Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 21st 2014

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Destination Archaeology

Your Road Map to Florida’s History
By Jennie McKeon

Ever notice that huge anchor on the left when you’re on your way to Ladies Night at The Fish House? That’s Destination Archaeology. The museum is your index to all of the historical sites that are open to the public in Florida. Even the building itself holds some history since it’s over 100 years old.

Inside you’ll see a small yet fact-filled exhibit guiding you through Florida’s archaeological and historical sites. You’d be surprised to find out how many sites there are…one is even underwater.

Destination Archaeology is setting itself apart from other museums in the area using the social networking app SCVNGR (that means ‘scavenger’). The iphone and Android-friendly app creates challenges for you to accomplish. Each challenge, such as checking in or taking a picture with the Tristan de Luna mannequin, earns you a point. Once you reach 12 points you’re eligible for a prize.

“I think younger generations who are more tech savvy will find this app appealing, and for starters, get them motivated to visit the museum,” said Michael Thomin, museum manager for Destination Archaeology.

Using SCVNGR allows you to actually participate with the museum and helps motivate a different generation to tour museums.

“Younger generations are growing up in an entirely different world due to rapid advancements in technology, and museums really need to find ways to show them how we are still relevant. We have to treat them not as passive consumers of information but as active participants, and this app is a great way of accomplishing this, because not only does it make the exhibit interactive, but they can even create their own challenges for others to complete,” Thomin says.

Creating the SCVNGR account and challenges was easy. Thomin and web architect Jason Kent created the challenges in about ten minutes.

“It’s kind of like Four Square,” Kent said of the SCVNGR app. “You check in, but unlike Four Square, you can earn points and even a reward if the business offers it.”

Using technology to promote archaeotourism is something the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) has already been doing for a few years now.

“The main goal of using SCVNGR is to raise visitation and to get people to see how valuable the historical sites in Florida and the United States in general really are,” Thomin said. “The archeological resources we have are non-renewable.
Each one is a unique piece of the larger puzzle of our history.”

Although museum admission is free, Thomin also points out the economic good Destination Archaeology does for the area. Creating the interest in history for both locals and tourists can certainly make up for the lull tourism faced last year.

“Florida tourism is so important,” Thomin said. “Archaeology boosts the economy and brings people to the state of Florida.”

That’s why Destination Archaeology tries to cover not just one area, but the entire state.

“We don’t just focus on one time period or specific region or collection in Florida like most other museums, but instead cast a much wider net. We feature archaeological sites and museums in Florida that people can actually visit, and our hope is that people who are stopping by in Pensacola or even live in the area will find out about these sites at Destination Archaeology and then go visit these special places in person.”

Once you start digging into Florida’s past you’ll be amazed at what you might find. Florida is much more of a cultural melting pot than you’d expect. Thomin gets excited when he explains how Florida can show you “how we all share a common history.”

“One of the things I have always loved about Florida is the fact that we have so much history and archaeology within the state,” Thomin said. “We have a wide variety of cultural groups that either lived or continue to live in the state that span an incredible period of time. For example, we have a Native American presence in the state that dates back to prehistoric times to over 12,000 years ago, and also Spanish, French, British and people of African descent that settled in Florida nearly 500 years ago.”

Whatever background you come from, whether you’re a Florida native or a Yankee, Destination Archaeology opens doors and has an answer for everyone’s historical query. Unlike a textbook, or the Internet, the museum points you in the direction of real artifacts.

“All of these groups left material evidence behind and in many cases even records, so we have a tangible connection to the past that archaeologists often unearth from the land as well as waterways across Florida. We also have just a huge variety of different types of archaeological sites in Florida, including burial mounds, temple mounds, missions, forts, battlefields, shipwrecks, plantations and many others. So regardless of someone’s particular interest in a certain period or cultural group, there is something for everyone.”

Destination Archaeology doesn’t just interact digitally. Destination Archaeology is also home to the headquarters for the Northwest region of FPAN. Monthly meetings held by the Pensacola Archaeological Society are free and open to the public. The lectures take place every second Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m., beginning in September and ending in May. During the summer you can volunteer in the Archaeology Lab. All ages are welcome to sort though artifacts recovered from local archaeological sites—no experience required. The summer lab hours are open most Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For a complete list of dates e-mail Irina Sorset, the FPAN outreach coordinator, at isorset@uwf.edu.

So the next time you pass that anchor (it’s a mooring anchor to be exact), be sure to stop in and discover something new about the state that is more than just beaches and bikinis.

“We really try to encourage people to go out specifically for heritage tourism as well as archaeology tourism,” Thomin said. “There are just too many valuable sites for people to miss out on.”

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DESTINATION ARCHAEOLOGY
WHEN: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday
WHERE: 207 E. Main St.
COST: Free
DETAILS: 595-0051, ext.107 or flpublicarchaeology.org/darc.php