- Name: Amelia Dall, M.A., RPA, GIS
- Current role/title: Archaeologist for the Bureau of Land Management – Royal Gorge Field Office and Archaeologist & Creative Specialist for SEARCH, Inc
- Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Field of expertise: Archaeology, Collection Managment and Geographic Information System
- Amelia’s Website | Linkedin | ArcheoAndASL art
1. Tell us about your background
I was born deaf and raised in Maryland to two deaf parents, with a hearing brother, and we grew up utilizing American Sign Language in our household. I attended Maryland School for the Deaf from the age of 2, or 3, and graduated from the school when 18. I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Gallaudet University in 2012, and my Master of Arts degree in Anthropology-Archaeology from Texas State University in 2017. I recently received my Certificate in Geographic Information Systems (Spring 2022) from Front Range Community College.
2. How did you get to where you are?
Being deaf, and having two deaf parents who both held affluent positions in the federal government gave me the opportunity to self-acknowledge the potential I could have for my future. My parents both encouraged pursuing a profession I wanted, and to never settle for less. Even though growing up it felt like my only option for a career was to be a deaf teacher, I knew I never wanted to be a teacher at a deaf school because I wanted a profession allowing me to work outdoors.
However, it was not until I was a Sophomore at Gallaudet University when I realized my passion for archaeology while taking an Art History class under Dr. Marguerite Glass (an amazing professor) and “connected the dots” to my upbringing (I was always digging in the backyard, going to museums and historical sites, and loving the Indiana Jones franchise). I was able to go to an archaeology field school in Belize with the Maya Research Program funded by Gallaudet University in the summer before my Senior year. Attending field school confirmed my decision of wanting to go into the archaeology profession. I was the last student at Gallaudet University to receive the Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History, before they closed down the program.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree, I did unpaid internships as well as volunteered at several museums doing collection management to increase my experience in the museum/archaeology professions while working at various employment positions (one of which was at a group home!) to earn money somehow (and I was also on Social Security Disability Income, luckily).
One of the volunteer jobs I did was with a professor (Dr. Ana Juarez) from Texas State University, transcribing funerary ledgers. The internships and volunteer work allowed me to have a list of references in order to apply for the archaeology graduate program at Texas State University, and the professor I volunteered with had also vouched for my skills.
During my graduate program, I was a Graduate Instructional Assistant (GIA), and worked for the Center for Archaeological Studies under a wonderful Director (Dr. Todd Ahlman, who to this day continues to support and encourage my endeavors) doing site mapping and was how I came to learn about Geographic Information Systems. I also did part time work with Dr. Christina Conlee (who was also my thesis chair), doing lithic and ceramic analyses. I learned how to identify minerals within lithic and ceramic fragments, and to recognize the different types of materials.
Because of my GIA employment position, I was able to incorporate GIS in my thesis work and after graduation, volunteered for organizations needing GIS work. I also continue to learn more about lithics from professionals when doing fieldwork, and to increase my education through them.
A full-time job in Archeaology can require first having lots of different short-term positions to establish your expertise. After graduating with a Master of Arts degree in Anthropology-Archaeology, I was not able to immediately be hired for a position in the archaeology profession. I was hired as a Museum Educator for a local museum (Berthoud Historical Society; in Berthoud, Colorado), then a Weekend Visitor Services Coordinator (Denver Firefighters Museum; in Denver, Colorado). Fortunately, a year into living in Colorado, my former supervisor from Center for Archaeological Studies had an archaeology fieldwork project for a contract he needed to have done nearby Denver and hired me on the crew. This opportunity allowed me to increase my fieldwork experience in archaeology but was not enough for me to be hired as a field technician for a Cultural Resources Management (CRM) company, just yet. After the project, I was hired to work for two more museums (WOW! Children’s Museum and Denver Museum of Nature and Science) before finally obtaining an archaeological position working for Colorado Parks and Wildlife as their Cultural Resources Stewardship Technician. Most archaeology positions, like the one I had, are contracted for nine months to a year and do not pay well. So I had to move on and was able to get hired for a CRM company as a field technician. After a while, I applied for a temporary position with Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education under a contract for the US Army Fort Carson doing archaeological collection management (which is where my previous museum experience was handy to have!) and worked nearly a year there. It was, again, another time-limited contract and I had to move on. However, by this time, I had accumulated enough references so that when I reached out to an acquaintance (Chris Sims, @godigahole on instagram/patreon), he was able to get me a position with the CRM company he worked for (PaleoWest). Which led me to my current employment position for the past year, working for the Bureau of Land Management as an Archaeological Technician. I also started part time work for SEARCH as an Archaeologist & Creative Specialist (mainly doing their social media) in March, and this was an incredible opportunity offered because of my public archaeology outreach on my social media accounts.
Being an archaeologist requires a graduate degree if one wants to pursue a position with the possibility of advancing in the profession (unless one wants to stay a field technician). For example, I not only have experience in Archaeology but also in Collection Management (which is museum-related – if I ever wanted to work for the museum industry), and Geographic Information Systems.
3. What is a professional challenge you have faced related to your deafness? How have you mitigated this challenge?
My concern when first starting out was whether I’d be considered for employment positions due to my deafness; most employers, in general, are iffy about communicating with a deaf person.
However, I think the main challenge is to remind myself to not leave the profession due to loneliness as the deaf person in the workforce, and the fact that my coworkers/supervisors do not know American Sign Language. My love for archaeology and passion for this profession, is what keeps me going and motivates me to try my best in finding positions that are a great fit for me.
4. What is an example of accommodation that you either use or would like to use in your current job?
I am able to request ASL interpreters for meetings/lectures through an established system, and utilize a Garmin inreach® satellite communications device when out in the field in case of emergencies. Otherwise, archaeology is usually an individualized profession where I’m able to go out into the field on my own. This means that I can have work-life balance by doing stuff on the weekends with my deaf friends and family members.
5. What advice would you give your former self?
If I had already known what it is I wanted to do (the profession), then to hit the ground running much earlier in life rather than waiting till college to volunteer for opportunities.
6. Any funny stories you want to share?
Archaeologists can be competitive, and the work is often tedious. Being in a great field crew also means ensuring some kind of fun during fieldwork. My favorite memory was when I was out doing fieldwork with a crew, and because the project was a “lithic wonderland” (aka we’d be finding and recording lots of lithic materials) we decided to hold an informal competition in who would find the most projectile points. At the end, one of the crew members held the title with 13 projectile points total and I was in second, with 12. This also made me feel I was exceptional in doing what I do, especially being a deaf person, and that I was just as great an archaeologist as everyone else on the crew.
7. Is there anything else you would like to share?
Perseverance is key. In whatever profession one may have, within a hearing-centric workforce, perseverance is key in moving forward and in learning. Always present your work; develop a website, or mention your previous experience, or connect with people who would advocate for you. Be proud of all you’ve accomplished.