My guest today is Dr. Joseph Schuldenrein, host of the internet radio show Indiana Jones: Myth, Reality and 21st Century Archeology on VoiceAmerica.com (http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/1975/indiana-jones-myth-reality-and-21st-century-archaeology). Dr. Schuldenrein is also president and principal archeologist of Geoarcheology Research in Yonkers, New York.
Thanks for being with us today, Joe. Why did you decide to do an internet radio show about archeology?
I always thought that if I didn’t go into archaeology I was best suited to a career in media. I viewed myself as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. But I love appearing in public and seem to have a knack for communicating with people from a broad range of backgrounds and socio-economic strata. In 2011, I was contacted by the VoiceAmerica Internet radio station. They had seen my company’s web-site and thought that archaeology was an appealing topic for their multi-faceted audience. I did not need much convincing. As I got into it, I realized that the need to present archaeology to a broad audience was critical, if we, in the professional community, are to survive in a world of diminishing governmental funding. It should be clear to all archaeological professionals that public outreach is now our major mission if archaeological careers are to remain viable going forward.
What are some of the challenges of doing a show like this?
These emerged at the outset. I had thought that running a program would be a lot like presenting a paper at a
meeting. Since I had lots of experience at that and basically present extemporaneously, I figured that the transition to radio would be relatively easy. It was not. At all. VERY fortunately, I was able to pre-record my first show. Otherwise it would have been a disaster. My initial off the cuff presentation would have been a dismal failure had I not had the opportunity to do several takes. The learning curve was initially bumpy. I scripted my next few programs meticulously. And they seemed to work well, in my eyes at least, until some of my colleagues told me that the program sounded too scripted, stiff, and staged. Eventually, I was able to get a protocol down that allowed me to work from an outline and to work my interviews in the more natural and extemporaneous format that fit me better. VERY FORTUNATELY, I now have a magnificent intern who does nearly all of the behind the scenes work, including recruiting guests from my network of contacts, proposing topics of interest and co-ordinating with the station. She also does all of the advance work that involves Public Relations work and advertising. Without her I would NOT be able to continue. The broadcasts themselves are not the hard part. The preparations are.
Other than my husband Steve Black, who are some of the guests you’ve had on?
We have been fortunate to have had so many. We cover all aspects of archaeology so we pride ourselves in both a diverse audience and range of guests. Some of the more colorful include Brian Fagan, Tom King, the Culture Minister of Afghanistan, Sonny Trimble of the Corps of Engineers, Hampton Sides, who wrote the recent best-seller on the excavation of the Titanic, and the folks who produced American Diggers. Those are the ones that immediately come to mind.
What episode has received the most listeners? or do you have statistics on that?
The Titanic piece was extremely well received. We could get statistics on the individual shows, but the station more typically monitors our numbers on a month to month basis. They do this through Internet technology. We originally had a few thousand listeners (in 2011) and are now up to about 40,000 per month. That number is a sum of the live audience, generally pretty small, and the number of listeners who have accessed the individual episodes as podcasts. The success of Internet radio is measured by the call-ups of the podcasts and we are doing well by that and related criteria.
Where do you do most of your own archeological work?
I have worked nearly everywhere in the world. Since I am trained as a geoarchaeologist, I have honed my specialty by consulting with large research firms throughout the U.S. My graduate work was in the Near East and, as a result, I have always had an Old World focus. I have collaborated with researchers and academic institutions in Central Europe, parts of Africa, and intensively in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan). I am more of a methods person than a regional specialist. As the founder and Principal of my company, GRA, I have shifted the focus of our work in response to the changing realities of the research and applied worlds. Right now we are heavily centered on high tech methodologies, urban archaeology, international heritage development programs and media.
What motivates you about archeology in the first place?
I could wax poetic about the innate drive I had to do archaeology as a child. That would be a lie. As a college student in the heated ‘60’s and ‘70’s, I was actively involved in protest politics. When I became disaffected with politics in my last year of college, my main objective was to get out of school as quickly as possible. The onlyway I could do that in 4 years was to load up on Anthropology courses. In my senior year I was inspired by
my archaeology professor, the late Dr. Phil Weigand. He encouraged me to try archaeology as a way of “finding myself.” I packed off and did a season at Cahokia under Dr. Mike Fowler. I was hooked and never looked back.
What do you want people to learn or discover from listening to your show?
My main objective on the show is to bring the message of archaeology to the general public. I think the biggest eye-opener in our field is the degree to which the message of the past provides a road map to the future. For example, archaeological scientists should be able to provide compelling evidence for climate change, via their window on past circulation systems that are readily documented. However, as professionals we are so focused on our esoteric research that we fail to reach the greater communities that can benefit from our knowledge. Besides, archaeology is so inherently appealing to most people. I am amazed that, as professionals keyed to our own research, we consistently ignore the big picture and, by extension, the greater public. In my own small way, I see this radio show as a venue for expanding our reach. I am reminded of how the late Carl Sagan was able to transmit his fascination with astronomy to the greater public. It is imperative that we archaeologists do the same.
It’s been a pleasure to have you on the blog, Joe. I hope you’ll come again sometime.