By LilyAnne Rodriguez
The History and Preservation Coalition of Sarasota County (HPCsc) awarded Dr. Uzi Baram, professor of anthropology and heritage studies at New College, the 2018 Archaeological Conservancy Award.
Baram, a dedicated Sarasota community member, is not one to brag about awards. However, this award deserves recognition for the many contributions Baram has made to the historical preservation of Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Friends of Sarasota County History Center nominated Baram for the award, which the coalition began presenting in 2017 to recognize the extensive historical work done in Sarasota. According to its website, the coalition works to honor “those who have devoted themselves to maintaining the integrity of our remaining architectural, archaeological, and historical assets and educating the public to their importance.” Dr. Frank Cassell, vice chair of HPCsc, spoke of how the awards came about from a lack of public awareness of the people and organizations who were working to write about, interpret, and conserve the rich historical presence of Sarasota County.
This year, the coalition chose Baram to represent the its mission to increase “citizen-based efforts to preserve our common past for future generations.” Baram’s community outreach efforts in both Sarasota and Manatee counties embodies that mission. In 2010, Baram established the New College Public Archaeology Lab with hopes of facilitating “studies of archaeology and historic preservation for Sarasota and Manatee counties through ethical, community-based research and public engagement.” Since then, the lab has produced numerous reports based on research conducted at the lab.
For the Looking for Angola project, Baram encouraged community members, especially “descendant communities” to join in the search for an early 19th-century community of maroons, a term for escaped slaves, on the Manatee River. This work was crucial to uncovering the deep history of Florida and emphasized the need to include the public in archaeological work. In 2013, the team located material traces of the once lost community. Since then, Baram has emphasized the urgency of creating more community programming and excavations for uncovering additional evidence of this community.
The coalition will bestow the award on Baram at a ceremony in April, and he hopes it will help bridge the gap between the public and archaeology scholars, particularly in preservation work. He hopes to continue researching coastal communities and landscapes that are at a risk of becoming endangered due to rising sea levels along Florida’s coast.
— LilyAnne Rodriguez is an intern in the Office of Communications and Marketing.