UtahPAN 2020: Combat Vandalism

[Note: We are re-posting this excellent post from a few weeks ago that was originally shared primarily with archaeologists.]It’s December already! Your mysterious narrator has spent the last week snowed in under heaps of mashed potatoes and butternut squash, and emerges now to take a look back at the year that was, and look forward to what next year will bring for UtahPAN.

Lots of people helped clean up “trigger trash” from a rock art site to support International Archaeology Day

We started UtahPAN about six months ago, and we’re on our way to improving archaeological education and stewardship across Utah! Member organizations have hosted over 50 public events, including film screenings, lectures, and guided tours that have invited hundreds of people to connect with Utah’s past. It’s overwhelming to look back at the last few months and see just how busy we all have been! Personally, I suspected when we started UtahPAN in July that we’d have a lot of support, but the massive number of people attending events every weekend (and most weekdays!) blows me away. Member organizations, like URARA and Friends of Cedar Mesa, have kept a full dance card throughout the fall, and I think we’re all taking a step back and relaxing going into the holiday season. It’s been well earned!

Meanwhile, your tireless narrator has criss-crossed the state talking to people about what they would like to see UtahPAN become, what our pressing needs are, and starting to brainstorm what we can do together. I’ve been a Utah archaeologist since 2007 and I’ve seen that the state has incredible grassroots support for archaeological preservation and education, but not always much dialogue between people and groups. From where I sit at the Division of State History I’ve had the privilege of talking to just about everyone and participating in their events, their advocacy, and their education. And I’ve been thinking… if we worked together on one single issue, how much good could we all achieve? 

None of these fine folks are your humble narrator, all are heroes helping multicultural youth find their paths in life

I’ve also been talking to people about the perceived needs of the archaeological record in Utah, and overwhelmingly I’ve heard that vandalism, especially graffiti, is threatening archaeological sites.

A lot of this vandalism can be prevented, and some of it can perhaps even be reversed.

Reversing Styrofoam damage to a stolen potsherd… “reversing” is a bit of a stretch

I suggest that UtahPAN spend 2020 tackling the problem of vandalism and graffiti. By educating visitors to Utah and residents alike about how fragile archaeology is, how irreplaceable sites are, and how spiritually important they may be, we can prevent future damage. Along the way we will teach more and more people about the past and share our love of archaeology and the great outdoors!

We have tools available – from public messaging campaigns to service projects, from site stewardship to K-12 educational materials. At our first meeting as UtahPAN let’s discuss the problem of vandalism as we see it: where it occurs, why, and who the culprits may be. Then let’s turn our attention to how we can prevent future vandalism: through education, site stewardship, and cleaning up archaeological sites.

Here’s what you can do to help: Join us at 9am on January 24 to learn more about what we can do together to combat the growing threat of vandalism on our public lands. We want to hear positive ideas for how we can educate people about vandalism’s threat and how we all can work together to combat vandalism in 2020.

To register for this event, please click here. And please comment below to let us know your ideas, concerns… anything at all!

Oh, and one last thing: did you know UtahPAN has a newsletter? You can sign up and be the first to know about cool events like our inaugural UtahPAN meeting in January, or any anti-vandalism projects that may be in the works!