Crowd Sourcing Archaeology Funds: Tip of the Iceberg or Passing Fad ?

Posted on November 13, 2011


Dr. Kristina Killgrove have just completed a crowd sourcing project to raise money for her Roman DNA project. This video explains what the project is about:

The amazing thing is she got $6000 in roughly ten days to fund her project. This was preceded, earlier this year, by Colleen Morgon’s crowd sourcing fundraising Maeander project which was also a success in reaching its goal of $5000. So far, crowd sourcing for fundraising is batting %100 for archaeologists. Does this mean that we will now have a new source of funding for archaeology? Is this the wave of the future or a passing fad?

I have to say I am cautiously optimistic. First, it should be pointed out the ranges of money are close to small grants. These efforts are not raising millions of dollars to last years of fieldwork and writeup. Though, I wonder if your were to do this with a large organization already sponsoring and to give publicity, say National Geographic, how much additional money you could raise through crowd sourcing.  Looking at the examples so far I would say this is a great option for small grants.

I think one key issue for future projects will be visibility. Both Colleen and Kristina run highly viable blogs from which they were able to advertise for funds. I do not know where all they advertised so how much a really visible blog helps is unknown BUT Kristina goes credit the massive support she received from re-blogs. I think if people can find ways to get the word out then this will definitely become a viable route of funding. While, blogs may never be accepted as academic work and used in hiring practices raising funds always will. If a blog can help do that then there might be a really strong argument there for more blogging by archaeologists.

I should also say that I do not know who donated, friends and family or other types of people. While friends and family are great, ideally the funds would come from other people. If not it is not really crowd sourcing and we are not involving new people in projects. That being said money is money.

There is also the chance that as more archaeologists embrace this, as a method for raising funds, we being to eat each others funding sources. Though with only two projects attempted at the moment I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Overall, I would say there are limits both in size of funds and who will be able to successfully raise funds but this will probably play a future role in archaeology.