From the 15th to the 17th April 2015 I attended the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists Conference (CIfA) held in Cardiff, Wales. The newly Chartered Institute for Archaeologists had chosen the Future of Your Profession as the main theme, and I was giving a presentation on my PhD research in one of the very first sessions on Wednesday afternoon, The Future of Engagement, chaired by Cara Jones and Doug Rocks-Macqueen. My presentation briefly introduced myself, and then introduced my research questions, before moving onto my preliminary findings. Initially nervous my enthusiasm for my research subject soon broke through. After the presentation I enjoyed answering questions, as well as speaking to many people during the conference about a variety of interesting subjects.
My paper focused on preliminary research evaluating the current public outreach undertaken by commercial archaeology. Developer funded archaeology is promoted as being for public benefit, yet how effective it is in terms of public engagement has not been extensively evaluated. Current academic literature discusses community outreach schemes; however, these are usually concerned with already established heritage areas. This paper is a foundation for a larger project focused on two areas of developer funded archaeology: firstly, the current level of interaction between commercial archaeological units and the public during developer funded excavation; secondly, the amount of collected data that is communicated to the public after the completion of these excavations. The objective of the research is to inform the ways in which developer-community interaction with local heritage issues could benefit the public perception of archaeology as a whole, with the scope of using community-led projects as examples, to generate policies of ‘best practice’. This paper opens discussions concerning methods that render public involvement with commercial archaeology financially feasible, whilst maintaining the ethical principles of inclusive local participation in heritage.
Many of the sessions were filmed, including the session I took part in. The filming of many of the sessions made choosing which to attend in person much easier, and I look forward to being able to ‘attend’ the conference again through watching the recorded sessions. You can listen to my presentation here.
The conference and the sessions I attended really helped me to understand the myriad of issues and stakeholders involved in archaeology and heritage. One of the key words seemed to be engagement, whether that was engaging the client with the work being undertaken, other stakeholders, or the public. A key issue, and this links to engagement, is training and career development within the profession and across the discipline. I really hope that my research will be able to help understand current levels of public outreach and be able to contribute to creating solutions for a stable future within the discipline. I thank the Heritage Consortium, the AHRC, and the University of Bradford for enabling me to undertake this research; I am thoroughly enjoying learning more about the discipline and its future.
Text by Alice O’Mahoney
Photograph credit: Cardiff Keep by Olivia Moreton