Community Conscious Archaeology

Sarasota Bay

By Uzi Baram

Professor of Anthropology, New College of Florida

Sarasota Bay is a dominant feature of Sarasota’s identity even though it is visible only from its shores, from high rise buildings, and from aerial views. For public enjoyment, there are public parks on the bayfront as well as Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, a marina complex, and a performing arts complex. How to use the bayfront is a continual community concern. One particular spot, an area with the performing arts center and several civic buildings but also large parking lots, is being debated these days. On November 13, 2014, 300 people came together to discuss the development of that property; Tom Tryon writing in the Sarasota Herald Tribune noted that “there was a two-point consensus on what people most want the site to offer: 1. A place to enjoy a nice glass of wine. 2. A good view of the bay while sipping that wine” (http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20141207/COLUMNIST/312079999?p=all&tc=pgall)

The image of sipping wine by the bay is appealing; if that vision comes to pass, hopefully people will be able to reflect on the heritage for the location. History might have been discussed at the gathering but it did not come up in the newspaper or social media stories. When I look at the publicly-held area, I think of it as part of Yellow Bluffs. What was once an outcropping is where Sarasota began. There was an initial Anglo-American settlement by the Whitakers as well as pre-Columbian Native American mounds with their history that stretches back centuries. The heritage for the region matters but, with historic preservation and development usually pitched against each other, how could heritage, particularly archaeo-heritage, fit into the discussions over the bayfront, to meet community concerns for the property? Read full article here.  Community Conscious Archaeology

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