How can archaeologists contribute to understandings of mortality past and present in the Digital Age? How do we both teach and research death via digital environments and engage increasingly diverse audiences with mortuary archaeology?

This is a Call for Papers for expert guest presenters from the heritage and archaeology sectors, including mortuary archaeology, bioarchaeology and death studies, to contribute to a distinctive public archaeology conference taking place as a digital event without need for registration on Thursday 28 January 2021. The event will be run by final-year Archaeology undergraduate students at the University of Chester.

Background

Over the last 5 years, University of Chester Archaeology Student Conferences have simultaneously operated as: (i) key ingredients of the teaching and learning for level 6 (final-year) Archaeology module HI6001 Archaeology and Contemporary Society; (ii) public outreach events in liaison between the Department of History and Archaeology (University of Chester) and the Grosvenor Museum, Chester; and (iii) venues for presenting new research on a key original theme relating to public archaeology.

Previous events have been successful in all these regards, containing a mixture of keynote guest speakers and student presentations delivered via a range of formats. Subsequently, three of the four were recorded professionally and distributed via the University of Chester’s Vevo account. To date, the first 3 conferences have culminated in academic books, co-edited with students and involving student contributions alongside those by heritage professionals and academics:

  • The Public Archaeology of Death (Williams, Wills-Eve and Osborne (eds) 2019, Sheffield: Equinox)
  • Public Archaeology: Arts of Engagement (Williams, Pudney and Ezzeldin (eds) 2019, Oxford: Archaeopress);
  • Digging into the Dark Ages: Early Medieval Public Archaeologies (Williams and Clarke 2020)

The 4th conference is due for publication in December 2020 and the 5th volume, which involved both a day conference and a Twitter conference is currently in preparation for planned publication in 2021:

  • The Public Archaeology of Frontiers and Borderlands (Clarke, Gleave and Williams (eds) 2020, Oxford: Archaeopress);
  • The Public Archaeology of Treasure (Williams and Reavill (eds) 2021)

The Digital Conference

The 6th UoC conference is planned for late January 2021 and is provisionally titled: DigiDeath: Public Archaeologies of Digital Mortality. Students will be tasked to organise the event online via Twitter and supported by a WordPress website with supporting resources and documents. The live event will take place via Microsoft Teams with anyone able to watch and ask anonymous questions of the presenters. This live event will be recorded and distributed via the University of Chester’s Vevo and YouTube channels.

The students will be asked to select ONE theme in digital public mortuary archaeology to present upon from the following list:

Mortuary heritage: digital ethics, education & engagement

  1. Decolonisation and repatriation
  2. Osteological and artefact collections
  3. Museum displays
  4. Mortuary heritage sites and landscapes
  5. Dark heritage and conflict archaeology
  6. Public memorials
  7. Cemeteries
  8. Churches, chapels and their burial grounds

Practising digital public mortuary archaeology

  1. Academic conferences and public events
  2. Publishing mortuary archaeology
  3. Social media vlogging – YouTube and TikTok
  4. Social media – blogging and microblogging
  5. News media
  6. Community archaeology
  7. Commercial/develop-led fieldwork
  8. Research fieldwork

Critiquing mortuary archaeology in popular culture

  1. Artistic reconstructions
  2. Literary fiction
  3. Filmic fictional representations
  4. Historic dramas
  5. Documentaries
  6. Video games

Researching digital mortalities

  1. Mortuary archaeologists’ avatars and personas
  2. Dealing with memory and ancestry
  3. Dealing with dying and bereavement
  4. Politics, protest and the archaeological dead
  5. Citizen science and mortuary archaeology
  6. Tackling pseudoarchaeology
  7. Metal-detecting and looting
  8. Trafficking antiquities and human remains

In addition to the student’s presentations, I’m looking for proposals from experts in the field who are willing to contribute perspectives on the critical challenges and opportunities for digital public mortuary archaeology today via (a) blog-posts or (b) Twitter presentations to be shared following the live talks on the day.

I’m also looking for 4 keynote speakers for the day itself in joining us on Microsoft Teams for a talk of c. 30 minutes plus Q&A. These will be recorded, edited and distributed via the University of Chester’s Vevo and YouTube channels together with the student presentations.

Together, we hope the talks, blog-posts and Twitter presentations can be archived as a hub of resources for the students and for all researchers on the theme of ‘digital public mortuary archaeology’. Furthermore, if the event is as successful as the previous ones, the aim is move forward to create a more formal publication from the proceedings integrating expert contributions with those of those students willing to participate and work further on their presentations with editorial and expert guidance.

If you are interested in participating or contributing, please email me at: howard.williams@chester.ac.uk.

Deadline: 1st November 2020