On July 1, 2005, a public signing ceremony was held in downtown Pensacola near ongoing archaeological excavations being conducted by the University of West Florida UWF). Gathered were officials with UWF and the Florida Division of Historical Resources (DHR); the document they signed was the a Memorandum of Agreement between these two agencies that defined the operation of the Florida Public Archaeology Network. On that same date, legislative appropriations to the UWF for the operation of FPAN were available.
What culminated in the July 1 signing ceremony took several years to develop. Because of the popularity and success of public archaeology conducted by UWF, in 2002 the local Northwest Florida legislative delegation asked Dr. Judy Bense, then Director of the Archaeology Institute and Chair of the Anthropology Department, if there was a state-level project she thought worthy of development. Dr. Bense described the state-wide network of public archaeology centers that she had originally pitched to Secretary of State Katherine Harris in 1999. In 2003 a formal proposal for a statewide network of public archaeology centers was prepared by Dr. Bense in conjunction with the Florida Division of Historical Resources and legislative staff.
Legislation was drafted in 2004 to establish a “Florida network of public archaeology centers to help stem the rapid deterioration of this state’s buried past and to expand public interest in archaeology” (Chapter 267.145, Florida Statutes). After passage of this enabling legislation in 2004, UWF President John Cavanaugh provided funds to plan and develop the Network, and appointed a Steering Committee to oversee this work. Designed to achieve broad representation of Florida and outside representation from leaders in public archaeology and the administration of university-based archaeological programs, the Steering Committee consisted of Marion Almy (Archaeological Consultants, Inc.), Elizabeth Benchley (UWF), Judy Bense (UWF), Bob Carr (Archaeological and Historical Conservancy), Gregory Cook (UWF), Hester Davis (University of Arkansas), Thomas Eubanks (Louisiana State Archaeologist, Division of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism), Lynne Goldstein (Michigan State University), Bill Marquardt (University of Florida), Jim Miller (Consultant and former State Archaeologist, Tallahassee), Sheila Stewart (Florida Anthropological Society), Brent Weisman (University of South Florida), and Ryan Wheeler (State Archaeologist, Florida Division of Historical Resources).
During Fiscal Year 2004-2005, the Steering Committee drafted a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Florida Department of State and the University of West Florida providing for the creation and operation of the Network. The committee met in Pensacola in December of 2005 to discuss the mission and scope of the network, and how it might be structured. A draft MOA was prepared by State Archaeologist Ryan Wheeler based on these discussions, and this was reviewed during a second meeting held in early February in Tampa at the University of South Florida.
The Steering Committee carefully crafted the MOA to create a state-wide program administered by the University of West Florida. In doing so they considered a number of broad issues related to the creation of a new state-wide archaeology program in Florida. The Committee was resolute that the new Network would be collaborative with local programs operating in different regions of the state. This regional involvement was to be achieved through the operation of regional public archaeology centers by host institutions contracted by UWF to deliver the FPAN program within a specific region. The hosts provide space and related infrastructure support and via their hosting contract with UWF received funds to hire staff and to support travel and programming.
The Steering Committee was also insistent that FPAN not duplicate or compete with other archaeological program such as that of the Florida Anthropological Society and Florida Archaeological Council, that it would not be involved with enforcement of regulation or law, and that it would not conduct work that is required by Federal, State, or local preservation programs. These concerns were met by defining the goals for FPAN that focused on public outreach, assistance to local governments, and assistance to DHR.
What started as a grand experiment has matured into a well established and respected organization recognized in 2015 by the Society for Historical Archaeology with their Daniel G. Roberts Award for Excellence in Public Historical Archaeology.
Happy 10th Birthday, FPAN!