Normally, this time of year, my team and I would be working hard to finish the analysis artifacts unearthed last summer. Our conversations would alternate between what still needs to be packed and what we are most looking forward to on the field this year. In a month’s time we would be methodically unearthing centuries of history on the small French archipelago I’ve come to think fondly of as my summer home. Of course, none of this is happening this year. The viral outbreak of COVID-19 has pushed community safety to the forefront and rightfully suspended interpersonal interactions, and with it the in-person research that many of us would bide our time with.
My team and I are fortunate though, with a PhD, Masters, and Honours thesis all relying on some part of this project we were lucky that much of the in-field data needed has already been gathered. There have been delays, certainly; with 2/3 of the materials need currently in the very-locked-down Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, we’ve been able to coordinate with the museum to have these items shipped to St. John’s, and work out lab access with MUN. The work has gone on though. This time has been a blessing in disguise, allowing us a moment to regroup from the normally fast pace of research and focus on smaller spin off projects we’d often discussed with excitement, strengthening the collaborative effort that is archaeology. With constant support from my supervisor and colleagues we’ve even formed (and adhered for the most part) to a daily writing group meant to encourage accountability and keep us all in touch. The pandemic has certainly put into perspective what it means to be a researcher, and what it means to be in academia.
More recently though the Black Lives Matter movement has put our abilities as researchers into perspective. More than ever there is a need to research what is going on, to look at the history, the facts, the injustices that have pervaded for far too long and stare at it, dead on. Doing the research beyond sensationalized headlines to understand is more important than ever, we have the luxury of all this information at our fingertips, we have for a long time, but on the eve of revolution there’s no more opportunities to stick our heads in the sand. We have the time, we have the means, now we just have to put in the work. Learn about the systemic racism in your workplace, your discipline, your city, your province, your country. Ignorance is no longer an option.
Normally, I would be gearing up for another field season, trying to finish my thesis, and make all my deadlines (which I still am), but we’ve also been given an opportunity. We’ve been given time to slow down, to focus on outside passions, to evaluate our habits and our quality of life, to dismantle what doesn’t work. We have been given a historic year that will be spoken about for years to come, and the opportunity to put the time in, the effort in, the research in.
We have been given the gift of change.