Promoting Professional Archaeology – My Day of Archaeology

It’s a lovely day (at the moment), and I am sitting in my garden office, looking at two monitors, and with two notebooks in front of me. Friday is usually my day for consolidating to-do lists, and sorting out a supplementary ‘when to-do’ list which wraps around meetings and travel plans for the next week.

A snapshot of my current list includes:

  •  proofreading The Archaeologist
  • setting up a IfA Practice Papers review
  • Conference 2013 business plan
  • write/ edit/ deliver eBulletin
  • review Communications and Recruitment strategy
  • project design for ‘A client toolkit; archaeology, development and planning in 2013’

Not a lot on there to do with the perceived job as a traditional archaeologist – but then, as is noticeable from other blogs, the life of an archaeologist in 2012 isn’t always (or often) one of fieldwork, investigation and discovery.

I work for the Institute of Archaeologists, a UK based professional institute for archaeologists anywhere in the world. We are a member organisation with a specific remit of setting standards for the study and care of the historic environment. The Institute is driven by a strategic vision (it’s on our website) and along with the very practical and administrative list if things to do, IfA’s big visionary targets are designed to have an impact: to raise the profile of archaeology and improve the status of archaeologists in society, to inspire excellence in professional practice, develop a stronger influence over policy affecting the historic environment, and to give archaeologists a credible, effective and efficient professional institute.

This year IfA are moving ever closer to making an application to become a Chartered Institute – for me it’s a really exciting prospect and an equally exciting time to be working for the professional body. I am passionate about archaeology (especially vikings in the North Atlantic, and longhouses in Cumbria!), and I come from a background of archaeological research, commercial post excavation management and teaching (mainly with postgraduates). What I have realised as my career has developed, is that I am also passionate about the profession of archaeology, and about the professional status of archaeologists. My job at IfA suits me. Not only do I get the opportunity to shout about how great and how important archaeology is, but I get to promote the need to do it properly, to work to professional standards and to encompass an ethical code of conduct to all archaeologists.

Today’s list may seem to be strictly administrative from some angles. From the one I’m working from, I can see how each ‘thing to do’ contributes to the overall vision and strategy which IfA has. The next issue of The Archaeologist (due out next month) reviews changes which our sector is facing, includes an interview with the Digventures team (who are trying out novel funding streams for archaeological digs), and summarises the current situation with jobs in British Archaeology. Setting up a review of current IfA Practice papers will ensure they are up-to-date, and that they cover the issues and techniques archaeologists want to know about. Every year the IfA conference includes three days of research, sector discussions, debates and training opportunities. The conference brings together 400 archaeologists who represent the full spectrum of the UK profession. In 2013 we will be descending on Birmingham – and sorting out the business plan is the first important step in making it happen. Every month we send out an eBulletin to all our members, providing an update on sector news, signposting to surveys, conferences and training, and letting members know what IfA staff and committees have been up to. The Communications and Recruitment Strategy is the tool that shapes my own job – essentially what should we be saying, to whom should be saying it? And using what means? The Recruitment strategy focuses on members – current and future. How do we be sure that our current membership is happy? How do we continue to recruit new members? Finally, the client toolkit is an idea I had when discussing how I could start to communicate the big messages to those non archaeologists who employ us, work alongside us and should benefit from the work we do. We need to make sure that everyone knows that archaeology is important, that it has a purpose and a role in society, and that archaeologists are professionals. It’s a challenge, but a worthwhile one.

So, back to today. Once this is complete, I can get back to responding to the mornings emails, then go and make myself a cuppa. It’s going to be a busy day.




The professional body for archaeologists

This may seem a million miles away from what you’d expect an archaeologist to be doing, but it is essential to ensure that the profession continues to develop and can provide a (yet) better service to the public and developers. And that’s the job of the Institute for Archaeologists (

So far today I have prepared a short statement welcoming the release of a planning advice note from Scottish Government. This is an update of a 17-year old document setting out the roles and responsibilities of developers and local authorities when it comes to archaeology. I was involved on behalf of the Institute for Archaeologists in an advisory/drafting panel convened by Scottish Government, and it’s very reassuring to see that nearly all of our recommendations have been included. It’s a big improvement over the earlier draft because it now makes clear that the work developers pay for should be done to quality standards, and there’s the biggest steer possible short of actually saying it (governments are always cautious about this) that work should be done by IfA Registered Organisations. So we’re moving away from simple compliance to a concern about quality.

Meanwhile, in England, I have been preparing comments on the consultation draft of the new National Planning Policy Framework, released with a fanfare (and an IfA soundbite in media release) on Monday. This document replaces all the existing government documentation about developer archaeology is secured. Again we have had lots of official and unofficial input into the process, but you can never be quite sure if the document to be released looks like the last official draft, the last official leaked draft, the last unofficially leaked draft or nothing you’ve seen before. In fact, it’s got most of the good bits in that we wanted, but with colleagues I’ve spotted some areas that need to be strengthened. And we’ll need other documents to explain how it’s to be interpreted – we’ve started already – in order to ensure, once again, that archaeological work is undertaken whenever its necessary (and never when it isn’t), as is of good quality every time.

And I’ve attended a meeting of our specialist group responsible for illustration and survey. They’ll be making sure that we provide all the services that are needed for these critically important parts of our discipline, and that we continue the good work of the Association of Archaeological Illustrators and Surveyors, which voted to merge with IfA last month.

And this evening I shall be doing what so many paid archaeologists do – no, not downing beers in the pub (though I might), but preparing to be a volunteer archaeologist at the weekend, guiding visitors to the archaeological excavation at Woking Palace, on behalf of the Friends of Woking Palace (, as part of the Festival of British Archaeology. Why not visit?

Peter Hinton, Chief Executive, IfA