Institution: English Heritage
EAA member since: 2017
Position for EAA: Social Media Editor, 2020-2023
TEA: Can you tell us a bit more about what a Social Media editor does?
W. Scutt: It is mainly about posting on the EAA social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Mastodon and YouTube. In part it is to share the work of the EAA with the rest of the world, for example the latest paper in our journal, the European Journal of Archaeology or TEA; or our policy statements, for example our recent statement on Ukraine. We want the EAA to be noticed. We want the EAA to be recognised as the leading organisation for archaeologists in Europe and to be respected and consulted by politicians and influencers. We can share news of our members’ research and of archaeological research and news from the world. So, our social media is primarily outward-facing. We use it, too, to create a buzz before and during our annual meetings, sharing the call for papers and the programme. During our Budapest meeting, our tag #EAA2023 was even trending on Twitter in Hungary!
TEA: Where you the first person to hold this position for the EAA?
W. Scutt: Yes. It was a great innovation by the Executive Board under our previous President, Felipe Criado-Boado. I was appointed in June 2020, at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic. I was furloughed by English Heritage, so I had plenty of time to practise some new ideas. Most of our platforms were already established and were being updated by the Secretariat, but engagement was low.
TEA: How has the job changed since you started?
W. Scutt: The biggest change has been in the number of followers, many of them movers and shakers inside and outside the world of archaeology. Followers to our six platforms have increased from 14,050 to 35,358. In addition, under Jesper Hansen’s leadership, we have now agreed a wider Communications Strategy, which includes the SoMe strategy.
TEA: Archaeologists are such a diverse group; can you tell us a bit about what drew you to social media? What is the most important and relevant part of your work for the EAA?
W. Scutt: Archaeology is too exciting not to be shared with everyone! From the time I started as a museum curator it has always been my ambition to inspire people to take an interest in archaeology. As a sideline, I took up broadcasting with a regular slot on BBC Radio. When I started a 12-year stint as an archaeology correspondent for BBC Radio 5 Live in 2002, it was natural to share my weekly news updates on social media – on Facebook and Twitter, so that they could find out more. Sharing news about archaeology and promoting the EAA has been a great privilege and honour.
TEA: We understand that you have had quite a diverse career—has it always been archaeology-focused?
W. Scutt: It was my grandmother who inspired me to follow a life in archaeology. She had travelled with her mother, her aunt Maud and Cornelius (the chauffeur for the Rolls) through Egypt and Palestine in the 1930s. She gave me a collection of Roman and Greek coins which, at the age of 9, I identified and catalogued. I studied under Colin Renfrew at the University of Southampton and excavated with him in Melos, Greece; and supervised excavations at Hambledon Hill. It was my skills in numismatics that got me my first job as a curator in Plymouth Museums; from there to setting up an EU-funded Visitor Centre. But that drew me into the world of tourism and I was invited to set up a new degree course for Plymouth University at a local college. They let me establish a degree course in archaeology in collaboration with the Institute of Field Archaeologists (now CIfA). In 2011, I joined English Heritage as Education Manager and, a year later, as a Properties Curator. After a diversion into museums and then tourism, my career has come full cycle back into field archaeology and conservation.
TEA: Can you tell us a bit about your future plans?
W. Scutt: I am enjoying my current role as Senior Properties Curator so much that I am not planning to move on! But, I do want to spend more time publishing my research into prehistoric land division of the landscape around Dartmoor as well as my work on place-names in the landscape.
TEA: How do you see archaeology changing in the future?
W. Scutt: During my career, I have noticed how the most fruitful projects have been interdisciplinary. The boundaries between the humanities as well as with the sciences are becoming increasingly blurred. I look forward to them being almost non-existent! – when psychology, linguistics, performance and visual arts, music (and so much more!) intertwine.
TEA: What/How does archaeology contribute to society at large?
W. Scutt: It is easy for people to take their cultural identity for granted. At the recent Experimental Archaeology conference in Torun, Poland, I was struck by how important archaeology is to the people of Ukraine, in spite of the far more pressing problems of the war. The physical, emotional and intangible cultural heritage is crucial for all of our different and shared identities.
TEA: What is the biggest issue facing European archaeology?
W. Scutt: I think the biggest issue is convincing the general public of the importance of preserving our past from the threat of development and heritage crime as well as the importance of the research which enriches our shared understanding. There is a risk that we archaeologists live in our own bubble, complacent in the belief that others value our heritage as much as we do.
TEA: What archaeology literature are you reading right now?
W. Scutt: Although prehistory dominates my reading, I am actually reading a new book about one of the English Heritage sites I curate “Wroxeter: Ashes under Uricon” by Roger White. It is a wonderful exploration of historic perceptions through poetry, images and texts of one of Roman Britain’s largest cities.
TEA: Describe your workspace in five words or less.
W. Scutt: A cupboard and a view
TEA: If you could have a conversation with any archaeologist living or dead, who would it be, and what would you choose as the topic?
W. Scutt: I have had so many interesting and challenging conversations with Colin Renfrew, but I will never have enough! And it is usually about language in prehistory.
TEA: If you could go back in time, would you go? Where and when?
W. Scutt: A causewayed enclosure in southern Britain in 3600 BCE.
TEA: Any advice to new archaeologists just starting out/joining the EAA?
W. Scutt: Engage with the media! Ask your local radio station if they would like a regular feature on archaeology. Radio is hungry for archaeology! And so is TV.
TEA: What is your favourite part of your job?
W. Scutt: Meeting fellow archaeologists on excavations.
TEA: Do you go to archaeological sites on vacation, or do you do other things?
W. Scutt: Yes, as many sites as I can fit in without my wife realising – until it is too late!
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