Critical public archaeologies

New open access publication on public archaeology and the arts of engagement…

PublicArchaeology

Just published! Download your own copy or purchase a hard copy from the Archaeopress shop (http://www.archaeopress.com/)

If you haven’t yet seen it, the new edited volume by Howard Williams, Caroline Pudney and Afnan Ezzeldin on Public Archaeology: Arts of Engagement has just been published open access by Archaeopress. You can download the full book, or purchase a copy (with a 20% discount).

I was honoured to be asked to write the foreword for this impressive collection, which I believe is truly unique in terms of the range of contributors and the constructively critical nature of all of their contributions. Howard provides a nice overview of the volume on his blog, offering more context on how the volume differs in exciting ways from others on the same subject matter.

For my part, the invitation to contribute gave me the opportunity to reflect on an event that has haunted me for the past two years. Howard, Caroline and Afnan were wonderfully supportive in enabling me to link the key insights from the various chapters in this volume to a very personal and embarrassing public experience that shaped me profoundly as a practitioner. It was not the first time that a session that I’ve led has gone unexpectedly off course, but it was unique in the humiliation that I was subjected to, and the lack of empathy displayed by senior members of the audience. That experience captured within it many of my concerns about how we engage in critical public archaeology and what expectations we do and do not have for studying the consequences of our public/community practices.

A copy of my foreword can be downloaded here, and it’s allowed me to come to terms with the event through engaging with the brilliant contributions to the edited volume. I was also able to weave in reference to some of the other key professionals whose work resonates very deeply with me (and with the ideas and critiques of the authors in Public Archaeology: Arts of Engagement). These inspiring professionals include Katherine Cook, Laura Heath-Stout, Kate Ellenberger and Lorna Richardson, Harald Fredheim, Rachael Kiddey and Sarah May, among others.

I hope you might take the time to read the volume overall, not least because it blends a range of different communication styles with insights from junior through to senior archaeologists and heritage practitioners. It’s a model for future publications of this sort and it offers much motivation for future critical community and public archaeologies.

A Contemporary Context? Recording Sheets for the Sublime and Ungrateful

Join Colleen Morgan and me for this exploratory workshop on archaeological recording at CHATmethod, 1 November

Advert for @clmorgan and @archaeologistsp workshop on contemporary recording practices, including name and details of the event, and image of Colleen in a generic excavation unit recording indiscernible features of the unit.
We are hosting a creative workshop on context sheets, 1 November 2019 at 14:00, Mortimer Wheeler House, London. Join us!

What does it look like to rethink your archaeological records for contemporary sites, audiences, needs?

The amazing Colleen Morgan and I have finally found time to coordinate an event that we’ve been discussing for a while now – namely a mischievous group effort to critically reflect on and (re)design archaeological and heritage recording sheets. These primary data records are fundamental to our professional practices, but they may actually be problematic – even dangerous – for what we wish to achieve as contemporary practitioners, as carers for the past, and as citizens of the world.

Come join us to experiment with context sheets next month at the CHATmethod conference, hosted by my soon-to-be new employer, Museum of London Archaeology! Register for the conference via its Eventbrite page, and please make sure to then book onto our workshop.

Details of our session are pasted below and are available via an accessible Google Doc. Please don’t hesitate to contact Colleen or myself with questions.

A Contemporary Context? Recording Sheets for the Sublime and Ungrateful

Colleen Morgan, University of York, @clmorgan
Sara Perry, MOLA, @archaeologistsp

Join us for this playful workshop on 1 November 2019 from 14:00-16:30 at Mortimer Wheeler House, London

The archaeological context sheet has been fashioned and refashioned extensively since its adoption. These context sheets are embedded within disciplinary lineages and reflect the questions and assumptions of archaeological knowledge making, both on the intimate and global scale. In this workshop we use the context sheet as a platform for reflection and play, with a particular intention to query its utility in recording contemporary archaeological contexts.

For this workshop we envision a hands-on, creative, trouble-making session, including constructive critique and display of our various takes on the contemporary context sheet. Join us to experiment with ruining and re/designing one of archaeologists’ most ubiquitous inscription devices.

Are you using immersive technologies in archaeology or heritage education (formal and informal)?

Join us in Oxford, April 2020, at the CAA conference to critically discuss your experiences & test some examples…

iN Deep - CAA Conference CFPElaine Sullivan (University of California, Santa Cruz), Paola Derudas (Lund University) and I are excited to announce the call for contributions to a session that we will host at the upcoming Computing Applications in Archaeology conference in Oxford, UK, 14-17 April 2020.

We seek individuals who have been using immersive technologies – virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality or other XR methods – in their archaeology/heritage classrooms or informal educational settings. Have you been applying these technologies for formal or informal pedagogical purposes and evaluating their effects? If so, this session is for you!

We are specifically looking for critical discussion of the outcomes of using such tools for teaching and learning. We are interested in how the evaluations that you’ve done can help to inform future design, development and curation of immersive teaching & learning aids. We also hope to enable conference attendees to actually try out these technologies during the session so that everyone can contribute to a dialogue about how we critically analyse and evolve them.

A full description of our session is below. Deadline for applications is 31 October, and instructions on how to submit an abstract are available on the CAA Conference webpages.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have questions! And hope to see you there.

S26.  iN Deep: Cultural Presence in Immersive Educational Experiences (Other)

Convenors:

Elaine A. Sullivan, University of California Santa Cruz
Sara Perry, University of York
Paola Derudas, Lunds Universitet

Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (XR) technologies are increasingly incorporated into university classrooms and public education in the GLAM sector (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums). The potential to use these technologies to engage students and the public with archaeological knowledge (such as site reconstructions, artefacts, or re-imagining the activities of past peoples) is exciting, but these forms of representation, including the use of individual headsets, tablets, and personal mobile phones, come with particular challenges. In his book Critical Gaming (2015), Eric Champion argued that virtual realities should express ‘cultural presence,’ the meaning and significance of a time, place, or object to people of the past. Hyper-reality, photogrammetry, and ever-increasing levels of ‘accuracy’ in 3D models do not inherently convey aspects of cultural significance and meaning, and many VR/AR/XR experiences fall dramatically short of the goal of expressing the importance of past places and things to their original communities. Emphasis on technological and (especially) hardware innovation often deflects attention from critically engaging with questions of meaning-making.

This panel asks those creating or intensely using Archaeology VR/AR/XR to focus NOT on software, hardware, or the latest technical innovations, but on how we as archaeologists can better designcreate, or curate experiences that inspire and educate students and the public on the cultural importance of archaeological spaces, objects or themes. What are successful techniques to aid a visitor to better understand the original context of an object now placed in a (often far off) museum or gallery? How can university instructors incorporate the (problematically individual) headset or mobile experiences into pedagogy to provide meaningful and active student learning? How can complex data be usefully layered or curated so that multiple types of museum visitors or classes could find it informative and emotionally resonant? How can we turn these increasingly popular technologies into serious spaces of cultural learning and curiosity, moving beyond the initial ‘wow’ factor?

Format

Instead of traditional 20 minute talks, we request that participants present 8-10 minutes in depth on one VR/AR/XR experience they have designed and/or utilized in a university or GLAM setting (not a general review of multiple types of work). We ask participants to present and explain aspects of design and interaction and their intent in that experience; or, if the content was not designed by the presenter, how content was incorporated, curated, or enhanced for the classroom or GLAM experience. Specifically, we ask presenters to think thoughtfully and critically about how we might collectively learn to use these technologies in more informed ways, including: What types of interactions with students or the public have shown promise, and how might we build on those successes? What practices have not worked, and how might we learn from our failures? What particular aspects of archaeological and cultural heritage knowledge are best emphasized in the VR/AR/XR experience? What is key to re-using content created by others, including content created by non-archaeologists?

The session will be divided into four sections:

  • 1st group of presentations, ~five presenters (10 minutes per presentation)
  • a ~30 minute ‘hands-on’ period** where participants and the audience will be able to engage/interact directly with the presented content from both presentation groups
  • 2nd group of presentations, ~five presenters (10 minutes per presentation)
  • concluded by a ~30-minute Q&A session for the full group of presenters and audience

We hope this format will allow the audience to engage directly with the content before opening up the session for questions and comments. The goal is to turn this session into a workshop that helps all present work more critically with VR/AR/XR content and improve how we communicate scholarly information at the university and GLAM setting.

**We therefore ask participants to commit to bringing their discussed content uploaded or downloadable in some format that can be shared directly with others: including (but not limited to) VR headsets, Google cardboard, AR apps pre-installed on tablets or smart phones, etc.

References

Champion, E. (2015). Critical Gaming: Interactive History and Virtual Heritage. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.