Public Archaeology: Arts of Engagement

Professor Howard Williams, University of Chester, introduces his co-edited volume stemming from the 2nd University of Chester Archaeology Student Conference, April 2017.

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?

9781789693737We proudly present the brand-new book: Public Archaeology: Arts of Engagement, appearing in the fabulous Archaeopress Access Archaeology series.

There remain surprisingly few edited collections in the field of public archaeology. Building on recent work, including the edited collection from 2015 Archaeology for All:  Community Archaeology in the Early 21st Century edited by Mike Nevell and Norman Redhead, and Gabriel Moshenska’s edited collection: Key Concepts in Public Archaeology, this new book helps to extend and expand critical discussions. It provides an outlet for an original and distinctive mix of fresh perspectives and approaches, specifically addressing art/archaeological intersections in public archaeology’s theory and practice. Our book 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?

poster2Following 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.

For me, this has taken a huge amount of time, energy and personal sacrifices to get this done over the last 31 months or so. I’d also like to point out that this is part of a series of edited collections stemming from the Grosvenor Museum student conferences. I’ve now produced 2 of the 5 student conference volumes I’ve committed myself to. The first – The Public Archaeology of Death was out in January 2019. The third – Digging into the Dark Ages: Early Medieval Public Archaeologies – will be out in early 2020. The fourth is in production: The Public Archaeology of Frontiers and Borderlands.

What’s inside?

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.

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.

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.

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. The book is available now via the Archaeopress website, available to buy as a hard copy or download as a pdf free of charge.

Click here for a flyer offering 20% off a printed copy.

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!

Acknowledgements

educate-north-awards-2019-winner-badgeI 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.

Header photo: The Heritage Graffiti Project during creation. Photograph: Ryan Eddleston.

Sincerest thanks to Howard for providing this article for the Archaeopress Blog. Public Archaeology: Arts of Engagement is available now in print (£58) or as a free pdf download.

20191031_150717
A selection of Access Archaeology titles published since 2015.

Learn more about Archaeopress Access Archaeology in our recent article celebrating 100 titles in the range.

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