Ian Baxter is Head of Suffolk Business School, and Professor of Historic Environment Management.

The Business School archaeologist’s Friday

Ian at workIn a University setting, Friday can often be a day of catching up, with attempts to carve out some thinking time or at least a chance to focus on tasks with a little less distraction from normal.  For me, as an archaeologist who also runs a University Business School based in Suffolk, England, I am using the day to combine the subjects of archaeology and business in a serendipitous way.  So far today I have marked a tourism management student’s undergraduate dissertation focused on ‘The economic and cultural impacts currently experienced by the Heart of Neolithic Orkney as a heritage site’, and have also spent an hour discussing a journal paper which I am contributing to with a colleague here at UCS as well as collaborators over in Italy.  This paper is exploring the interplay between residents in towns and villages on the Amalfi coast and the World Heritage Site designation which covers the area.  Using a web-based survey tool, it has gathered a dataset which we are now exploring to consider the views of citizens on their inter-relationships with the built and natural environment in which they live, ‘official’ bodies associated with conservation management and policy, and tourism and economic development organisations.

Ipswich waterfrontWhilst considering the relationships communities have with archaeology in far flung parts of Italy and the Orkneys, my eye is drawn to the office window and the great view I have over the half-finished regeneration project that is the Ipswich Waterfront.  Another part of my role at the moment is to help support the development of a co-ordinated tourism strategy for the town as part of a revitalised urban vision, through the creation of a Destination Management Organisation – and archaeology has a key role to play in this: the historic environment and bits of upstanding archaeology are to be seen on the historic quayside and found all over the town.  The story of Ipswich is one which can be told readily and engagingly through archaeology with the Anglo-Saxons at its heart, to a thriving mediaeval town and port, to an industrial hub and gradual resurgence as a University town  – and there is a strong desire by many in the town to see a celebration of this heritage and an opportunity to provide a visitor experience which could support economic growth and inward investment.

The business (school) of archaeology

Ian's office at UCS in Ipswich

Ian’s office at UCS in Ipswich

Unsurprisingly in University Business Schools we spend a lot of time thinking about the management and operations of organisations and the way people work.  I think we’re rather lucky at UCS because we have embedded heritage and archaeology in the business school too (it always helps if you are in charge, which I am!).  So, I’m spending today at my desk overlooking the historic Ipswich waterfront thinking about the first year of delivery of our Foundation Degree in Management for the Heritage Sector which has just ended, how the students have performed in it, and how we continue to develop the content for the course.  It has been interesting to talk to students who are seeing archaeology and heritage in a whole new way when considered from a management and business point of view: it is no longer humps and bumps in the ground, or objects behind a glass case, but a resource, or a way of working, or a product, or a service.  The intrinsic knowledge of the historic value of the thing is not forgotten, but is just one factor in a range of ways we can approach and analyse what is going on in, on, to or around it in a business sense.

Heritage Futures

Doing the corporate thing – ‘managing’ archaeology and heritage in the University.

I’m also looking at the role which archaeology and heritage can play more widely in the University as it moves into its new strategic plan period.  The academic team has therefore prepared a position paper on achievements to date and future opportunities, and I am still delighted and surprised at how we are managing to weave in the potential of archaeology to so many things which the institution does (it’s a not very subtle take over!).  Quite apart from the potential of a dig site next to our building which we will eventually construct something on as we develop the campus, we’ve worked with our computer games design course team to make a game for West Stow Anglo Saxon Village, and their students are now looking at the potential for specialism in “heritage gaming”; colleagues in arts and humanities hosted a conference on board games which featured archaeological finds; we’re about to sit down with the dementia research unit in the science department to look at using museum objects in health settings locally; and our events and tourism students who may normally be more comfortable studying theme parks and music festivals have been looking at developing archaeological sites for visitors and historic re-enactments.  The list goes on and on, proving a) that archaeology is fascinating and fun for everyone, and b) in educational terms, the subject and its learning objects can be deployed in conjunction with almost any other subject to create interesting and innovative educational experiences.