Çatalhöyük 2011 and so much more

Prepping materials for the Çatalhöyük Visitors' Centre, August 2011

Well, it seems about time for an update, as otherwise my blog will soon be on the verge of obsolescence!  We returned from c. 3 weeks of fieldwork at Çatalhöyük at the end of August—this time with a team of four second-year undergraduate students from Southampton.  Our work at Çatal continues to be broad-based in nature, ranging from creation of public presentations to assessment of the conceptual rigour of digital imagery.  We are committed to affordable, locally-sourced, community-led and substantively-evaluated outputs—an approach which demands significant coordination and communication time on site and in the local villages and cities.

I have primary responsibility for the Visitors’ Centre, where we’re slowly redesigning and evaluating responses to the exhibition space.  Our methodology here privileges small-scale, carefully-researched, locally-sourced and changeable design strategies and displays above permanent, outsourced, large-scale expositions.  In proceeding as such, we are able to constantly experiment with exhibitionary styles, content and layout without fear of concretising the displays.  What is critical about our approach in the Visitors’ Centre is that each year when we return to Çatalhöyük, we subject our previous year’s outputs to evaluation via interviews with staff and visitors.  The temporary nature of our displays enables us to disassemble and reassemble them in line with this evaluation.  Not only does such a strategy allow us to be true to the ever-changing nature of the archaeological excavation itself—updating and revising the materials as new finds and ideas are processed—but it also provides the ideal pedagogical environment, as students have the opportunity to plan and implement temporary exhibits that are later critically assessed by members of the academic and non-academic community.  More so, it offers a chance to challenge and rethink museological practice itself.

I’ll post a link to our 2011 project report when it’s published, so that you can read in much greater detail about all the different angles to the work that we’ve been pursuing.  Our reports from 2010 and 2009 are available here.

Some other random news…

  • The lecture that Matthew Johnson and I gave at the Society of Antiquaries of London in June on the Alan Sorrell project was mentioned, in passing, in the Times Higher Education journal.  The topic of that article—effectively intellectual property rights—is a poignant one that admittedly did not feature very prominently in our talk, but has had a lot of coverage in various forums and under various guises recently, for instance as regards open access and publishing in academia.
  • I’ve recently been elected to the board of the Society for Visual Anthropology—a three-year term starting at the close of the AAA meetings in Montreal in November.  I’ll post on this subject again in the upcoming weeks, as Jonathan Marion and I are chairing our fifth annual Visual Ethics Roundtable at these meetings, and we have an absolutely wonderful line-up of speakers coming from around North America to participate in the discussions.
  • Next week I’m heading up to York for my first full introduction to the archaeology staff.  I’ll be planning my teaching schedule for 2012, although I already know I’ll be lecturing during the spring term on the MA in Cultural Heritage Management.  My York webpages are under development too—you can link to them here if you want!
  • I’ve been doing a lot – a LOT – of digital humanities research and exhibition work lately, and we’re launching much of that work in the next month… this will be the subject of my next post, I think…  In the meantime, you can browse the international Heritage Portal web feature on the Portus Project, whose content has been developed by a team of us from Southampton and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

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