Introducing the world’s first English-language archaeology TV shows

My research on the first-ever English archaeology TV shows (aired in 1937) has been published!

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I’m so pleased to announce that, more than seven years after discovering the records hidden deep inside the BBC’s archives, my research on the first-ever English-language archaeology TV shows (aired in 1937) has been published (free, pre-print version here)!

  • Did you know that these shows were effectively 100% produced and starred in by key female archaeologists and TV producers of the time?
  • Did you know that archaeology was one of the first subjects to air on television very shortly after the British TV service launched (November 1936)?
  • Did you know that, at the time, archaeology was considered an experimental science, presented alongside other emerging and, in some cases, now discredited  empirical research areas like palm-reading? (!)

No filmic records survive of these shows (because of the live-to-air nature of TV in the early days), and after weeks of searching through the BBC’s paper archives, I am fairly confident that no scripts survive either. What we do have access to are correspondences, the most fascinating of which include exchanges between producer Mary Adams and Mortimer Wheeler, and Wheeler and David Attenborough (then working behind the scenes in his early professional role for the BBC):

I don’t know whether you have seen a Television screen, but it is obvious that archaeological material has great possibilities for us. I would very much like to interest you in our work here, and to discuss with you what might be done (Adams to Wheeler, 13 May 1927, BBC WAC, TVART1, Wheeler Personal File).

I feel sure you will understand that having been lured into this business by the wiles of Mary Adams (bless her),* I was amused to have some small share in it during the formative stage. But going on with it indefinitely now that it seems to be more or less established is another matter (Wheeler to Attenborough, 8 Sep 1953, BBC WAC, TVART1, Wheeler Personal File).

*Note that, based on my familiarity with the subject matter & archives, feel this reference to Mary could be interpreted as condescendingly gendered. 

As well, we have access to records of anticipated camera angles and filmic sequences for some of the shows (see here to access imagery).

There is so much fascinating insight here into the early days of both archaeology and TV, including the fact that they each arguably depend on one another to varying degrees to emerge and establish themselves as (public) services.

I’ve copied the abstract from my article below:

Perry 2017
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14655187.2017.1283932

You can access a pre-print PDF copy of the article here:

Perry2017_Preprint

Or don’t hesitate to email me and I’ll send you the final print version.

I’m indebted to many people for supporting me in this research, which was conducted as part of my PhD and generously funded by a Doctoral Fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2007 2010) and an Overseas Research Student Award from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (2007 2010). Thanks especially to Jamie Larkin for his editorial wisdom and Pamela Jane Smith for being endlessly supportive and ever-inspiring.

 

 

Join us next week at TAG, Southampton!

As a follow up to my previous post, James and I are very excited to announce the line-up for our digiTAG2 conference session on Archaeological Storytelling and the Digital Turn, scheduled from 9:00-17:00 GMT next Tuesday, 20 December, in Southampton, Avenue Campus, Lecture Theatre B.

We were awed by the range and originality of the proposals that we received. It was inspiring for us to review the many and varied abstracts, and I do hope that you’ll join us for what we think will be a truly unique session, including performance pieces, game play, an archaeological mystery – and more!

We are also pleased to say that we will be hosting a notably broad group of presenters in terms of gender, career stage, geographic specialism, professional specialism, and theme/audience/medium of presentation.

Basic details on the presenters and presenting times are listed below. Full abstracts can be reviewed here on the TAG webpages.

Please share in our (digitally-relevant) stories, attend in person, or follow along on Twitter at #digiTAG2 on Tuesday the 20th of December. Can’t wait!


SESSION 4. digiTAG 2: Archaeological Storytelling and the ‘Digital Turn’ (Tuesday, 20th Dec., Lecture Theatre B)

James Taylor and Sara Perry, University of York

09:00 – 09:10 .. Introduction

09:10 – 09:35 .. Generative junk mail: Geo-narrating Sir Charles Wheatstone, Cassie Newland, King’s College London

09:35 – 10:00 .. “Once, or twice, upon a time”. Ripping Yarns from the tablet’s edge, Keith May, Historic England

10.00 – 10.25.. Building Museum Narratives through Active Performance with Digital Replicas of Objects, Paola Di Giuseppantonio Di Franco, University of Cambridge

10.25 – 10.50.. Archaeological Storytelling with LEGO StoryStarter: Grand Designs in Ancient Greece, Matthew Fitzjohn; and Peta Bulmer, University of Liverpool

10.50 – 11:10.. Coffee Break

11.10 – 11.35.. Enriching The List, Martin Newman, Historic England

11.35 – 12:00.. Integrating Narratives: Creating Stories of Archaeology in a Local Language, Tomomi Fushiya, Leiden University, Netherlands

12.00 – 12.25.. The Playful Past: Storytelling Through Videogame Design and Development, Tara Copplestone, University of York and Aarhus University, Denmark

12.25 – 12.55.. Discussion

12.55 – 13.40     Lunch Break

13.40 – 14.05.. Digital Data Funerals, Audrey Samson, University of the West of England

14.05 – 14.30.. Industrial Memory and Memorialisation through Digitisation, Caradoc Peters, University of Plymouth and Adam Spring, Duke University, USA

14.30 – 14.55.. Ghosts in the Machines, Spirits in the Material World: An Archaeological Mystery, Jeremy Huggett, University of Glasgow

14.55 – 15.20.. Digital Escapism. How objects become deprived of matter, Monika Stobiecka, University of Warsaw, Poland

15.20 – 15.45.. Show, don’t tell:  Using digital techniques to visually record and present sites as a means to tackle complexity, Katie Campbell, University of Oxford

15.45 – 16.05.. Tea Break

16.05 – 16.30.. Drawing out the data: information graphics and the analysis of multivalent data, Megan von Ackermann, University of York

16.30 – 16.55.. Something Old…. Something New, Helen Marton, Falmouth University

16.55 – 17.20.. Stonehenge and other stories, Paul Backhouse, Historic England

17.20 – 17.50     Discussion


 

digiTAG 2: Archaeological Storytelling and the ‘Digital Turn’ – CFP

 

digitagii
Join us in December 2016 at the TAG conference in Southampton (19-21 Dec). Please email James (james.s.taylor@york.ac.uk) with questions & proposals!

I’m so pleased to announce that Dr James Taylor and myself will be hosting a follow-up to our successful first digiTAG (digital Theoretical Archaeology Group) event held in Oslo in the springtime. Sponsored by both TAG and the CAA (Computing Applications in Archaeology), digiTAG II will feature at the TAG UK conference in Southampton, 19-21 December, 2016.

Our aim through the digiTAG series is to deepen our critical engagements w digital media and digital methods in archaeology and heritage. digiTAG II seeks to focus our thinking specifically on digital tools as they are enrolled in creating stories about the past. To this end, we are looking for contributors to talk about, experiment with, involve or otherwise immerse us in their archaeological/heritage storytelling work.

Such storytelling work may entail innovating with:

  • lab or excavation reports
  • recording sheets
  • maps, plans, section views, sketches, illustrations, and other forms of on-site visual recording
  • collections and databases
  • data stories or data ethnographies
  • digital data capture (survey, photogrammetry, laser scanning, remote sensing, etc.)
  • artefact or museums catalogues
  • digital media forms (VR, AR, videogames, webpages, apps, etc.)
  • books or manuscripts
  • articles, zines, comics, news reports, art pieces
  • audioguides, podcasts, music or sound installations
  • maps, trails, panels, labels, guidebooks, brochures, and other forms of interpretation & interpretative infrastructure
  • touch maps, handling materials/collections, tactile writing systems, 3d prints, models & more!

We welcome both traditional conference papers, as well as more experimental forms of (analogue or digital) argumentation, narrativising and delivery of your digiTAG II presentation. Please submit your abstracts (up to 250 words) to james.s.taylor@york.ac.uk by 15 November.

We hope to hear from you & don’t hesitate to contact us with questions. The full CFP is copied below:

TAG and the CAA present…

digiTAG 2: Archaeological Storytelling and the ‘Digital Turn’

Session organisers:

Dr. James Taylor (University of York) – primary correspondant.

james.s.taylor@york.ac.uk

Dr. Sara Perry (University of York)

sara.perry@york.ac.uk

Abstract:

In April of 2016 the Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG) teamed up with the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) conference to run a successful Digital TAG (digiTAG) session in Oslo, Norway. This session sought to question, challenge, appraise and reconceive the epistemological and research-oriented implications of the digital turn in archaeology, including its larger social, political and economic consequences.

That event, building on a long history of engagement with digital processes and digital media at both the TAG and CAA conferences, brought together 15 practitioners from around the world working in all domains of archaeology–from the lab to the field, from the museum to the classroom. Here they situated their (and others’) use of digital technologies within wider theoretical contexts, and with critical self-awareness, thereby opening up a space for rigorous evaluations of impact and reflections on overall disciplinary change. digiTAG 2 now aims to build upon the success of the first digiTAG, extending critical conversation about the discipline’s digital engagements at a finer-grained level in concert with a diverse audience of theoretical archaeologists.

However, digiTAG 2 seeks to narrow our discussion, in specific, on the concept of digital storytelling and the ramifications of the digital turn on larger interpretations of the past. Given the frequency and intensity with which digital media are now enrolled to structure, articulate, visualise and circulate information for the production of archaeological narratives, we invite participants to present papers that critically consider the impact of the digital turn upon archaeological interpretation and archaeology’s many stories.

Whether you direct your digital engagements at professional, academic or non-specialist audiences – whether you deploy digital tools for data collection, data analysis, synthesis, and dissemination or beyond – we ask, how are your stories affected? Does the digital enable new and different narratives? Does it extend or narrow audience engagement? When does it harm or hinder, complicate or obfuscate? And when – and for whom – does it create richer, more meaningful storytelling about the past?

To explore these questions, we encourage both traditional conference papers, as well as more experimental forms of (analogue or digital) argumentation, narrativising and delivery of your talk. Ultimately, digiTAG 2 aims to delve into the critical implications of archaeologists’ use of digital technologies on processes of knowledge creation.

Submit titles & abstracts (up to 250 words) to james.s.taylor@york.ac.uk by 15 November 2016.