One of my forthcoming book projects is the proceedings of the 3rd University of Chester Archaeology Student Conference – Digging into the Dark Ages. This free day conference was held at the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, in December 2017. The publication will be co-edited with Pauline Clarke and it will explore a diverse range of themes and case studies in the public archaeology of the Early Middle Ages. I hope to share more about the book’s content very shortly, but the provisional title of the book, due for publication with Archaeopress, is:
Digging into the Dark Ages: Early Medieval Public Archaeology
In this post, we wish to share one exciting development regarding the character of some of the contributions. This is because, for the first time, we have conducted a series of interviews in person and via Skype, edited them, shared with the interviewee to confirmations, revisions and added citations, and thus creating distinctive publications reflecting on the public archaeology of the Early Middle Ages.
Why interviews? Well, we identified areas where there were gaps in coverage within the volume, and individuals who did not have time to contribute academically composed research articles, but who are making distinctive contributions to the public understanding of the Early Middle Ages and its connection to other periods and connecting themes. We also identified topics that might be better suited to interviews: addressing topical and controversial themes and new initiatives in public engagement. So we approached a range of individuals at the vanguard of new strategies and thinking in public archaeology and the Early Middle Ages and for those who agreed we conduct interviews.
We feel this is something quite new for early medieval archaeology, since when interviews tend to be deployed in archaeological publications, it tends to be with senior academics reflecting on their career and times in archaeological fieldwork, lab work and/or scholarly debate. Instead, we‘re conducting 5 interviews with 6 people, i.e. one is a joint interview, reflecting on the potentials and challenges of a public archaeology of the Early Middle Ages in the late 2010s and into the future, and focusing on what might be described as ‘younger’ career scholars. The forward-thinking character of the interviewees is deliberate and a key dimension of what these pieces are intended to achieve, especially in a book stemming from a student conference intended to debate new perspectives and approaches.
We’ve edited two of these already and they are looking promising as original contributions to knowledge in a book that is the first-ever edited collection dedicated to considering early medieval archaeology’s politics, public engagements and popular culture. Those interviewed conducted so far are:
- Dr Jackson Crawford concerning his popular YouTube channel exploring Norse literature and language, incorporating discussions of archaeology and landscape;
- Dr Catrine Jarman, regarding her research on the ‘Great Heathen Army’ and her media engagements concerning the archaeology of Repton;
- Dr Adrián Maldonado, about the politics and popular culture of early medieval archaeology in both global and northern British/Scottish contexts;
- Adam Parsons and Stuart Strong (pictured above) about their experimental archaeology and public outreach through living history. I interviewed them in person at the Heysham Viking Festival: this took up a large part of my Saturday there!
My final interviewee will be Dr Penelope Foreman, Chief Memory Maker, Storyteller and Community Archaeologist with Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, regarding her role in fostering public engagement with the early medieval archaeology of the Anglo-Welsh borderlands. I had hoped to interview her at the Living History Festival at the Offa’s Dyke Centre last month, but personal commitments on my part got in the way of that plan.
So in addition to a range of original studies by students, heritage professionals and academics, the forthcoming book – Digging into the Dark Ages: Early Medieval Public Archaeology – will have a distinctive and illuminating series of interviews that touch on issues and debates that, to my knowledge, have never before been aired in print for the study of the Early Middle Ages in contemporary society.