Where in the World is Abby?

Submitted by Rita Elliott (ritafelliott@windstream.net)

SGA_ArchaeoBus_portraitAbby, the ArchaeoBus, has had a busy summer and fall. Summer found Abby enjoying the Athens library scene, where she shared more than archaeology books with library patrons. Tom Gresham delivered informal programs as he brought Abby to the Athens Regional Library and the Oglethorpe County Library. ArchaeoBus Outreach Specialist Kathy Mulchrone ably assisted Tom in the latter program. Kathy, ArchaeoBus Outreach Specialist Teresa Groover, and Rita Elliott prototyped the formal program at the Athens Regional Library. This allowed them to consider changes and improvements to the program content and delivery methods. Thanks to Kathy and Teresa, and to Tom for his ongoing efforts on this project. We also appreciate the Athens Regional Library’s continued support of the ArchaeoBus and the interest of the Oglethorpe County Library and many others throughout Georgia.


Figure 1. Throngs visit the ArchaeoBus.

By October Abby was ready for a visit to Georgia’s coast. She made her debut in Brunswick at the 11th Annual CoastFest, sponsored by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Abby played to standing room only crowds as she sat adjacent to The Society for Georgia Archaeology booth (Figure 1). Both the bus interior and SGA’s outside interactives under the tent fostered a large and heartwarming display of intergenerational learning between children, parents, and grandparents, and between scouts and their leaders (Figure 2). Abby was available for 7,500 visitors at CoastFest.


Figure 2. Abby appealing across generations.

Abby is back in school now under the firm hand of Ellen Provenzano in Glynn County, Georgia. Since mid-October Ellen has taken Abby to two schools. This includes Sterling Elementary School, where 115 4th graders and 8 teachers participated in informal programming, and Altama Elementary School, where 86 4th graders, 7 teachers, and 2 administrators interacted with Abby. Ellen has also brought Abby to Fort Frederica National Monument for several hours of programs reaching 34 visitors of all ages, and to the Golden Isles Archaeology Club with an attendance of 15 adults. Ellen is making Abby do extracurricular work, and has her scheduled to visit an additional three to four schools in Glynn County before the end of the year. At that time, Ellen and Rita will do a final prototyping of the formal program for middle school students using the new materials and content created from the first prototyping session in Athens. A big thank you to Ellen, who has already reached 267 students with Abby and will likely engage another 300 in the next few weeks!

Abby’s increasing success would be impossible without the help of several dedicated individuals. A huge thanks to volunteers Tom Gresham and Ellen Provenzano. The phrase “working tirelessly” does not even begin to sum up their endeavors. Appreciation also goes to Kathy Mulchrone and Teresa Groover for their work. The ArchaeoBus Committee continues to stand on alert to help as needed. A handful of “guardian angels” have graced us with their help at the most opportune moments this past year. This included Steve Hoyt who rescued a despondent Abby (and driver Tom) on the side of the road in Macon when her alternator broke. Thank you Steve for your speedy mechanical abilities and your much appreciated generosity! And speaking of saving…Tony Shore has saved untold numbers of potentially twisted ankles by building sturdy steps for visitors to use to exit the bus. We appreciate Clay Helms’ electrical work involving the much needed hefty power cord for the bus. Our programs are benefitting from the donations of Native American replica pottery and tools made by Brian Floyd and Scott Jones. Starr Wright appeared exactly when needed to help solve a significant technology issue in the nick of time. Thanks to all of Abby’s guardian angels! Another set of individuals who form the loose coalition known secretly as the ArchaeoBus Spouses Support Group (Dale Provenzano, Gisela Weis, and Dan Elliott) are thanked for their long-suffering through bus rides and car/bus drop off schedules, late night and weekend work assignments, dead batteries, absentee spouses, jammed locks, and blown bulbs!

Abby’s year in review includes: the construction of her interior infrastructure, exhibit creation and installation, mechanical repairs and upgrades, development of the formal program (including hands-on activities) for middle schoolers, development of Teacher Guidelines and associated resource materials for the SGA web site, and writing the initial draft of the administrative manual and guidelines. Abby was not finished until May of 2009. In spite of this, she still managed to reach 8,492 people, primarily through informal programs.


Figure 3. ArchaeoBus funding sources.

Figure 3 is a chart showing the breakdown of all funding sources to date (2007–2009). Currently, all but approximately $5,000 of this has been spent in a successful effort to take the vehicle from a bookmobile to a 21st century ArchaeoBus. We give a resounding cheer of thanks to all of our sponsors and funders for their much appreciated financial support. This includes The Georgia Transmission Corporation, BestBuy, The Council on American Indian Concerns, The Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists, Southern Research, and Mr. and Mrs. Carleton Crabill, Jr.. Some funds were earmarked, such as the BestBuy grant for technology and certain funds for programming. The Georgia Transmission Corporation made two contributions, the first for the vehicle “wrap.” SGA also provided a second infusion of funds this past May.


Figure 4. ArchaeoBus expenses.

How were these funds, totaling just over $20,000, allocated? As Figure 4 depicts, almost $6,000 has gone into the purchase of the vehicle, inspections, repairs, maintenance, and a large chunk to insurance. Just under $5,500 was spent on the prep and wrapping of the bus exterior. Just over $4,000 went to the construction of the bus interior and the fabrication and installation of the exhibit. A total of $4,000 has been spent on technology. The smallest portion of expenditures to date has been spent on programming, totaling just over $1,000.

Insurance and maintenance will continue to be a large piece of the pie. The wrap, interior and technology are complete, so we expect no huge expenses in this arena in the near future. Our smallest area of expenses, programming, is the very reason the bus exists. And now that we have the vehicle remade and repaired, we look forward to throwing our time, energy, funding, and resources into programming and expect that a year from now, programming will be most of the pie!

During the past six months with few attempts to solicit venues, we have exposed 8,500 people to the Archaeobus and archaeology. We expect to reach much larger numbers when we begin a concerted effort to deliver both formal and informal programming next year.

You may wonder about Abby’s New Years’ Resolutions. She resolves to be even busier in 2010 as she rolls into extensive programming. Abby will wrap up her coastal visit in January and return to Athens where she will be available for formal programming to 8th graders in the public private, and parochial schools of Athens-Clarke County. Throughout the year she will also visit non-school venues for informal programs. Abby may even venture to the capitol steps in Atlanta, so Georgia’s state lawmakers can meet her and discover Georgia archaeology. Track Abby on this website and see if she keeps her resolutions in 2010!