InHerit began as the Maya Area Cultural Heritage Initiative (MACHI), an archaeological outreach project by Dr. Patricia A. McAnany at Boston University. Working as an archaeologist in the Maya region of southern Mexico and Central America for twenty years, Dr. McAnany witnessed the destruction of ancient Mayan places and the loss of living Maya heritage. It was clear that the cycle of poverty and discrimination facing Maya people kept their voices from being heard. But as a scholar and a visitor to the region, she was not sure how to approach the problem.
Then one day, a philanthropic foundation rang McAnany with a call of duty. Could she build a team to confront the rapid destruction of Maya heritage? The offer resonated with McAnany but she wasn’t exactly sure what her team could actually do to make a positive impact. More and better economic opportunities would help, but as archaeologists, initiating development projects was beyond our abilities. Increasing law enforcement and regulation of heritage places would help, but it also had unsavory elements. But education about the problem and impact of heritage destruction, education that expanded the knowledge of local communities and provided them with the capacity to join a global dialogue about heritage, this we knew we could do!
MACHI began working with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to build collaborative education and conservation programs in 2007. Beginning in late 2008, MACHI transferred to the Research Labs of Archaeology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where McAnany took the position of Kenan Eminent Professor of Anthropology. Shoshaunna Parks, McAnany’s Ph.D. student at Boston University and co-conspirator since MACHI’s inception, joined UNC-Chapel Hill as an adjunct assistant professor and Co-Director of MACHI in January 2009.
From 2007 to 2010, MACHI created several educational programs reaching thousands of children, youth and adults in four countries. Some of our most successful programs have rolled over to continue under the larger umbrella of InHerit, which we envision as a pan-American suite of collaborative programs. Thanks to continued generous support, we established a nonprofit arm (The Alliance for Heritage Conservation) that allows us to expand the support base for our programs and research into issues of cultural heritage.