AAGA students present in New Orleans

Anthropology, Archaeology, and Geography students present research projects at the 89th Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology Conference in New Orleans. 

VTSU Castleton’s Student Government Association provides amazing support to students including an extremely generous donation this year that allowed eight Anthropology, Archaeology, and Geography program students to take on New Orleans at the 89th Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology conference.

Innovation Lab Director Matt Moriarty and his professor wife Ellen Moriarty supported the students the whole way through the trip, even though they and the students traveled separately.

“They are all adults, and we have a lot of trust in them,” Matt Moriarty said in an interview reflecting on the trip.

While in New Orleans, students participated in an organized poster session, presenting multiple projects they had recently been working on, including the Granger House Museum and 3D work on historic billy clubs used by local marble company strikers in 1935-36..

Moriarty explained the process of building the local Castleton museum, known as the Granger House. He said students work hard year-round to contribute to the final product of this soon-to-be digital museum.

He said the house on campus will include hidden history-focused exhibits that the students will virtually create. Visitors will be able to see the perspective of a room through its historical timeline using a QR code feature created by those who help during off-campus hours.

“The New Orleans conference was an excellent way for the students to present the overall plan and progress of the Granger House,” Moriarty said.”

“I can’t believe your students are undergraduates; this is amazing,” Moriarty said, sharing from a comment made by a member at the conference.

“That made me so proud of our students,” he said.

Moriarty also shared that although 3D printing is a big part of the program, other things, like virtual reality, are involved too.

“As long as you get your foot in 3D and VR, you are only going up. No matter what skills within these categories you are getting, it will always be helpful, and any major can be a part of this program. We want the variety,” Moriarty said.

Owen Edgcomb, a junior at VTSU Castleton and second-year participant in the program, shared his favorite parts and memories of the conference.

Students enjoy an evening in New Orleans.

“Not only was it a lot of fun, but there were so many cool experiences. I loved being able to go to a professional academic place with peers and present research in a professional setting. It was exciting and inspiring to see the wider community of archaeologists,” Edgcomb said.

Edgcomb also said New Orleans is a very cool city, and having the chance to explore it, “what an opportunity!”

While sharing his favorite foods, events, and experiences from the trip, Edgcomb smiled throughout the whole conversation, and you could see the difference this trip made for him.

He mentioned the Ruby Slipper Cafe, where he had an amazing new variety of homemade eggs benedict: one with pork and hollandaise sauce, another with shrimp and a tomato-based sauce, and lastly, chicken with gravy.

He also mentioned The Palace Cafe.

The bananas foster, found at the Palace Cafe, is a desert that gets lit on fire and also seemed to be the biggest hit for the group.

“The next day, my family and I went back to get the desert again, and every student was lined up,” Moriarty said reminiscing.

Another favorite food trip was followed with a bittersweet memory.

“Sam and I went to this hole-in-the-wall shop that sold killer-po-boy sandwiches that were loaded with perfection,” Edcomb said.

While on the way out of the city, he said they needed to return to get more for the trip home.

“We didn’t know if we would get caught going through TSA, so Sam called his dad (who works in an airport), and he told him to get a gallon zip lock bag and stuff the sandwiches in that. Next thing you know, both bags are getting pulled to the side, and at this point, we are certain it’s the po-boys. However, it turns out that we both had forgotten to take out one of our electronics. When we finally got off the plane and on the drive home, we stopped at a gas station. I started to feel a little hungry, so I pulled out my Po-Boy only to find that they do not travel well, and it sucked cold,” Edgcomb said with a smile.

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