FAQ

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Where is the archeology in the SCA? The SCA focuses on a field of archeology that is often referred to as above ground archeology (the term was coined by John L. Cotter of the National Park Service and refined by Thomas Schlereth of Notre Dame). Research takes place above ground level and includes the study of buildings and the landscape. But piecing together these above-ground elements, it is possible to interpret the past and its importance to contemporary matters. Schlereth considers the following in his definition of above-ground archeology:

  • Geological/Geographical Features
  • Landscape Vegetation
  • Place and Street Names
  • Street Histories
  • Vernacular Buildings
  • Working Places
  • Commercial Archeology

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What is commercial archeology? Drew University defines Commercial Archeology as: "The study of structures and artifacts created in connection with popular commercial activity, such as diners, motels, gasoline stations, and signs." Kris Hirst at About.com offers this definition: "Commercial archaeology focuses on the material culture aspects of commerce and transportation; studies the effects of market economy and the use of space, and the development of roadside businesses."

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What is roadside architecture? The term roadside architecture applies to buildings and other structures directly and indirectly associated with roads. Obvious examples include restaurants, motels, and gas stations. Other examples include signs, vernacular buildings, shopping and retail centers, and programmatic (or mimetic) structures, as well as theme and amusement parks.

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How did the SCA begin? The SCA was organized by a group of scholars and experts who had an interest in commercial archeology. The group met in Vermont, and in 1979 they formally organized.

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Where is the SCA located? At present, the operations of the SCA are managed throughout the country by the members of the board of directors.

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Does the SCA have an archive? The SCA maintains an archive of its own materials in Austin, Texas.

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How do I join the SCA? Any person or organization with an interest in commercial archeology is eligible for membership in the SCA. Each member in good standing shall be entitled to one vote on matter submitted to to the general membership. Joining the SCA is very easy. Click here for more information about joining.

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Who is on the SCA Board of Directors? The Board of Directors, the organization's governing body, currently consists of fourteen members. Click here to read biographical information for the current Board of Directors. If you are interested in serving on the Board of Directors, please contact the Nominations Committee.

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How can I help preserve roadside resources? How do I save an important roadside building or structure? Perhaps the most important first step is to contact your state preservation office. (Click here to see a list of state offices.) Tell them about the resource(s) and work with them to develop a plan for saving or protecting it. In addition to working with state preservation offices, contact organizations that are directly interested in the type of resource about which you are concerned. For example, if you are interested in protecting a drive-in movie theatre, track down organizations that work to protect drive-ins, such as the United Drive-In Theatre Owner's Association or DriveInMovie.com. Lastly, don't give up. Preservation efforts often take years. Persistence pays off.

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What is the SCA interested in? The SCA's interests are as varied as its members. The diverse interests of the groups range from the commonplace to the eclectic. Below is a listing of some of the more common interests:

  • Historic preservation
  • Architecture of all types including Art Deco, Modern, Googie, Programmatic/Mimetic, Vernacular
  • Highways of all types
  • Restaurants including diners, drive-ins, and coffee houses
  • Gas stations and petroliana
  • Motels, hotels, tourist cabins, motor courts, etc.
  • Retail centers such a Main Streets, strip malls, indoor malls
  • Theatres, both enclosed and drive-in

To get a better sense of the variety of interests, check out the SCA's online membership form.

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What is the SCA's mission? The mission of the SCA is to recognize the unique historical significance of the 20th-century commercial built environment and cultural landscapes of North America, emphasizing the impact of the automobile and the commercial process. To this end, the SCA will carry out projects of documentation, education, advocacy, and conservation to encourage public awareness and understanding of these significant elements of our heritage.

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How can I get more involved? There are many ways you can be more involved with the the SCA. First, consider becoming a member. Membership provides you with publications, invitations to participate at conferences, and the opportunity to meet others who share your interests. If you're like most SCA members, chances are you have a story to tell, or maybe there is something you'd like to share with the other members of the SCA. If this sounds like you, consider writing an article or making other contributions to the SCA Newsletter or the SCA Journal. Members are also encouraged to serve as a member of the Board of Directors or to serve as volunteers for its many projects and events.

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