How should communities be engaged with archaeological research and how are new projects targeting distinctive groups and deploying innovative methods and media? In particular, how are art/archaeological interactions key to public archaeology today? Addressing these timely questions, we proudly present the brand-new book: Public Archaeology: Arts of Engagement which appears in the fabulous Archaeopress Access Archaeology series.
The multi-faceted field of ‘public archaeology’ is now a well-established dimension of archaeological research. Yet there remain surprisingly few edited collections exploring the range of components of this field. Building on its predecessors, including the 2015 Archaeology for All: Community Archaeology in the Early 21st Century edited by Mike Nevell and Norman Redhead, and Gabriel Moshenska’s 2017 Key Concepts in Public Archaeology this new edited collection helps to extend and expand critical discussions. Certainly, there are none that I know of which include undergraduate student work so prominently. The new book provides an outlet for a original and distinctive mix of fresh perspectives and approaches, addressing specifically art/archaeological intersections in public archaeology’s theory and practice. Public Archaeology: Arts of Engagement focuses on UK perspectives and practices in public archaeology, although we feel many of the themes addressed are of global significance.
How did it come about?
Following the 2nd University of Chester Archaeology Student Conference, 5 April 2017, Dr Caroline Pudney and I teamed up with former student Afnan Ezzedin to take the research presented forward to publication. We have crafted a proceedings which combines distinctive and select contributions from (undergraduate and Masters) archaeology students together with a range of original investigations and evaluations from academics and heritage practitioners.
This is part of a series of edited collections stemming from the Grosvenor Museum student conferences. The first – The Public Archaeology of Death – was out in January 2019 with Equinox Press. The third – Digging into the Dark Ages: Early Medieval Public Archaeologies – will be published in early 2020 with Archaeopress. The fourth is in production: The Public Archaeology of Frontiers and Borderlands.
There are 22 contributions all told by 26 authors; many chapters are supported by colour illustrations.
Sara Perry writes an insightful and personal Foreword, using her own experiences as a means on reflecting about how we write critical public archaeologies which take our practices in new directions. Following this, there are two chapters by me. The first is an introduction which surveys pertinent themes and issues in public archaeology and art/archaeology interactions in particular, and the second, written to showcase the student presentations incorporated into the book as well as those that were not, reviews the conference and the development of the book.
The main body of the book is split into 3 sections. ‘The Art of Engagement: Strategies and Debates in Public Archaeology’ contains 8 chapters exploring different ways in which strategies are being deployed in public engagement and how we evaluate our practices. For example, I have co-authored a chapter in here which draws on the conference paper and essay by Rachel Alexander; we evaluate the much-lauded Operation Nightingale’s dialogues with early medieval warriors. Other former Chester students tackle the relationship between homelessness and archaeology, the nature of community archaeology, and how we evaluate community archaeology projects.
The second section – ‘Arts in Public Archaeology: Digital and Visual Media’, incorporates 6 chapters, each exploring different means of public engagement and evaluating their potential and challenges. My chapter in this section, for example, critically reviews my Archaeodeath blog from its inception in 2013 to the end of 2018 while other chapters consider the merits and challenges of vlogging, podcasting, and community projects deploying visual media and recording ancient art and graffiti.
The third and final section – ‘Art as Public Archaeology’ – has 4 chapters, considering different visual media as subject and strategy for public and community projects and how children and adults can be engaged in archaeology through artistic practices.
The Afterword by Dr Seren Griffiths identifies that all archaeology should have a ‘public’ dimension, and that creativity and playfulness must be key ingredients of good public archaeology.
Tell your friends, colleagues and libraries…
Afnan, Caroline and I hope you enjoy the book and appreciate its availability via open access as well as to acquire in print. You can buy it as a hard copy and download it as a pdf from the Archaeopress website here.
Libraries at least should definitely have physical copies to complement the online ones I think! Also, in case you weren’t sure, archaeology books as Christmas presents are definitely a thing!
I duly acknowledge the hard work of the students and colleagues in facilitating the conference. I also recognise the help and camaraderie of my co-editors Caroline and Afnan, the enthusiasm and contributions of the authors, the generous guidance of so many of my fellow archaeologists, the critical insights of the peer-reviewers, and the steadfast support of Archaeopress. Together this team has shown commitment in creating a high-quality peer-reviewed academic publication with no funding and sparse other support. I’m therefore very proud that these conferences and their publications are recognised as a positive thing: it was great to receive the 2019 Educate North Teaching Excellence Award as a result.
The book is dedicated to the memory of Dr Peter Boughton FSA, Keeper of Art for West Cheshire Museums who had worked hard to facilitate the conferences taking place at Grosvenor Museum as public free day conferences in the heart of the city of Chester.