ArchyPOP presents: Pop Culture for Dummies

How has the ‘90s influenced our culture today? How do pop culture artifacts from the 90s represent that time? How has that inspired pop-culture movements today? How has people’s relationship with artifacts from the 90s changed since then?

Project Goals

My overall goals for this project were to gain contemporary archaeology skills while expanding my knowledge on archaeology’s relationship with pop culture. We dedicated an entire unit of our class on the study of pop culture and the valuable insight it has on culture—including showcasing unexplored narratives from the past. We wanted to focus specifically on the ‘90s because of the particular relevance it has for my generation and my culture. We are obsessed with the ‘90s—‘90s fashion, ‘90s shows, ‘90s stars and more importantly ‘90s material culture. This obsession with the past isn’t a new concept, and can be seen across every generation. We thought exploring this ‘nostalgia’ phenomenon would provide valuable insight on the human condition! Finally, we also thought it would be a useful exercise to choose a topic that hadn’t been covered in our pop culture unit! We thought exploring this territory might exercise are archaeology thinking much more than revisiting a topic covered in class. I couldn’t have been more excited to dedicate my project to the important evaluation of the ‘90s!

Findings

People attach significant emotional and even monetary value to material culture from the ‘90s. One case study we did explored both sides of this with the discovery of Nintendo 64. The person who found it displayed intense emotional attachment to it and even personified the old gaming system. Then, we were able to analyze the response of the community which immediately focused on the monetary value of the controllers—they estimated the found artifact could be worth from $1,500 to $3,000 dollars (almost worth one quarter at UW)! The original price of this item was $200. It’s obvious certain objects from the ‘90s are considered rare and are coveted by the general public. However, this begged the question: why.

Tumblr is a fantastic tool to gauge pop culture interest (we will talk more about it later) through the use of their tag system. When someone makes or reblogs a post, they can add identifiers to help organize their post and even explain their interest in it. The most common tag that came along with ‘90s artifacts was #nostalgia, the sentimental love for the past. Usually that was it! #nostalgia, #90s, #nineties were usually the only identifier. There was usually no expression of interest specific to the object, or any commentary along with it! It seems that for the most part, tumblr bloggers are just chasing that feeling of nostalgia. That’s also one of the key differences between archaeology of pop culture and nostalgia culture. Archaeology involves an analysis or critique of the object or it’s place in society where nostalgia just has appreciation for it. We actually gained a lot of insight on contemporary archaeology for this project.

Our project also showed us the shortcomings of doing “online archaeology”. A large part of archaeology is viewing objects themselves and actively testing a hypothesis. By looking only at material culture through the internet, we could be missing a lot of key context clues that could change the direction of our investigation! Not only that, but it is hard to test hypothesis when we don’t have a site to examine. The scientific method is a crucial part of Archaeology, and COVID has severely limited our ability to get a realistic contemporary archaeology experience. However, are project did a fantastic job showing us how important that step is, and I would still count it as a valuable experience. We still gained a lot of valuable insight even if we weren’t able to use the contemporary archaeologist field techniques we learned about in class.

Methodology

As touched upon earlier, the Tumblr format gave us a really unique experience to delve into the relationship between the general populace and 90s artifacts. We could search through other people’s blogs and examine the commentary they attached to material culture from the ‘90s

As touched upon earlier, the Tumblr format gave us a really unique experience to delve into the relationship between the general populace and 90s artifacts. We could search through other people’s blogs and examine the commentary they attached to material culture from the ‘90s

We were able to pull on many different lines of evidence because of this. We used quotes from readings and articles, did detailed case-studies of specific objects and their reception, and tracked the overall popularity of ‘90s objects by looking at their “reblogs” and posting it to our blog!

Big Picture

This was a challenging and fun final project to end the school year on. I’m really proud of our Tumblr blog, and I feel it really taught me a lot. I’m ending this quarter with an expanded knowledge on pop culture and excitement for contemporary archaeology! This project also gave me respect for the difference between the work I did on the blog and real archaeology field experiences. Truly this unessay gifted me with a thirst for real world archaeology experience. In other words, I’ve found this project to be very inspiring. c:

Find the blog: https://archypop.tumblr.com/

See next page for Bibliography.