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.