing posts with you in 2021.
Feature image: taken by William J Woodhouse in Greece between 1890 and 1935.Woodhouse Archive (NM2007.59.16 Nicholson Collection, Chau Chak Wing Museum). A large print of this image is on display in the AAIA Sydney office.