2024 Candidate's Statement


Rebecca Dunham

Every archaeologist’s story has a beginning and, for me, it began at the age of seven in Mrs. MacDonald’s grade-two class. With no recollection of how Mrs. MacDonald introduced the subject, I spent the rest of my youth marvelling at dinosaurs and Pharaohs. I was, and continue to be, transfixed by the possibility of analyzing fossils and artifacts to understand life in the distant past. Eventually, finding it impossible to choose between archaeology and palaeontology, I pursued both in university starting with a BA in Anthropology at Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia and then a BSc in Palaeobiology at the University of Saskatchewan. These programs showed me the interconnectedness of the two disciplines and the indivisibility of human heritage from the natural world.

Today, after twenty-five (and counting) years as a Parks Canada archaeologist in eastern Canada, I find the correlation between human and natural heritage more apparent than ever. Integration of Indigenous and Western ways of knowing, technological advancements that illuminate traces of human activity within their environs, and growing recognition of climate change impacts on in-situ cultural heritage collectively highlight the value of, and need for, nature-based cultural research to which archaeologists can and should contribute and benefit. Working at national historic sites and national parks in the Maritimes and routinely meeting with visitors, students, academic researchers, media, and colleagues led me to complete an MA in Heritage Management at the University of Birmingham to better communicate archaeological interests and values within a wide range of contexts.

Climate change mitigation efforts and public archaeology engagement have been my primary research interests, academically and on-the-job, and to which I have contributed the most over the years by developing a coastal heritage conservation plan for the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site, directing annual public archaeology field schools at Louisbourg and Grand Pre National Historic Site between 2005 and
2012, and conducting coastal monitoring, rescue excavations, and participating in the design and installation of coastal protection measures at several locations in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick.

Additionally, I have long appreciated the application of spatial analysis of cultural landscapes using GIS, LiDAR, and remote sensing technology and, more recently, I have returned to my paleobiological roots and participated in collaborative paleoecological research of pre-European cultural landscapes at Sable Island National Park Reserve and Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia. Dissemination of new findings and lessons-learned is of equal value to the work itself and I have happily contributed papers to numerous conferences and academic
publications, visited high-spirited classrooms, and gave public presentations to historical and archaeological associations including the W. Stewart MacNutt Memorial Lecture at the University of New Brunswick.

The Canadian Archaeological Association is a valued and trusted national organization that shares knowledge, respects diversity and inclusion, and provides venue and opportunity for archaeological discourse, collaboration, and enthusiasm! As a member of the CAA 2023 conference planning committee, I had the great pleasure to experience the dedication and professionalism of this organization and I believe that my work experience and lifelong appreciation for the field of archaeology would contribute to the role of vice president.

Thank you for your consideration,

Rebecca Dunham