Rising Sea Levels and Heritage

Dissemination of insights and lessons from and for the Florida Gulf Coast and beyond
Bay View
View of Sarasota Bay from College Hall (the 1926 Charles Ringling Mansion) at New College of Florida

Sarasota is located on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico; New College of Florida sits on the shores of Sarasota Bay. The sea is a key feature of the regional landscape, shaping its history and offering so much to many. Since the late 19th century, the sea level has been rising and now accelerating. The Anthropocene is bringing dramatic climate changes, including more frequent and intense hurricanes, greater rain downpours, and more dangerous storm surge. These are challenges to infrastructure and social activities. In Fall 2017, Hurricane Irma threatened Sarasota; the storm moved to the east but the damage was considerable: it became clear that the time for warning about climate change, particularly rising sea levels, was over and it was time for action.

This page traces the strands of research and public outreach, in roughly chronological order, for the initiative on heritage and rising sea levels. Please note: integrating archaeology into the environmental efforts is essential, with archaeology understood as focused on materiality, social change over time, and a well of conclusions for conceiving of potential futures.

There is a folklore in Sarasota that the community is safe from hurricanes. This is not only historically inaccurate, the myth conforms when preparation is essential. I wrote up a critique of the myth of Sarasota being safe from hurricanes: Climatic Amnesias: Sarasota and Its Stormy Folklore

and presented as a poster at the 2018 Society for American Archaeology annual meeting
SAA 2018 Poster

Previously in 2010 as part of the New College Public Archaeology Lab/Time Sifters Archaeology Society (funded by the Florida Humanities Council), I co-hosted a dialogue on climate change that brought a large audience to New College
Dialogues on Climate Change
and the New College Public Archaeology Lab educational program for kids focuses on Sarasota Bay and the Manatee River. A few generation of elementary school children came to New College to learn about the intersection of people and the environment through fun activities.
Coastal People program

and I commissioned a video game on the Cuban Fishing Ranchos of the Florida Gulf Coast as a means to think about the history and heritage of the coast

But Hurricane Irma meant centering on the concern with climate change, specifically rising sea levels. The Florida Public Archaeology Network created Tidally United in 2016, a summit to bring together archaeologists with public officials in St Augustine; in 2017, Tidally United included the Seminole Tribe of Florida in a Fort Lauderdale summit. 

Offered the opportunity to host Tidally United for August 2018, I partnered with FPAN West Central and we started with public outreach, organizing a roundtable to set the agenda for the August summit. This is the radical openness at the core of the New College Public Archaeology program, exposing the process of research, or in this case creating a conference, to the public for input and ideas.
Tidally United Feb 2018
The round table convened at the South Florida Museum
Roundtable 1
welcomed by Jeff Rodgers of the South Florida Museum and co-host Jeff Moates of FPAN
round table2
The schedule for the round table
round table3
The group at work
round table4  round table5  round table6 round table7
Tidally United Feb Roundtable

The Jane Bancroft Cook Library set up a book display to support Tidally United
Library display Feb2018 Library Display 2
The round table provided the agenda for the next several months of planning written up for Time Sifters as “Tidally United: Sarasota/Manatee in an Age of Rising Sea Levels” Time Sifters Archaeological Society Newsletter August http://online.pubhtml5.com/ahzv/donz/

In March 2018 the Sarasota Historical Society 
hosted me and Jeff Moates for Conversation at the Crocker
Coastal Inspirations: 
How Cuban Fishing Ranchos Created 
Modern Sarasota and Manatee
giving us a chance to introduce another historical element to the issues of heritage and the coastal zone

Time Sifters Archaeology Society invited me to give a May 2018 lecture
Baram 2018 Time Sifters on Rising Sea Levels

Herald Trib March 2018

The Patch provided the space to describe the Summit and has a listing of books to read and other resources current for summer 2018

In the heat and humidity of a Sarasota summer

August 2018 Tidally United, co-hosted by FPAN and NCPAL

below are some more images and information

Tidally United 2018
The summit started with a Task Force meeting that create
Coastal Heritage at Risk TaskForce (CHART)

Brainstorming the Task Force, in NCPAL
The plans

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune provided positive attention for the Summit

The first public presentation focused on the meaning of history for the present. focused on Newtown and its heritage revitalization
Baram and Oldham 2018
The concerns with rising sea levels was not theoretical as we met at Payne Park, downtown Sarasota
Payne Park

Schedule 1 Schedule 2 Schedule 3

Welcome  mugs buttons



After the Summit, the conference visited Historic Spanish Point

Historic Spanish Point provided a blog posting on their participation in Tidally United 2018
Carrie Seidman in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune (August 14, 2018) focused on The Importance of Preserving our History, noting

In Florida, much of our coastal heritage will be lost over the course of the 21st century; a one-meter sea level rise will wipe out 13,000 sites; two meters, 32,000. These stories will only be accessible in the future through “virtual means” — virtual reality, museum exhibits or reconstruction — but even those can only be created if we collect information now, before everything is under water.

Oh great, I can hear you groaning. Don’t I have enough on my plate worrying about red tide, overdevelopment and the upcoming elections? Now I’m supposed to take on saving history too?

I hear you. It feels like we’re all carrying a heavy load of citizenship responsibility these days and, unless you’re better than I am at blowing off guilt, this feels like just one more thing I should be doing that I don’t have time for. But wait. There’s actually a way you can help that not only might be pleasurable and educational, you could even do it with your grandkids.

Also in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune (August 10, 2018), Dale White drew attention to 

Candidates share views on importance of addressing climate change

Sarasota News Network offered three minutes for Tidally United archaeological summit comes to Sarasota 

After the Summit: more presentations
The Intergovernmental Climate Working Group of Sarasota and Manatee counties, which met at Sarasota City Hall, the Introduction to Environmental Studies course at New College of Florida, and Manatee County Green Team, which met in Bradenton and a Conversation at the Crocker for the Sarasota Historical Society

Giving students in Survey of the Archaeology, the option of examining rising sea levels and heritage sites, two focused on Rising Sea Levels and Newtown, the African American neighborhoods of Sarasota. Over the January intersession, a group of students followed up on the research and presented their findings and recommendations at a public event, a Sarasota Bay Estuary Program clean-up of Whitaker Bayou, the waterway that flows through Newtown.
MLK Part presentation

There is more research needed, more public engagement, and more planning. This program supports the Florida Public Archaeology Network in Heritage Monitoring Scouts
The New College Public Archaeology Lab hosted a HMS workshop in March 2017
HMS at NCPAL March 2017
More partnerships, more efforts are envisioned

Uzi Baram and Jeff Moates wrote up the insights from their public presentations and described the process for Tidally United 2018 in a New College Public Archaeology Research Report available here
Baram and Moates 2019

Rising Sea Levels and Heritage 
is an ongoing program, still developing its focus
with dissemination of information and insights 
a key aspect of the initiative
Heritage matters for resiliency in this 
age of rising sea levels
and we're working with heritage as social action
please come back and contribute to this program


Presentations by Uzi Baram on Rising Sea Levels and Heritage include:
2017 Archaeology of the Florida Gulf Coast: Little Salt Spring. For Introduction to Environmental Studies. New College of Florida.

2017 The Archaic Matters: Archaeology, Rising Sea Levels and History in Sarasota. For Archaic Period Interpretative Panel Dedication, Phillippi Estate Park, Sarasota.

2018 Heritage as Social Action: Archaeology and Rising Sea Levels. Introduction to the Tidally United Round Table. South Florida Museum, Bradenton.

2018 Coastal Inspirations: How Cuban Fishing Ranchos Created Modern Sarasota and Manatee. With Jeff Moates, for Conversations at the Crocker, Sarasota Historical Society.

2018 Archaeology and Rising Sea Levels: Global Perspectives and Local Concerns. For Time Sifters Archaeology Society, Sarasota.

2018 Archaeology of the Florida Gulf Coast. For Think + Drink (science) organized by the South Florida Museum, Bradenton.

2018 Popular Beliefs of Safety in an Age of Rising Sea Levels: Public Archaeology as a Means to Counter Exceptionalism on the Florida Gulf Coast. Poster for Fighting Anti-Science Hysteria Through Public Archaeology session at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington DC.

2018 Archaeology of the Florida Gulf Coast: Ancient Springs, Contemporary Concerns. For Introduction to Environmental Studies. New College of Florida.

2018 Folklore of (Safety From) Hurricanes on the Florida Gulf Coast: Bringing Archaeology to Climate Conversations. Poster for the Environmental Summit 2018, Sarasota

2018 Archaeology and Rising Sea Levels: Local Concerns for Southwest Florida. For the Intergovernmental Climate Working Group of Sarasota and Manatee counties, Sarasota City Hall.

2018 What We Gain from Heritage and What We Might Lose from Rising Sea Levels, a Dialogue with Vickie Oldham, Community Scholar. Opening Event for Tidally United 2018, Sarasota.

2018 Archaeology of the Florida Gulf Coast: Ancient Springs, Contemporary Concerns. For Introduction to Environmental Studies. New College of Florida.2018 Ask Archaeologists about Climate Change, We have Thousands of Years of Experience: Manatee County's Heritage in an Age of Rising Sea Levels. For the Manatee County Green Team, Bradenton.

2019 Sea Level Rise Threatening Heritage Sites: The Challenges of the Anthropocene in Florida. Archaeology and Environmental Change on the Gulf Coast. 31st Annual Manasota Beach Club. Monday Lecture Series, Englewood.

2019 Archaeology and Heritage as Social Action in an Age of Rising Sea Levels, with Jeff Moates for Conversation at the Crocker. Sarasota 
Historical Society.2019 Panel Discussion: Coastal Heritage at Risk Taskforce. Annual Meeting of the Florida Anthropological Society, Crystal River.

2019 Heritage as Social Action: Sarasota/Manatee in an Age of Rising Sea Levels, New College Public Archaeology Lab research report, with Jeff Moates

2019 Once Hidden, Now an Attraction: Newtown Heritage is Alive in Sarasota. Jane Bancroft Cook Library summer series.

2019 The Politics of Rising Sea Levels and Heritage. For The Environmental Caucus of the Sarasota Democrats.

2019 Rising Sea Levels and Cultural Heritage at Risk. For Introduction to Environmental Studies, New College of Florida.

2019 Fragments of Memory and Legacies of Inequalities on the Changing Landscape of a Coastal Florida City For the Session Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Marginalized: Challenges and Resilience in Facing "Climate" Change, organized by Teresita Majewski and Michael Bouchard American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Vancouver

2020 Radio interview on WSLR for the WaterKeepers program (January 14, 2020)

2020 Rising Sea Levels and Cultural Heritage on the Florida Gulf Coast. Sierra Club of Sarasota, February 13, 2020

2020 Thinking about the Next Generations: Sea Level Rise and Heritage Sites in Florida and Around the World. Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay. February 27, 2020

2020 As Sea Levels Rise: How Do We Want Sarasota History to be Remembered? Friends of Sarasota County History Center. March 12, 2020
Baram 2020 History Center

Delayed due to COVID-19 Crisis
Panel for Make Thee an Ark, performance on the climate crisis at Historic Spanish Point

Archaeology at the Frontlines of Rising Sea Levels: Heritage as Social Action in Meeting the Challenges of the Anthropocene. For Heritage as An Action Word, edited by Susan Shay and Kelly Britt at the World Archaeological Congress

Contact Baram@ncf.edu if interested in a presentation, 
please include your budget in the request

New Interdisciplinary Initiative in 2020

With the potential of a National Science Foundation Coastlines and People proposal, I joined several New College colleagues in planning what we tentatively titled "Preserving Heritage on the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast." 

NCF faculty for CoPe

We have community partners, including Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and De Soto National Memorial and the project started with field trips to Historic Spanish Point (Selby Gardens) and De Soto Point (National Park Service)

HSP 2020  
Historic Spanish Point - September 2020

De Soto National Memorial, October 2020

We met (masked and distanced due to COVID-19) in December 2020 at the Great Room at the Selby Gardens Downtown Campus to sketch out the plan toward the NSF proposal
Image may contain: table and indoor

The five professors co-sponsored an Independent Study Period group project for January 2021, covering archaeology/heritage, botany, microbes, animals, and mapping

Interdisciplinary Research into Climate Change on the Florida Gulf Coast

Zoom Meetings

Physically distanced in the Chae Auditorium

Field research on the New College campus, setting tools for future study

Site visits to the historic mansion, with views of the Bay

Using techniques to interpret water 

One of the products of the January 2021 ISP: 
a StoryMap, presented first over Zoom

Looking for a name for this program beyond the NSF Coastlines and People; some January possibilities:
Interdisciplinary Research into Climate Change on the Florida Gulf Coast
Emergen-Sea Sarasota/Manatee 
25 Miles of Challenges on the Florida Gulf Coast

Currently building connections to other colleagues, including NAHAR: North American Heritage At Risk
Baram on Waterkeepers 2020 WSLR.mp3
Uzi Baram,
Feb 8, 2020, 11:08 AM