Report on Round Table TH2-14 at the 22nd Annual Meeting of the EAA in Vilnius, Lithuania
by Tuija-Liisa Soininen (Tuija-Liisa.Soininen@tampere.fi)
The theme of the round table was archaeological research and heritage management as a holistic process. Ultimately, the issue was archaeology as part of the social fabric. The session was organised by the Pirkanmaa Provincial Museum, Tampere, Archaeology Scotland, Edinburgh, the University of Helsinki, and Ireland Heritage Council. The topic of discussion was a common predicament in archaeological research: when the focus is on an archaeological site but it has many stakeholders, each looking at the site from their own perspective. The round table was a follow-up from EAA Glasgow 2015, where the subject was Community-led heritage action. Now the purpose was to look deeper into the role of archaeology in society. We discussed various forms of participation and interaction on a broad front. Their common denominator for different views was the search for ways to promote the understanding of archaeology and its usefulness in society.
Adopt a Monument programmes and their position in society was addressed in the presentations by Archaeology Scotland, Ireland Heritage Council and by the Chair in her opening speech. The purpose of Adopt a Monument programmes is to delegate much of the intellectual ownership of cultural heritage sites to volunteers, who manage and study the site, make it more accessible to the public and also distribute information about the site via their networks. In this process, the authorities and professionals play the role of helpers, supporters and facilitators. In Finland, the basic principle is that cultural heritage maintenance is something that people do for others; it consists of concrete, tangible work that aims to promote accessibility and preserve cultural heritage, as well as to promote tolerance and inclusion. Although voluntariness is an integral aspect of the Adopt a Monument programme, freedom also implies responsibility. Research and management of the sites is always carried out within the framework of relevant legislation and officially approved management plans. One important and explicit aim of the Finnish programme is also that the work must give joy for the volunteers as well as others.
One of the challenges of Archaeology Scotland (Philip Richardson and Cara Jones) Adopt a Monument programme in recent years has been to reach non-traditional audiences. These are audiences which do not have a tradition of interest in the conservation of cultural heritage; rather, they feel disconnected from it, sometimes through choice, sometimes because of factors beyond their control. To address the issue, archaeologists have been working with the homeless (‘Digging the Scene’), with women who have fled domestic violence (‘Women at War’), and with vulnerable families. The work has resulted in the documentation of parts of the Old Town in Edinburgh and of a disused World War II airfield. In social terms, the programme has resulted in the establishment of psychologically safe ways to encounter other people in the context of cultural heritage conservation, as well as the acquisition of new personal skills and tools. For example, becoming a holder of a library card have inspired people to read newspapers or use the Internet. In contrast to the attitude of ‘sites first, people second’, which tends occasionally to be more prevalent among archaeologists, the projects are designed to give first priority to people and participants and only second to archaeology. The quality and sustainability of the projects should nevertheless be studied separately through a comprehensive long-term research. The experiences of Archaeology Scotland indicate that these projects have also produced useful archaeological results for the study of the history of Scotland.
The Irish Adopt a Monument programme by Ian Doyle was launched in 2015. The goal was to start with five sites, which was a resounding success: Ireland Heritage Council received nearly 90 applications from various communities to serve as stewards of sites. Just as in Scotland and Finland, the Adopt a Monument scheme in Ireland regards itself first and foremost as an expert, a helper and a facilitator. It helps communities to protect and restore cultural heritage as part of their everyday life. One of the observations of the Ireland Heritage Council is that, even if the main concern is the conservation of a particular site, it is nevertheless best to focus on finding a good adopting community instead of a good site. A motivated group of volunteers is much more relevant for the continuity of the programme. Another important observation is that although the programme needs continuous funding, it also needs a new culture of voluntary work. Such a culture can be nurtured when heritage professionals accept the role of facilitators, providing advice and training, but above all by evaluating results in terms of the process of cooperation and partnership.
The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) aims to increase public interest in archaeological cultural heritage. Dr. Ben Thomas pointed out that AIA promotes not only popular understanding of archaeology, but also community-based outreach work. AIA’s special expertise is archaeology fairs that bring together professional archaeologists and communities interested in archaeology. The purpose of the fairs is to instil among the public the notion that archaeological discoveries are resources, and that they can be used for many purposes, not only to give us an idea of how people lived in the past, but also how we have arrived to the current situation, how we can plan for the future. It is good to see archaeological finds as resources that have all sorts of potential effects on the wellbeing of individuals and communities. Well-organised archaeological fairs can be seen as a carefully thought-out method to promote the societal significance of archaeology. The observed benefits of the fairs include the emergence of a wide range of collaborative processes and partnerships, extended exchange of data between professionals and amateurs, and the opening up for the public of the diversity and usefulness of archaeological information. The fairs are also a useful tool in that both in terms of their extent and themes they can be easily adapted for all sorts of purposes and operating environments.
Places of Memory and Forgetfulness, by Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland, MA Magdalena Majorek had a multitude of objectives. Through research and engagement with local residents, it sought to enhance awareness of history, cultural reality, social climate, local oral history, tradition and current local identity, and thereby to promote the conservation of cultural heritage. The chosen method was a multidisciplinary approach that combined anthropological, archaeological and historical research, coupled with information obtained from local residents, the residents’ own work to find information, evaluation of the quality of acquired information, and even the methods of artistic research. The study explored in depth the nature and value of information gained in the project. It also gave an idea of what kind of information one can expect to find about a specific place, and whether the value of the information can be determined on an evidentiary basis. It also produced information about the extent and relevance of information that may remain undiscovered by archaeological research or by research that relies on the oral history of a large community. For instance, landscape sites and associated traditions that are important for the community will be remembered for a long time, and can be classified as places of memory, whereas sites known or spoken about only by a few individuals, perhaps just one person, can be seen as places of forgetfulness.
A stone tool, dated to the palaeolithic age, was discovered 20 years ago in Finland in a cave called Susiluola (Wolf Cave). Excavations at the site revealed more finds, the nature and dating of which have remained controversial to this day. The case Susiluola has become a warning example about the role of archaeology in the making of a local tourist industry. MA Vesa Laulumaa, National Board of Antiquities told us how the Susiluola case attracted unprecedented media attention in Finland. As this was the first palaeolithic settlement in Scandinavia, it was speculated that the finds would create opportunities for a new kind of tourism, particularly from the perspective of local residents. Criticism of the case from the archaeological scientific community increased at the same time, however, expressing doubts about the findings and the scientific value of the site. The upshot was that material from the Susiluola remains contested to this day, potential funding bodies have disappeared, and only the locals are still convinced whole-heartedly of the importance of the results of the excavation. The site is no longer viable as a tourist attraction. The case was a scientific as well as complex communication challenge, which, judging by the outcome of the project, was a failure. The result was not a consensus among archaeologists on whether the Susiluola was a Palaeolithic dwelling site or not, but that any archaeologist mindful of her career would do best to steer clear of any investigations in the Susiluola. You could ask if an open and broader collaboration between the archaeological community, universities and the National Board of Antiquities may have produced a better results.
The objective of the Danish Escape project by Lene Høst-Madsen (Museum Skanderborg, Denmark), Nina Bangsbo Dissing (Muncipality of Skanderborg), Marianne Purup (Visit Skanderborg, Ry) is to generate energy and historical content and thereby to produce augmented reality for built-up regions where archaeological sites have disappeared. The project uses artistic methods to achieve this. Archaeological research data and stories told by locals lay the foundation for artistic work, which in turn promotes local communication. The concept makes the area interesting also for tourism and creates new processes that promote participation between the arts, archaeology, the past and the present. In the Skanderborg Museum’s experience the collaboration between art, archaeology and tourism created added value for all three. Collaboration should always be founded on shared hope, vision and mutual respect. One principle in projects like Escape that combine science with art and business is also that ‘archaeology is not an island’. Archaeology should not be done for archaeologists but for society. If archaeologists conduct research and work otherwise exclusively for archaeology as a discipline or for other archaeologists, they cannot expect to garner much understanding or material investment from the rest of society.
“Giving is having”, is a theory concerning the Viking and mediaval settlement in Tursiannotko in Finland and the co-operation around it. MA Ulla Lähdesmäki, Pirkanmaa Provincial museum told how the excavations conducted there have been one of the most prominent instances of archaeological investigation in recent years in Finland. The site has some special archaeological values; the artefacts are unique owing to the clayey soil that preserves organic elements. It is also strange how the site has attracted the attention among the public. The excavations seems to be a resource that has energised all cultural activities in the small municipality as well as exceptionally broad cooperation between various organisations. The Pirkanmaa Provincial Museum has partnered with the municipality, with whom it has made a cooperation agreement. The agreement includes excursions by school students to public excavations at the site and their participation in them. The cost is partly borne by the municipality. The collaboration includes training for guides, the organisation of a Viking Age exhibition, and the revival of a local museum to produce up-to-date information on local cultural heritage. Other partners include two universities, the local parish, metal detecting enthusiasts, a local Viking Market event, as well as local residents. The museum has welcomed everyone who is interested in Tursiannotko. For the moment at least, it seems that by giving room not only to archaeologists but also to others has the effect of increasing hugely the interest towards archaeology and making it easy to find funding for research.
Fig. 1. Pirkanmaa Provincial Museum organizes annual cultural environment camps as part of the Adopt a monument programme. In the photo camp participants are tarring the wall of the bakery at Voipaala manor. © Miia Hinnerichsen/Pirkanmaa Provincial Museum
Fig. 2. The round table started with several short presentations, that had the full attention of the participants. © Vadim Adel/ Pirkanmaa Provincial Museum
Fig. 3. Pirkanmaa Provincial Museum organizes annual cultural environment camps as part of the Adopt a monument programme. In the photo camp participants are girdling poplars and clearing undergrowth at the Iron Age cemetery at Rupakallio. © Miia Hinnerichsen/Pirkanmaa Provincial Museum’
Inspired by the cases described above we discussed for instance, how do we know whether a specific activity will have a significant impact on the life of the target audience or on the conservation of cultural heritage in the long term? What is needed is research and long-term impact assessment, things for which projects seldom have the necessary resources. This is not an excuse for failing to carry out impact assessments, however, but rather a motive for creating interesting projects that focus on determining the links and impacts of archaeological activity on the well-being of communities and individuals and on the state of cultural heritage.
When planning new projects with direct effects on the public, the bringing together players from different sectors often gives rise to new and fresh forms of collaboration. It is in the interests of archaeology to see its role as part of a process which produces information that is relevant and useful for society. One issue that emerged in the discussion was the question of how the social function of archaeology differs from that of other cultural sectors. The general view was that the social role of archaeology gains in strength and acceptability when archaeologists work together with the public and are open to current needs of society. This does not need to detract from the social or scientific credibility of archaeological research, but it can have the effect of increasing the allocation of resources for research. Although society might still be generally unaware of the importance archaeological knowledge, it is important that archaeologists themselves understand that society and the social relevance of the discipline are extremely important to archaeology.
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