Archaeology’s Audiences: The first public event of the Archaeology Audience Network (AAN)

Join us Thursday 11 November 2021 for our first AAN training session

Screenshot of MOLA webpage advertising the first Archaeology Audience Network event on 11 November 2021. The image shows a group of 6 people surrounding an archaeological handling kit.
https://www.mola.org.uk/archaeology-audience-network-training-session-1

I hope you might join us Thursday, 11 November, 2021 at either 16:00-18:00 GMT or 18:00-20:00 GMT for the first Archaeology Audience Network (AAN) training session. This free event is for all of you interested in audiences and public engagement with archaeology, which I imagine would be everyone working in, studying, and otherwise keen on the discipline – as well as those involved in the wider heritage sector. More information on the session and some of the underpinning evidence for it is available on MOLA’s website. We are running it twice to accommodate demand

The AAN is a collaboration between archaeological organisations in England working to bring together, learn from, and improve our use of data about audiences in order to achieve more meaningful impacts. Collaborators include MOLAthe Archaeology Data Servicethe Council for British ArchaeologyDigVenturesOxford ArchaeologyWessex Archaeology, and York Archaeological Trust, alongside a series of supporters from different professional and academic bodies. The Network will grow over time and we aim for it to be self-sustaining by the end of its formal two years of funding. This essential funding comes from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and The National Lottery through The Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage initiative.

It’s hard for me to express how much and for how long I’ve been keen to see this type of collaboration realised. My MOLA colleague Magnus Copps (Head of Programming and Partnerships) and I began to work on the proposal as soon as the funding opportunity was announced last year. We reached out to our close working partners and affiliates who we believed would be equally enthusiastic (they were!), and from there the Network was born. The funding from DCMS and The National Lottery has been pivotal to making it possible – it allows us to collate existing data, use lessons learned (both from the categories of data being collected and from the data themselves) to formulate and test out new approaches to engagement with different citizens, and create new models for good practice around audience data, building on the long-standing good practice work of the ADS.

Our first outward-facing event associated with the Network is next week’s introductory training session on Archaeology’s Audiences. We’ve had to re-jig the schedule for the event a couple of times already, both because this is a learning experience for us, and because this first session is important for us in ensuring we fully lay out the foundations for the Network, present its context, highlight its evolving nature (which is designed to be responsive to themes and trends as they emerge), and gauge interest and reactions from different individuals and groups.

Per above, we are running the same session twice on the same day (11 Nov, 16:00-18:00 GMT and 18:00-20:00 GMT), and recording the first (less interactive) part of the session for wider dissemination afterwards. The demand we’ve witnessed for this event perhaps further reinforces not just how much interest there is in the subject matter, but also how much need exists for amalgamation of existing/past work, and alignment of future thinking and practice on matters of audience data and audience evaluation in archaeology.

As we mentioned in our Digital Skills for Heritage application, public archaeology as it is practiced within the context of the UK planning process forms a significant avenue for audiences to access ‘live’ archaeological investigations and contribute hands-on insights into UK heritage. It has access to relatively substantial sources of funding outside of the usual research and charitable grant streams. It takes place around and under the living and working spaces of all demographics in the UK. And it tends to be grounded in activities that can generate short and long-term human outcomes but that lack the enduring physical presence that comes from capital investment in buildings, restoration, or static interpretation. In other words, it is a very special field of practice, with much insight about audience engagement to share—and with tremendous potential to shape archaeological and heritage research and practice in all its manifestations.

We hope you’ll follow along with the work of the Network (email: aan@mola.org.uk, hashtag: #archaeoAN) and join us for the first session on 11 November 2021.

Shared digital heritage experiences

Read about our early experiments with emotional group tours of heritage sites…

Perry_Figure_3.jpg
Pairs of users touring Çatalhöyük’s replica houses as part of a collaborative digital experience centred around reflecting on egalitarian ways of life. Photo by me.

I’m so pleased to announced that our chapter in the phenomenal Routledge International Handbook of New Digital Practices in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and Heritage Sites has been published. Many of the folks I admire the most in the digital field have chapters in this volume, so it’s a huge honour to be featured in this volume!

As part of the EMOTIVE project, we’ve been developing a variety of multi-person digital heritage experiences, for onsite, offsite and hybrid use, that seek to provoke critical emotional interactions between users. We do this by:

  • embedding human values and morals into the experiences,
  • organising the experiences such that they must be done in groups (not individually),
  • progressing the experiences by having groups make critically reflective decisions about how to move from one stage of the experience to the next,
  • then evaluating how different demographics navigate the charged engagements that come from such group-based exploration of social values.

This chapter delves into our group mobile experience for the site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey, where participants have to literally give away one of their own possessions as a means to explore the nature of Neolithic egalitarian life.

Since we prepared the chapter in early 2018, we’ve subsequently refined the experience and conducted far more extensive evaluations. But here we give our preliminary findings and walk you through the existing literature on group experiences, suggesting the potentials of this line of work.

We are now working on another publication that (drawing on our more recent evaluations) reflects on how we might articulate – and evaluate – a social justice model for heritage interpretation. Stay tuned!

As ever, we welcome constructively critical feedback on our work. You can download a copy of the pre-print version of the chapter on ResearchGate or on Academia.edu.

For those of you who use text readers or prefer access to a text file, you can also download a Word version of the pre-print chapter.

Please cite as: Perry, Sara, Roussou, Maria, Mirashrafi, Sophia S., Katifori, A., and McKinney, Sierra (2019) Shared digital experiences supporting collaborative meaning-making at heritage sites. In Hannah Lewi, Wally Smith, Dirk vom Lehn, Steven Cooke (eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of New Digital Practices in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and Heritage Sites. London: Routledge. Pp. 143-156. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429506765