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Junior Archaeology Camp at Florence museum offering hands-on excavation experience this summer

Florence Arts & Museums

A museum in Florence is offering kids and teens in Alabama the chance to get hands-on excavation experience this summer. Registration is currently open for Pope’s Tavern Museum’s Junior Archaeology Camp.

Participants will learn how to research, plan, dig up and process artifacts. The event is free and will be divided into two groups: ages 9-14 and ages 13-18. The Moundville Archaeological Park’s Education Department will be facilitating the 2024 summer program and curriculum to bring resources and skills of archaeological practice to the Florence community.

Brian Murphy, director of Florence Arts and Museums, said learning about this scientific process helps investigate and learn about parts of the past hidden both below the ground and underneath bodies of water.

“I think why it's important is it can tell us things about the past that other sources cannot,” he explained. “Sometimes we're talking about communities that may not have had a written language to weave certain documents. So, archaeology can help scientists, archaeologists, historians, learn more about what happened in the past.”

Organizers of the camp say archaeology can help children grasp concepts relating to mathematics, history, geology, chemistry, social science and more. They say this summer's Junior Archaeology Camp will utilize archaeological concepts for teaching the methods of archaeology and the history of the Pope’s Tavern site, while also incorporating age-appropriate and hands-on activities that relate to these various academic subjects.

Murphy said while the camp teaches about investigation and research, it also helps kids and teens build community relationships with one another and those around them.

“Archaeology can really help bring people together around a shared sense of the past, and I think we're doing that here at Pope’s Tavern through this kind of localized community effort,” he said. “We kind of do it in a community model, where everyone is welcome, as long as they're willing to follow certain rules and guidelines.”

Responsible and ethical practices of archaeology will also be taught during the camp. Murphey explained the process isn’t just digging up items from the dirt and laying claim to those discoveries.

“There is a process of documentation that goes into all the work that we do. So, everything that we uncover is documented, is recorded, and it goes into a collection,” he explained. “That collection is searchable at the site. It's also searchable online as well. So, that is a really important part that we talk about in terms of archaeology… is doing it responsibly.”

With a focus on local history and a mission to figure out more about the past, Murphy said Pope’s Tavern is the ideal setting for the Junior Archaeology Camp, especially for kids and teens looking to learn more or get a start in exploring the scientific process.

“Sometimes we overlook archaeological sites that are more commonplace or located in cities. It's not a not a very well-known archaeological site, but I think that's more of the point of archaeology, is that we can discover the past right in our own backyard,” he explained. “We really liked that concept of keeping it local and focusing on those answering some of those research questions.”

Pope’s Tavern Museum’s Junior Archaeology Camp is set to take place June 3 through June 7. Registration will close once 30 spots are filled for each age group.

Signup details can be found here. Applications are also available at Pope’s Tavern Museum and the Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts.

Pope’s Tavern is located at 203 Hermitage Drive in Florence. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for students. More information can be found here or by calling 256-760-6439.

Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
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