Friday, 18 July 2014

How do you protect what you can't see? The perils of preserving intangible cultural heritage

A recent announcement for the ICOMOS-UK conference on "Intangible Cultural Heritage in the UK: promoting and safeguarding our diverse living cultures" got me thinking about this complex concept and how one actually goes about ensuring the stories, oral histories and ritual traditions that make up a culture don't disappear over time.

An article in Heritage & Society from April 2011, written by Rosabelle Boswell and entitled 'Challenges to Sustaining Intangible Cultural Heritage' addresses the issues facing the conservators that take on this task.

"The 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)...refers to the role of intangible cultural heritage in in maintaining diversity, sociality, and understanding. It also notes the interdependence of tangible and intangible heritage and the role of the youth and indigenous people in heritage maintenance."

In this paper Boswell specifically addresses the difficulties of preserving ICH in Africa due to what she calls the "persistent social stratification and inequality" across the continent. She notes that ICH is "(1) dynamic (2) borne by different people and (3) part of living culture. In safeguarding and ultimately preserving ICH one risks ossifying culture, elevating 'specialist' holders of knowledge in the society and neglecting the role played by other 'managers' of heritage."

In the article, Boswell references countries in the Indian Ocean Region, namely Zanzibar, Mauritius and Madagascar, but it seems the issues addressed - such as "commercialization, the potential ossification of culture via preservation and the issues of ambivalent heritage"- have a broader relevance to ICH across the globe.

Read the full article for free >

Monday, 14 July 2014

The future of the past: The Young Archaeologists' Club

In the past I have made posts to this blog that deal with those issues facing archaeology students, academics and practitioners in this tricky and unpredictable economic climate, such as 'What can you do with an archaeology degree besides be an archaeologist?' and today I read this post on Doug's Archaeology entitled 'Why are there so few Archaeologists in such a large country? America’s Archaeology Employment Problems'. Items such as these, though relevant and realistic, can paint a rather bleak picture of the future of the discipline we all know and love so this week I decided to share something positive!  

I have chosen to feature an organisation that is nurturing and encouraging an interest in archaeology amongst the UK's young people - the Young Archaeologists' Club (YAC), the only UK-wide club for young people up to the age of 17 interested in archaeology. 

The club is run by Council for British Archaeology (CBA), an educational charity working for over 65 years to promote ‘Archaeology for All’. YAC’s vision is for all young people to have opportunities to be inspired and excited by archaeology, and to empower them to help shape its future.

The Young Archaeologists’ Club was started 40 years ago in August 1972 by Dr Kate Pretty. Its name back then was Young Rescue and it was the junior branch of RESCUE, the British Archaeological Trust. Initially it was just going to be based in Cambridge but after publicity in The Times it was launched as a national club.

Dig deep for YAC!

The CBA, like many organisations and charities, is facing a challenging financial future. The withdrawal of its main source of public funding has had a major impact on the organisation’s finances. The YAC Branches offer a fantastic range of opportunities for young people to get into archaeology. In 2013 there were 60 Branches in the YAC network, run by some 560 volunteers. Over the year, volunteers delivered 588 activity sessions which provided some 7, 800 opportunities for young people.

You can help YAC by becoming a member, adopting a branch or making a donation.

Learn more about YAC and how you can help >

Monday, 7 July 2014

Are you going to the 2014 ASOR Annual Meeting?

The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) is a non-profit organization that supports and encourages the study of the cultures and history of the Near East, from the earliest times to the present. ASOR is apolitical and has no religious affiliation.

The 2014 ASOR Annual Meeting will be held in San Diego, CA, from November 19th to 22nd at The Westin San Diego hotel.

The Annual Meeting brings together ASOR's vibrant academic community to present their current findings and discuss their research. The conference attracts over 1,000 scholars and enthusiasts of archaeology, linguistics, geography, epigraphy, anthropology, and other fields related to the study of the ancient Near East.

Scholarships and Prizes for the Annual Meeting

Because the ASOR Annual Meeting is one of most important ways to involve students and junior scholars in the field, ASOR, in cooperation with several foundations and generous donors, provides a number of different scholarships.
  • Student Travel Grants: Up to ten (10) grants of $250 each are made available to students enrolled at ASOR-member schools.
  • Foundation for Biblical Archaeology Scholarship: Through a generous gift of The Foundation for Biblical Archaeology (TFBA), ASOR will offer up to six (6) scholarships of $700 each for students to attend the Annual Meeting and provide work to support the meeting.
  • Sean Dever Memorial Prize: Given to the best student paper in the area of archaeology.
Register for the 2014 ASOR Annual Meeting >

Monday, 30 June 2014

‘The War to End All Wars’: Commemoration in 2014

2014 marks 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, a milestone in world history that claimed the lives of almost 17 million people worldwide. In the following guest blog post our resident historian, Kate Smith, takes a closer look at how both the conflict and its commemoration are represented in our online archive.
The Great War has long since played a significant role in our historical memory but this year Britain is planning several events to commemorate this special anniversary. It is important to remember the bravery of those who fought for four long years and to learn from the lessons of the past.

The centenary has led to a flurry of papers focusing on the commemoration of the war. Remembering War, Resisting Myth: Veteran Autobiographies and the Great War in the Twenty-first Century’ examines the reconstruction of the First World War in the autobiographies of the last two surviving British veterans; these men committed their memories to paper shortly before their deaths in 2009. This article, recently published in the Journal of War & Culture Studies, explores the reception of their testimonies and assesses the extent to which their accounts reinforce or resist mythic narratives of the Great War. Trott also considers whether a diversity of perspectives will remain now that the war has almost entirely passed out of living memory and the affect this will have on popular culture in the future.
An article published earlier this year in the Journal of Conflict Archaeology, entitled Commemoration of the Great War: A Global Phenomenon or a National Agenda?', explores a different aspect of commemoration. Van der Auwera and Schramme analyse the specific national sensitivities related to the commemoration of the First World War and investigate the reasons why some states around the world commemorate it more strongly than others.

Many noteworthy and thought-provoking papers have transpired about all aspects of the war including the causes, military strategy, the Home Front, literature and science. However, it appears that, as time passes, our understanding of the First World War will rely more than ever on archaeology. The Editors of Journal of Conflict Archaeology, Tony Polland and Iain Banks, explain the growing interest in the archaeology of the First World War in 'Not so Quiet on the Western Front: Progress and Prospect in the Archaeology of the First World War’. They conclude with the following:

“Thanks to the work of a small number of archaeologists in recent years… we now have the tools to do the archaeology of the First World War justice, what lies ahead is the difficult task of ensuring that they are applied as part of a meaningful research framework and not just for the delectation of television audiences or as a means of removing problematic barriers to development. Accomplishing this is perhaps one of the most exciting and perhaps difficult challenges facing conflict archaeology today.”
Maney Publishing has made 100 articles free to download to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the outbreak of WW1 >

Monday, 23 June 2014


Today marks the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, a landmark in Scottish history and a key victory in the First War of Scottish Independence.

Robert Bruce, King of Scots, battled the English army led by Edward II. Edward, keen to retain the stronghold of Stirling Castle, had led a huge army through Scotland to lift the Scots’ siege of his garrison at the Castle. Achieving this was vital to Edward’s hopes of re-establishing his weakening grip on the country, but he was stopped short by the army of Robert Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn.

To commemorate the occasion we have made 'Protecting a Bloodstained History: Battlefield Conservation in Scotland' from the Journal of Conflict Archaeology, and written by the journal's editors Iain Banks and Tony Pollard, free to read:

"Scotland’s battlefields gained legislative protection in March 2011 with the publication of the Inventory of Scottish Battlefields. The background to the Inventory is explored, with a consideration of how similar issues have been approached in other countries. The paper then goes on to examine the approach taken in the creation of the Inventory, looking at the issues that arose and the solutions adopted.

In 1995, English Heritage established a register of the battlefields of England. This was the first time there had been any form of official interest in battlefields as components of the cultural resource or the historic environment in the UK. It was not until 30 April 2008 that a consultation on an Inventory of Scottish Battlefields was announced, which led to an announcement on 28 July 2009 that work would proceed with an Inventory. The first part of the Inventory is now in the final stages of production, and will see battlefields of national significance becoming a material consideration in the planning process, with more to be added should they meet the criteria. Creating the Inventory has been a complex process, and although there is still some way to go the following article will map this journey."

Read the full article for free >

Learn more about the Battle of Bannockburn >