by Elin Dalen (email@example.com)
Little did I know on my way to Paris and my first EAA annual meeting in 1993 that this was the start of a lifelong engagement. In a hurry, my Directeur General at that time, Øivind Lunde, sent me to represent Riksantikvaren at the meeting. The Scandinavian countries gave substantial economic support to establish EAA, together with The Netherlands, France and UK. Norway took upon the responsibility to host the first Secretariat – and this became my destiny.
To start a completely new organisation, you need people with visions and people with administrative skills. The composition of persons involved the first years of EAA had a useful combination of creativity and organizational talents. To reach the goals and visions of an organisation for all archaeologists in Europe and to inaugurate something you believe in gives energy and joy. I think many of the members in the EAA Steering Committee (the founding group) and we at the Secretariat who were involved in the early days felt we were “breaking the sound barrier” and anything was possible. There were some challenges, but during the early days most of it was fun with a lot of laughter and humour.
In Oslo we did our best to establish administrative routines, get control of the finances, start a bank account, handle all different currencies in Europe, put up different EAA committees and keep track of members – all this in a time without computers or e-mail. Letters, telephone and fax were our tools. The Secretariat stayed on in Oslo for nearly five years. During this time, we had the pleasure to work closely with the Conference organisers in Ljubljana, Santiago de Compostela and Riga and the opportunity to get to know fantastic people that I otherwise never would have met. This was also the start of wonderful friendships. Eventually, everything ends, and the Secretariat was handed over to Museum of London, becoming the responsibility of Natasha and Mariana, another relationship I remember with pleasure, though I must admit that giving away our ‘baby EAA’ filled me with sorrow at the time.
Two years later I was asked to stand for election to the EAA executive Board. And so I did, in the belief that I was just the token female in the election. Coming from a Scandinavian country with a quite equal society, it was a surprise to me that many archaeologists from the Continent treated men and women differently. A female Secretary (and archaeologist) was perceived as having a less important standing. Despite this, I was elected, and Cecilia Åqvist from Sweden was elected treasurer the same year, and so began a new era for me within the EAA. The Secretariat moved to Sweden thanks to Cecilia, and Petra Nordin was employed: a happy solution for EAA. Through all my years in the Board, as a Board member and later Vice President, the biggest challenge was always financial. Support from the Wenner Gren Foundation over the years has been of decisive importance to offset membership and travel costs. The Presidents and the Board members in turn have worked hard to secure the economic health of our association. It was many years before the financial situation became stable. The difficult economic situation was also the main reason for moving the Secretariat. After several bids, the Secretariat ended up in the Czech Republic and Sylvie was employed – a perfect solution for EAA. In all organisations there will be some bumps from time to time. EAA has had some, but these problems and challenges have been overcome.
Though EAA has grown from the first 300 members to several thousand, it is important to keep the soul of EAA, which is a combination of seriousness and fun. Every participant needs to feel welcome and at home in the organisation. I’m sure the good EAA traditions will be brought forward in the years to come.
The 25th EAA Annual Meeting is coming up, a meeting in a long line of successful conferences. I believe the reasons for EAA’s success is the combination of interdisciplinary fields and themes, the mix of members from different countries and different backgrounds. Every participant is challenged in their respective archaeological field by listening to other viewpoints. Going to EAA means learning to be open to others, to bring your field and yourself further, to exchange ideas and develop networks. All to the better for archaeology. This is only possible within an atmosphere of a mutual understanding and respect.
To me, EAA is also a peace project bringing people together. This was important in 1993, but even more important today in a changing political world. The challenges from climate change is now one of the most important threats that we as archaeologist must deal with. EAA is a suitable forum, like the EAA Community – Climate Change and Heritage, to develop strategies and tools to handle our heritage for the future.
I believe EAA will continue to be important as a meeting place for future archaeologists, and I hope many will experience the same pleasure and joy I have had during more than 26 years. To meet so many great people and archaeologists is rewarding both professionally and personally. Many have become close friends and unfortunately, some have passed away, great losses for EAA and me personally. Still the hard work they represent, and all their efforts, have brought EAA forward and headed EAA into the next 25 years.
To all the fantastic EAA people – thank you for every joyful moment! Happy 25th Anniversary!
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