UCL Centre for Digital Humanities


My Day of Archaeology, is, as it was last year, meta.  I am one of the founders of the Day of Archaeology project, and I have spent my day (mostly) online, editing and posting articles and Tweeting about the project.  This is pretty much as good as my Day of Archaeology is going to get.  The loosest relationship my day had to field archaeology was when I went to see my back specialist this morning about a back injury I exacerbated last year when I was digging in Poland –  I went a bit mental with the de-turfing and hurt my back so badly I had to return to the UK and missed out on working on the most amazing 14th C. Baltic site.

A pal on Twitter said to me yesterday that I was mud-avoidant.  I will be the first to admit that what  I do for my PhD isn’t exactly archaeology.  I am a PhD student at the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities, and my research is ‘Public Archaeology in a Digital Age’.  So I’m looking at how, where and why archaeology and the public meet online and how archaeology as a sector creates, sustains and uses online community.  There are a few things that keep me awake at night about my research, mainly because it’s just so damn fascinating.  At the moment, I am researching the concept of archaeological authority and knowledge-ownership –  I think that  changes to the landscape of communication in archaeology are simply a technologically-facilitated continuation of longer-term developments within the sector as a whole (get me).  But  how far has the growth of participatory media impacted the archaeological sector in the UK?  How have these media facilitated collaboration between professional and layperson? Has the encouragement of audience participation gone any way towards supporting any real acknowledgement of multi-vocal approaches to heritage issues? What evidence exists that social media dialogue is about sharing archaeological authority at all, in an online context?  Which part these ‘non-professional’ digital voices will be considered inauthentic, and why?  So many questions…

I do a lot of research through surveys, and talking to people, but a lot of my work is also observation.  How people interact, what is said, how it is said, where it’s said.. so today has been interesting!  I absolutely love my PhD topic and feel hugely privileged to be funded to undertake it.  I get to read lots of sociology, which is my new Best Thing, and I have learned so much by being part of the Centre for Digital Humanities, and the interdisciplinarity there.   It has been the most interesting 2 years of my life ever (and I’ve had some interesting years, believe me)..  I just hope someone will employ me at the end of all this, the big worry for every PhD student.

I have recently moved back home to East Anglia, mainly because it’s cheap, but mostly for some peace and quiet.  The flat, open landscape here created the archaeologist inside me (she really ought to get out more, poor girl).  The wealth of wool churches, the Norman castles, the shadows of Norse in the dialect, and the Scandinavian street names led me to study medieval archaeology 21 years ago, and although I am all about archaeology and communication, AD 400 – 900 is my secret passion.  But if anyone asks, I’m strictly social media & comms, right?  Right?

For us Public Archaeologists, understanding how we meet, discuss and inform the public and understanding the technologies we can use to do this is, I think, vital.  I just hope that my research outcomes will play a small part in having an impact on how archaeology exploits Internet technologies.  Part of this understanding is the development of the Day of Archaeology itself.  I am overwhelmed by the support we have been offered by archaeologists worldwide, for free, for the love of archaeology, because we believe it matters, not just for ourselves but everyone. That we have managed all this through the power of the Internet is witness to the increasing importance of Public Archaeology at a time when archaeology is being given the death of a thousand cuts.  Without public support, we will wither.

Better get writing then, eh?