Encountering the common knobby club rush at WAC-6

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Row of men standing in front of a conference banner

Left to right: Jim Moore, Richard Benjamin, Warren Perry and Bob Paynter

Hello there.

Well I visited Ireland for the second time this year but this time the South, Dublin to be precise. It was for WAC-6  which I know sounds like a 60s TV space drama but it is in fact the World Archaeological Congress. In fact come to think of it some of you might be wishing I was now going to talk about a 60s TV space drama! If not, keep reading. 

Now at first you might be thinking what is the connection between archaeology and museums? Well in the case of the International Slavery Museum we believe that archaeological research can help us further understand what life might have been like on some of the many plantations in the Americas. For instance within the Enslavement and Middle Passage Gallery we have a replica of a plantation in St Kitts where Dr Rob Philpott, Head of Archaeology here at NML has carried out fieldwork for a number of years.

I was part of a session on 'Archaeologists, Museums, Monuments and Anti-Monuments' (academics love long titles!) which I co organised with some old friends from the US, Professor Bob Paynter from UMASS and Dr Warren Perry from CCSU. I met Bob and Warren in 2002 when I was researching for my PhD in Archaeology. Bob has worked on the WEB Du Bois boyhood site for a number of years. Du Bois was a major figure who wrote The Souls of Black Folk a classic work of American literature and is quite rightly on our Black Achievers Wall. I visited a number of African American archaeological sites when I was over there; including the African Burial Ground in New York City which Warren worked on as did another session participant Michael Blakey.

I have to say that the session went really well (no heckling or people falling asleep is a good start in my book) and included some fascinating papers. One was given by Daryle Rigney, Yunggorendi First Nations Centre, Flinders University with the interesting title - 'Encountering the Common Knobby Club Rush: reconciliation, public art and whiteness'. For those of you like me who are not experts on Australian plant life a knobby club rush is a plant which grows along the coastline and was used in the paper to symbolize how indigenous cultures, like this resilient plant, did not break under the force of the prevailing wind, in this case represented by European settlers and their early encounters with the indigenous population, in an already occupied land. Truly fascinating. Another interesting few days in a consistently interesting job.