LITTLE ROCK (Monday, Nov. 1, 2021) — University of Arkansas System President Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt has named Alex Barker, Ph.D., immediate past president of the American Anthropological Association, as the new director of the Arkansas Archeological Survey (AAS).
Longtime AAS Director George Sabo, III, who joined the UA System entity in 1979 and became director in 2013, retired June 30. Melissa Zabecki, Ph.D., state archaeologist at the AAS, was named interim and has been leading the Survey since Sabo retired. Barker is expected to begin his new role Jan. 1, 2022.
“The Archeological Survey plays a crucial and impactful role within the state providing research, public service, and outreach oriented toward its mission to preserve, catalog and communicate the unique history of this state,” Bobbitt said. “I’m impressed with the hard work of the search committee and the high-quality pool of candidates the search attracted. I’m confident that Dr. Barker – who has a rich history of research and leadership in the field – is the right person to lead the Survey and look forward to working with him to advance the important work being done there for the System and for the state. I sincerely thank the work of the committee and Dr. Zabecki for stepping up in the interim and effectively leading the Survey during this transition.”
Bobbitt will ultimately recommend his choice to the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas for approval at its next regular meeting Nov. 17-18 at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Barker earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Marquette University, a master’s degree in anthropology from Wichita State University and a doctorate degree in anthropology from the University of Michigan. He most recently served for 14 years as director of the Museum of Art & Archaeology at the University of Missouri and was also vice president for collections and research and curator of North American Archaeology at the Milwaukee Public Museum. He’s also served as interim executive director, director of science programs, director of research and collections and curator of archaeology at the Dallas Museum of Natural History. Barker previously served as president of the Council for Museum Anthropology and treasurer of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), and was a federal appointee to the National Review Committee overseeing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. He also served on the task force that developed the current guidelines governing the acquisition of antiquities by American museums. He’s won several national awards for research and service, and currently focuses his research on the iconography of the late prehistoric southeast, the role of heritage in the formation of individual and group identities and the intellectual history of the myth of the mound builder.
“This new role brings together my longstanding interest in the integration of archaeological research, heritage management, interpretation and public engagement with my leadership experience in these areas in both university-based and freestanding museum settings,” Barker said. “The mission of the Arkansas Archeological Survey embodies my interests and values, and I am excited and honored to have been chosen for this opportunity.”