Introducing Our Eastern Regional Director: Andy Stout
My first memory of anything connected to archaeology was when I was a boy in the 1970’s, and while working in a community garden next to my childhood home in Greencastle, PA, a neighbor found a jasper preform and handed it to me explaining it was an “arrowhead”. I still have that jasper preform, and through my work with the Conservancy, went on to acquire and preserve a significant prehistoric archaeological site in my hometown of Greencastle, PA, which is now the Ebbert Spring Preserve; as well as a jasper quarry in Northeast Pennsylvania, where that very preform that I held as a child may have come from. Rather extraordinary really.
My own family history in the United States is very rich and well documented, and begins in the 17th century before there was a United States, involving a significant amount of interactions between Europeans and Native Americans, which is probably where I get my rich appreciation for the past from. Also, growing up with a brother who was a consummate history buff, and living in close proximity to both Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields, I was instilled with an appreciation for American history at an early age.
I went on from high school to attend Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania where I earned a BA in Sociology and a minor in Anthropology. I ended up taking every Anthropology class Shippensburg offered, and while attending college I worked as a Nurse Technician at the Mental Health Unit of the Chambersburg Hospital, which has provided invaluable experience for everything in life that followed. While at Shippensburg I took an archaeological field school working on an 18th century Pennsylvania farmstead. I also volunteered doing archaeology at Gettysburg Battlefield. It was notable in many ways, but perhaps most so for introducing me to the many prehistoric sites preserved within the confines of the battlefield.
After graduating, I moved to Frederick, MD working for a cultural resource management firm doing archaeology in advance of mostly federal and state projects throughout the mid-Atlantic region and in the Caribbean. I worked on over a hundred projects conducting both fieldwork and laboratory analysis. The sites I worked on spanned the Paleo-Indian period to 20th century industrial sites, and everything in between, which really gave me a great appreciation for the vast types of archaeological resources found in the region. The projects and experiences I had while in that line of work were very interesting and quite diverse, involving everything from: artifact photography to OSHA certification in trench safety, dealing with human remains in the field, and, yes, literally cutting my way through the jungle while being chased by packs of wild dogs and avoiding boa constrictors falling out of trees! At one point I may have surveyed every cottonmouth infested swampy U.S. Marine base in coastal North Carolina, and some of it on my belly.
After several years of cultural resource management work, I parlayed my archaeological lab work and curatorial skills into a museum position with the National Archives and Records Administration’s Presidential Materials Staff. There I and one other person oversaw every aspect of the transport, handling and care of all the gifts received by the President of the United States, the first family, the Vice President and Vice President’s family. I served during the end of the Clinton presidency, throughout the presidential transition where I helped oversee the movement of the Clinton’s materials to the Presidential Library in Little Rock, and into the first year of the Bush administration.
In 2001, I left federal service and returned to graduate school at American University in Washington, D.C. where I went on to earn a MA in Public Anthropology. While at AU, I interned with the Chief Archaeologist of the National Park Service, Dr. Frank P McManamon. It was in graduate school that I first became aware of The Archaeological Conservancy, and soon joined the organization as a member. Of all the organizations that students are encouraged to join to help fill out their resumes, the Conservancy was the only group where one could see their money actually doing good work in purchasing and protecting archaeological sites.
After earning my master’s degree, I worked for the City of Frederick, MD; and at the same for the Board of the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation, a local non-profit devoted to protecting historic structures. In 2004 the job for the Eastern Regional Director at the Conservancy was advertised. I remember going to my interview and pointing out The Archaeological Conservancy sticker on my car window to Conservancy President Mark Michel, telling him, “I didn’t just stick that on for the interview”.
I was hired for the position and moved operations, which had been based in northern Virginia, to Frederick, MD. There I opened the first brick and mortar office space for the eastern regional office 11 years ago. During this time the Conservancy has more than doubled land holdings in the Eastern U.S. from 23 existing preserves to now over 55, which include some of the most famous and significant archaeological sites from Maine to North Carolina. During this time the eastern regional office also expanded staff with the creation of a Field Representative position. The office began to develop a tour program for the region, which currently includes three archaeological tours featuring: The Colonial Chesapeake (MD and VA), the French & Indian War (NY, PA, MD), Iroqouia (NY), and more in development.
I honestly believe that being a regional director for The Archaeological Conservancy is one of the best jobs in the United States. The Conservancy often acquires sites that could otherwise be destroyed and continues to fill a vital niche in the conservation of our nation’s cultural heritage. In addition, while researching sites for the Conservancy, I get to meet so many interesting people and go to so many places that I would otherwise never get to experience. As much as this job helps me meet my professional ethical obligations as an archaeologist in working to conserve archaeological resources; there is also a great deal of civic pride that comes from this work.
When I help assure the permanent conservation of an archaeological site for the Conservancy, I’m really helping conserve many of the important places where America’s history unfolded, the places where we became who we are today. Places that often still resonate with a local community identity in addition to being of archaeological significance. Knowing that future generations and scholars will also get to enjoy and study these locations as Conservancy managed preserves is something that all of the members of the Conservancy can take great pride in, and if it were not for the members of the Conservancy the opportunity to do this great work would be impossible.