Society of Antiquaries lecture, Thursday

Alan Sorrell Project blog, screenshot by me

Thursday (9 June) marks the culmination of our pilot project on the Alan Sorrell archive, as Prof Matthew Johnson and I present our findings to the fellows of the Society of Antiquaries of London during their regular Thursday night meeting.  I have to admit that I’m anxious about this event especially because of the nature of the Society, with its incredibly rich historical and intellectual legacy.  If you’re keen to know more about the institution, you can browse their website here, or look at Joan Evans’ (1956) impressive tome on its history, or the more recent edited volume Visions of Antiquity (2007), or many other articles published in, for instance, the Society’s own Antiquaries Journal.

We’re speaking for 50 minutes, and I’ve put together a very small exhibition to accompany the talk (of some of the visual material from the archive that we’ve been studying).  The exhibition will be displayed in the Society itself, so unfortunately only Fellows and Fellows’ guests will be able to see it, but some of the imagery is visible on our project blog here, and we’re hopeful that the exhibition will have a life beyond this showing alone.

I feel very fortunate to have been involved in this project, not only in the sense of having an opportunity to navigate the halls of the amazing Burlington House (home of the Society, alongside an array of other learned institutions) and to collaborate with the Society’s hugely kind and supportive staff, but also to meet and work with the Sorrell family–an inspiring group of artists and writers who have warmly welcomed me into their home.  Moreover, I’ve been in touch with interested people and organisations from around the world who have similarly shared their archives and ideas with me.  Obviously I’m keen to keep in contact if anyone has thoughts or materials that might be relevant to this research – thank you!

If you are interested in the nature of our talk, I’ve posted the abstract below.  And perhaps I’ll see you on Thursday evening…


Abstract:  Alan Sorrell is best known today as a ‘reconstruction artist’, employed between the 1930s and 1970s by the Ministry of Works and other bodies to produce reconstructions of ancient monuments and recreations of ancient life.  The archive containing many of his papers, working drawings, correspondence and other material is currently on loan to the Society of Antiquaries of London.  This paper reports on initial researches into this and other archival materials funded through a British Academy Small Grant.  It discusses how the archive throws new light not just on Sorrell’s career and achievements, but on the intellectual and professional development of archaeology as a whole in the mid-20th century.

OUTPOST exhibition | Call for contributions

OUTPOST exhibition
OUTPOST exhibition | Image courtesy of Ian Kirkpatrick -

Ian Kirkpatrick and I are working together to curate a small art exhibition — OUTPOST — in concert with the upcoming Visualisation in Archaeology International Conference at the University of Southampton next month (18-19 April).  There is an incredibly tight turn-around time for the call for contributions (deadline next Wednesday!), but I hope anyone interested in the intersections between archaeology and art might consider participating.  Here are the details! 

Curators: Ian Kirkpatrick & Sara Perry

Poster presentations have become ubiquitous features of archaeological conferences, acting simultaneously as informational, decorative, architectural, and ritual devices.  In their supposed succinctness they can persuade, deceive and mystify – whilst employing image and text to compress vast quantities of data into highly conventionalized fields of vision. As archaeological tools they can stand unaccompanied by their author as the sole representative of an idea or body of research, or can be used in tandem with performance as a form of prop or mobile stage-set.

OUTPOST examines the possibilities of this genre as an intermediary between information and art, monument and meaning.  It seeks innovative and creative interpretations of the archaeological poster presentation which push the boundaries of this format, both physically and conceptually.

We invite artists, illustrators and academics to respond to this call for posters/artworks as a means to invite discussion and debate about the form, function and future of this frequently overlooked sub-genre of the archaeological intellectual toolkit.

Please send a 50-200 word artistic statement for the creation of an A0 or other-sized/shaped poster presentation and CV, to Ian Kirkpatrick ( by 23 March 2011.

Final decisions will be made by 25 March 2011.

On another note, I won’t be able to contribute to Colleen‘s archaeological blogging roundtable discussion this week.  But I wanted to provide a link to the first-class summary that she put together of last week’s discussion.  Through it you can connect to many other superb bloggers who are grappling with the consequences of blog work in archaeology.

New Orleans & the Image

Just a quick note to say that I’m in New Orleans for the next week at the annual American Anthropological Association conference.  If you happen to be traveling through the city between now and Sunday, I’ll be presenting in a session on Wednesday evening, chaired by Jerome Crowder and Jonathan Marion, on the theme of Circulating Images; and separately, I’ll be chairing our yearly Society for Visual Anthropology-sponsored Visual Ethics Roundtable on Sunday morning, where the excellent Beate Engelbrecht and Jill LeClair will be discussing their visual work and its ethical intersections.  The AAA and SVA are also sponsoring Ethnographic Terminalia, an exhibition of pieces that grapple with the relations between art and anthropology.  Last year’s inaugural Ethnographic Terminalia was really fantastic — and given the various links between this year’s show and the actual conference programme, I suspect the 2010 exhibition will be even more impressive.

On another note, the call for sessions for the 2011 Visualisation in Archaeology International Conference is currently being circulated.  Sometime in the near-ish future I’ll post about our 2010 workshop which, I think, was well-received. (If you watched any of it on the live stream, I’d be keen to get your feedback, as we’re looking ahead towards planning the live streaming of the conference!)  Please do consider submitting a session proposal — and we’re especially interested in encouraging contributors to play around with the format of presentation.  This year’s workshop was run as a series of 5-7 minute ‘position statements’, followed by 1 – 1.5 hours of discussion — a format that seemed to work surprisingly well.  There are many other possibilities, and we’d be eager to test them out.

Maybe see you in New Orleans!