The Public Face of Archaeology in Britain
Session Organisers: Jenny Moore and Jim Symonds
How public is archaeology? The general
public are hugely interested in archaeology as evidenced by the popularity
of Time Team, but whose responsibility is it to make archaeology accessible?
Even with this kind of media coverage, archaeology is still regarded as
elitist and exclusive. With proscriptive language and site hierarchy archaeology
is not truly being communicated to the public. Engaging public interest
in, and support for, archaeology could be critical to our future as a profession.
It seems however, that only a few enlightened individuals consider this
a necessity when conducting excavations, and even fewer when placed in
the position of communication, either verbal or written. We need to keep
in mind that archaeology is about building pictures of people in the past.
The people whose past it is should be made to feel it is their archaeology
and their past. The papers in this session will examine what we, as a profession,
are doing to communicate archaeology to the public, and how this may be
(Institute of Field Archaeologists,
University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AH)
Public Archaeology and the Public Interest
This paper looks at the revolution
in archaeology over the last 25 years. Campaigns of the 1970s for investigation
of archaeological sites being destroyed had broad-based public support,
and led to archaeologically sensitive government planning guidance and
increased funding from those perpetrating the destruction. But in the 1990s
we also have an archaeological industry which largely excludes the general
public whose interest provides the professionals' raison d'etre.
Against a shaky legislative framework
and in a culture of intense competition, the professionals' organisation
- the IFA - is codifying and promoting best practice. Late 20th-century
free market ideology dictates that the growing professional demand for
regulation can only be satisfied lawfully if public interest arguments
are won. Public interest? The paper will discuss how professional archaeologists
must re-involve the public in the process and products of discovery - to
protect the mechanisms for protecting our heritage, and to permit the evolution
of effective self-regulation. Commercial and public archaeology are not
incompatible: they are interdependent for their future well-being.
(CBA, Bows Morrell House, 111 Walmgate,
York YO1 2UA)
What the Papers Say
The CBA keeps oversight of archaeology's
press coverage throughout Britain. This lecture will examine ways in which
stories do, or do not acquire a public face, the face itself, and some
trends in press attitudes.
9 Nassington Road, London NW3 2TX)
Archaeology and the Middle Market
The market for archaeology needs to
be segmented and analysed like any other market. Attention today is focused
almost entirely at the lower end, the general public and schoolchildren.
This paper will analyse the reasons for this, and will suggest that we
should concentrate more on the middle market, where archaeology is losing
out badly to its competitors, the treasure hunters and the lunatic fringe.
(Dept of Adult Continuing Education,
University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ)
Lifelong Learning: Adult Education as Mediator
Between the Profession and the Public
Archaeology classes have always been
successful in liberal adult education, and spin-offs like local radio series
reach many more of the general public than actually enrol on classes, as
shown by some unusual work in the Southampton region. The formal structuring
of such courses into accredited awards has in many ways enhanced the nature
of this public participation: more people are willing to engage with new
and challenging ideas when they are presented as part of the attraction
of the discipline, by tutors encouraged to develop innovative approaches
to their interaction with this section of the public. Participants in turn
act as mediators of these ideas, reaching a wider public audience of family,
friends and colleagues. This paper shows ways in which new approaches in
archaeology, from post-modernism to an appreciation of the changing political
and social context of the discipline, can be disseminated to an eager public,
and how the presentation of archaeologists as lifelong learners themselves
can help modify the image of an elitist profession.
(Department. of Archaeology, University
of Newcastle, Newcastle NE1 7RU)
Lotteries, Devolution and Education
The relationship between archaeology
and formal education has never been a straightforward one. Professionals
and practitioners from both disciplines have commonly failed to communicate
with each other and, where they have collaborated, have frequently misunderstood
each others aims and objectives. Both disciplines have also been played
as political - and nationalistic - pawns. Partly as a result of the above,
the position of archaeology, and especially prehistory, within the various
school national curricula of counties in the UK is strikingly different.
At the same time, official encouragement for archaeologists to take education
seriously is sadly lacking, as is the scope for funding long term educational
work with respect to heritage and archaeology through the National Lottery.
Yet, Lottery guidelines are under review as are the national curricula.
Do we stand on the edge of a real opportunity?
(Plymouth City Council, Environment
and Planning, Civic Centre, Plymouth PL1 2EW)
The Past in Many Voices: Local Authority Archaeologists
as 'Resource Managers' or as Cultural Animators
The social constituency of archaeology
in Britain cannot be assumed to be other than multi-vocal, even in the
setting of shire counties. In cities, the range of voices is so great that
it is easy to form the view that we cannot hope to comprehend the diversity,
let alone respond to it. We have tended to adopt therefore the stance of
a quasi-scientific neutrality, as if our judgements about historic and
archaeological resources are value free. In attempting to break out from
this position, however, we face a number of dilemmas: not least among which
is the question of how we gauge the validity of competing claims.
In this brief contribution, I shall
look at this question in reference to some specific instances in the city
of Plymouth, not all of whose 250,000 inhabitants are aware that an archaeological
service they pay for exists. This is told from the perspective of 'Plymouth's
archaeology officer'. The instances are themselves diverse, including national
myths, local traditions and the burgeoning impact of the Heritage Lottery