SAN DIEGO ARCHAEOLOGICAL CENTER
Thank you for your support!
Visitors to the Center are an important part of our success. Daily, we welcome people from all walks of life and from different countries. Each one has something special to contribute and teach us about culture. On this page, we hope to bring together and share with you some of these experiences.
A special thanks to our visitors who have taken the time to write about the San Diego Archaeological Center. To visit their blogs and view more details from their visits, please click on the links.
While speaking to a tour group at the Rancho Bernardo Museum last week, I mentioned the San Diego Archaeological Center and got some puzzled expressions. So I mention the Center this week as it remains one of the hidden gems of the county’s historical community and deserves to be known to a wider public.
Founded in 1998, the non-profit San Diego Archaeological Center functions as both a museum and an active curation facility. Its stated mission, listed on the center’s website, is “to preserve archaeological collections and promote their educational, scientific and cultural use to benefit a diverse public.”
The 10,000 years of history referred to in the title of today’s post refers to the history of human habitation in San Diego County, from the original Native Americans to the settlers from all continents who came after. As a result of that history, there are upwards of 17,000 archaeological sites in the county, more than in some entire states.
As you can well imagine, this wealth of buried history faces destruction by the demands of development. That’s why regulations such as the California Environmental Quality Act were created to ensure excavation and removal of historically significant artifacts from development sites.
Unfortunately while these regulation provided funding for digging up and removing artifacts, they didn’t fund equally for curation: the preservation and use of the artifacts after excavation.
That’s where SDAC came in. This single building, a converted elementary school in the San Pasqual Valley, is a repository and exhibit space for San Diego County’s heritage.
They started out with 10 boxes of artifacts in 1998. Today, “We have over 1,008 collections representing 2,876 archaeological sites,” said Cindy Stankowski, Center Executive Director in a recent interview. “Altogether they total 5,014 cubic feet. We can take up to 10,000 so we still have room,” she said optimistically.
The Center is open to the public, with regular exhibits as well as classes and special events. So you can go see examples of pieces of our human past, from Native American stone tools to adobe bricks and oxen yokes used by 19th century American farmers, or harpoons used by whalers of the same era.
As some readers of this blog will know, I spent part of March and April this year (2013) in San Diego, California. While there we did all the tourist things: SeaWorld, Legoland, San Diego Zoo, along with sampling large amounts of the local seafood and beer (I strongly recommend the Red Trolley ale). I even managed to get myself invited to the beautiful campus of the University of San Diego to talk about Irish archaeology. As part of Anthropology 494: Native Peoples of Northwest Europe, I was invited to speak to the senior class of undergraduates about two sets of excavations I directed at Gransha,Co. Londonderry, and Gortlaunaght, Co. Cavan. I had a fantastic time and enjoyed myself immensely, and I hope that the students and faculty members that listened to me did too.
On one particular day we left the relative cool of the beach and headed inland to the San Pasqual Valley and the San Diego Archaeological Center. Their website (which is well worth a read) explains their mission best: They are a “curation facility and museum where visitors can learn the story of how people have lived in San Diego County for the past 10,000 years. In addition to its role as a museum, the Centre serves as an education and research facility and is the only local organization dedicated to the collection, study, curation and exhibition of San Diego County’s archaeological artifacts”. I was visiting there merely as a tourist, rather than a professional archaeologist, so I did not have the opportunity to catch more than a glimpse of the impressive storage and curation facilities on site. But what I did see – the public exhibition spaces – are just stunning! Rather than write at any length about the Center (again, read their webpage – it has everything you need to know about the wonderful job they do), I wanted to post some photographs of the exhibition to give a flavour of what’s to see.