Stephanie Halmhofer: “A website is an awesome opportunity to highlight yourself and promote your ‘brand’”

Stephanie Halmhofer, osteoarchaeologist from Canada, runs the personal website Bones, Stones and Books. Sophia Junker from Crastina reached out to ask her about her motivation, tips for people who want to start a personal site and most importantly – what actually is osteoarchaeology?

Stephanie is a Canadian osteoarchaeologist, working at excavating sites, processing artifacts and monitoring constructions. Apart from humorous blog posts about the highs and lows of an archaeologist, you can find loads of advice from an experienced scientist on her homepage.

Hi Sthephanie, why is osteoarchaeology so fascinating?

Osteoarchaeology offers a remarkable opportunity to learn about life in the past from the people who actually lived at that time. Through them we can learn not only about the past, but they can offer insight into how to deal with contemporary and future issues, including things like health and disease related issues as well as climate change.

How did you get the idea to create a site?

The idea to start Bones, Stones, and Books came to me through my passion for writing, respect for blogs, and general wish to share my fascination for (bio)archaeology with others.

I’ve always loved writing, beginning with my first major “series” in grade 2 (a recurring weekly story about an elephant named Freddy and the flea who lived in his trunk, written in my classroom journal in which I was supposed to record my weekend experiences).

I love the variety of information that comes out of blogs and always found it impressive how people found the time to share their knowledge and wisdom with others. Especially in a blog format, which is typically a style that is welcoming to those from outside of the fields being described (and, to be honest, is a fun challenge to undertake).

I decided one afternoon that I wanted to combine my love of writing and my love of archaeology into a blog. I wanted to be open and honest about the reality of being an archaeologist, including both the highs and the lows, not only for the general public but also for students who are interested in archaeology.

What do you think you can gain by running your own scientific website?

I have two main goals from running my own website.

  • The first is to share knowledge and firsthand experience for anyone who is interested in archaeology. Indiana Jones has built up an incorrect but widely accepted idea of what archaeology is, and I wanted to use my own experiences to highlight the fact that our work is not like the movies! It’s also not a static field of study – we study an incredible range of topics through a huge array of techniques. I wanted to have a platform to share the realities of archaeology with non-archaeologists/future archaeologists (yes, sometimes it’s difficult and it sucks).
  • My second goal is shamelessly selfish – I want to promote my skills and my knowledge and put my name out there to find opportunities for myself to be able to pursue a realistic future within archaeology.

What is your favorite part of the website?

I think my favourite parts of my website are my two pages, “Houston, We Have a Problem” and “Artifacts of Wisdom“. Both are entirely written from personal experience and I like their light-heartedness. We’ve all had those days when we’re exhausted, drained and angry at the world. My hope is that snapshots into the silly side of archaeology can help put a smile on my reader’s face if they need a smile that day.

Please give three pieces of advice to the scientist who wants to create a website!

  1. Try to figure out what your goals are. Why do you want to start a website? Who do you want your audience to be? Thinking about your goals will help guide you into what kinds of pages you want (i.e. different pages for specific topics) as well as what your voice will sound like (are you trying to connect with an audience inside or outside of your field? Both?).
  2. Write in a way that best suits you and your style. Whether you feel like posting a new article every week, once a month, or simply updating it whenever the inspiration strikes, is totally up to you. We all work in different ways and you should do what’s best for you.
  3. Don’t shy away from using your website to promote yourself! Highlight your skills, experience and knowledge. Talk about what you’re interested in and what you hope to accomplish. Your website is an awesome opportunity to shamelessly highlight yourself and promote your “brand” – let your passion show and own it!

I see that you’re working on an open access textbook on North American archaeology. What is your opinion on the open access movement?

I’m a big fan of the open access movement, especially regarding sources for students. I was the student who was desperate to learn, but struggled to afford tuition and resources. There were times I had to put off buying a textbook because I couldn’t afford it at the beginning of the semester.

More open access resources, such as textbooks, can make a huge difference to less privileged students, including those absent from the post-secondary system all together (for any number of reasons keeping them away). I want to see more opportunities being given to less privileged people, and open access resources is one way to do that.


Stephanie on moving from criminology to anthropology

When I entered my criminology degree from high school it was because I had been really interested in becoming a police officer. About half way through I started to give it some more serious thought and realized I couldn’t envision myself actually working within the field.

Luckily at this time of self-doubt I had the chance to take classes in archaeology and forensic anthropology. Not only did I develop a passionate new interest in these fields, but I could see the career I wanted (with plenty of wiggle room for other related options). All in all, a combination of a passion for osteoarchaeology and a visual idea of the educational routes to get there is what motivated me to change fields.

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