May 16, 2008
Colloquium Speaker: Beth O'Leary
Beth Laura O’Leary, Ph.D. is an anthropologist and assistant college professor specializing in cultural resource management in the Department of Anthropology at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico. Appointed by Governor Richardson, Dr O’Leary is vice chairperson of the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee. For the last eight years she has been involved with the cultural heritage of outer space and the moon in the emerging field of Space Heritage. A recipient of a grant from the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium (NASA), she investigated both the archaeological assemblage and the international heritage status of the Apollo 11 Tranquility Base site on the Moon. In 2006, Dr. O’Leary with New Mexico State Historic Preservation Officer Katherine Slick and the New Mexico Museum of Space History (NMMSH), she documented the Apollo 11 Tranquility Base archaeological site on the Moon as LA 2,000,000 in the State of New Mexico’s Archaeological Records Management Section database, which is the largest archaeological database in the US. LA 2,000,000 represents the first site created by the Apollo 11 Astronauts on July 20, 1969 on the Moon, 238,857 miles from Earth at Lunar Coordinates: 0.67266 degrees North Latitude, 23.47298 degrees East Longitude. NMMSH serves as the host for LA 2,000,000 on Earth where a marker at the Museum (UTM Coordinates: Zone 13, E 413969/ N3642735) is forever linked to the first lunar landing site. This action is one of the first efforts to preserve the cultural heritage on the Moon and the first Space Heritage site in the world. Dr. O’Leary has co-chaired two international symposia at the World Archaeological Congress (WAC), where she is member of the WAC Space Heritage Task Force, and Society for American Archaeology on Space Heritage. She has presented papers on her research at many symposia, recently (2007) she was an invited keynote speaker at the International Council on Monuments and Sites in Cairns, Australia. As an expert in this field, she has published articles on space heritage and been interviewed in the international press. With Ann Darrin of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, she is currently co-editing “The Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology and Heritage” to be published in 2009 by CRC Press.
Space archaeology and heritage is an evolving field where the sites and artifacts do not exist on the Earth, but rather in Space or on other celestial bodies. Most were created during the Cold War and are inaccessible and temporarily protected by their remoteness. The complexities and ambiguities of international legal structures to deal with these sites as cultural and historic resources leaves them vulnerable to impacts in the near future by many varieties of space travel. My talk will focus on the Apollo 11 Tranquility Base site on the Moon, the first manned lunar landing site, created on July 20, 1969 as an archaeological site. I will explore the historic context of sites in space, the nature of the assemblages, and the preservation of archaeological data. I will discuss the current legal and political responsibilities for historic preservation, the results of the Lunar Legacy Project, and argue that without a framework for preservation even inaccessible sites in space soon stand to become accessible and adversely affected.