Archaeology and Media

A day in the life of Current World Archaeology

Hi there! We are Current World Archaeology, the international sister magazine to Current Archaeology (See their Day of Archaeology post here).

This Day of Archaeology has been a very busy Friday for the CWA team. Yesterday we signed off issue 66 of the magazine, and so today we have been approving all the pages with our designers, before they are whisked away to the printers. After all that work, it was only fair we celebrated by eating rather a lot of cake.

The work doesn’t stop after signing-off the magazine though. We then have to film and edit videos for our YouTube channel, upload articles to our website, and plan what is coming up in our next issue!

Even in our spare time we are working hard – Emma, our Marketing Manager, is spending her lunch break revising for the Viva presentation of her Masters degree in Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology, which she is giving early next week – good luck Emma! Our Editor-in-Chief, Andrew Selkirk, popped into the office today having just arrived back in the UK after some fantastic trips abroad to China and Greece – he is busy planning some fantastic new articles for future issues of CWA. Tiffany, from our Sales team, who studied Egyptology at University is busy eyeing up the new Egyptology books that have come into the office for review, and Polly, our Editorial Assistant, is busy creating a video for this Day of Archaeology post! Check out the video of Current Publishing’s Day of Archaeology below:

We have loved seeing all the Day of Archaeology posts coming in from all around the world! We hope you all had a great day – see you next year!

See more of Current World Archaeology:

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Polly Heffer

Editorial Assistant, Current World Archaeology

Archaeology in Translation: Speaking the Language of Social Media

Social media have made some tremendous (and rapid) changes to the ways in which the people of the world communicate with one another. I was in college when Facebook launched in 2004, and had to wait around to join until a “network” was created for students at my university. Today, this ubiquitous social media channel boasts more than a billion users worldwide, from all walks of life—and for many of them, it serves as a means of not only communicating with friends, family, and co-workers, but also of discovering brands, companies, organizations, and institutions, keeping with up with their work and initiatives, and even finding out how to get involved.

Admiring an object on display at the Penn Museum.

Admiring an object on display at the Penn Museum.

I work at the Penn Museum (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) in Philadelphia, which can be, for me, a mind-blowing experience on a fairly regular basis. Our collections are vast, representing every populated continent in the world and including close to a million objects, some of which date back thousands of years. This is the kind of place where a curious visitor could, and often does, spend a full day in exploration mode through our galleries. And with the inside perspective that my job offers, I’m able to understand and experience all sorts of goings-on here that can often either go under the radar, or over the heads, of much of the general public. Sure, our website offers plenty of great information about our collections, exhibitions, events, research, and more—but of the huge portion of the public that would be interested in the Penn Museum, not all of them are looking directly at our website.

But many of them are looking at social media and content-sharing sites. Of the most visited websites worldwide, Facebook comes in strong at #2; YouTube is on its heels at #3; Twitter isn’t far behind at #7, followed by Pinterest at #26, Instagram at #31, and plenty more social media channels beyond those. And many of the people using these sites are younger than what you might consider to be a typical museum-going audience. So it follows logically that, to be seen and engaged with by a larger number of people, especially people with whom we’ve had less success engaging in the past, we want the Penn Museum to have a presence in the places where people are already looking.

From the Penn Museum's Instagram feed, the "Ram Caught in a Thicket" from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, dating to ca. 2650-2550 BCE.

From the Penn Museum’s Instagram feed, the “Ram Caught in a Thicket” from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, dating to ca. 2650-2550 BCE.

So that’s what much of my job here amounts to—taking what’s going on here at the Museum (and with our curators, keepers, and researchers, wherever they may be), and translating it into the visual and textual languages which are employed by these increasingly popular networks. And as time goes on, the landscape is constantly changing to offer more new ways to present our content. For example, Twitter is a great way to update our audience about important happenings at the Museum (and for them to share that info with their friends). Instagram lets us capitalize on the seemingly endless array of stunning visual perspectives that one might encounter during a visit to our galleries. YouTube lets us share our lecture videos, making them available to the entire world instead of just the people lucky enough to live within traveling distance of the Museum. And Facebook‘s clear commenting function lets me have a little fun with trivia about objects from our collections every now and then.

I would not have known about the Day of Archaeology if I had not heard about it through social channels. But because someone took the time to present this to me in a familiar context, in a place where I was already looking, I was able to discover it and embrace it. I think this sort of adaptation, this translation, should play a major role in the future of archaeology—a field that can sometimes inherently appear “too old” to be worthy of the interest of today’s general public. By meeting new people on their own terms, through media with which they are already comfortable, we open a window of discovery that many of them might never have known existed.


Exploring Archaeology with the Video Storyteller

“You are an archaeologist, I mean, you dig dinosaurs?!”
“What are you saying? Archaeologists dig for the truth…”
“Dear friends, listen to me! Archaeologists dig very important sites, study pottery and write very boring scientific publication for reconstructing the life of the past. This is archaeology!”
“But it’s not all. Archaeology is pointless if you don’t tell it to people. To involve people in the telling of archaeology via video, that’s the way I like archaeology!”
“Telling stories via video? I’m not sure you are an archaeologist!”

No doubts, I am an archaeologist. I have a degree in archaeology and I tell entertaining stories of archaeology using video. This is also my “Day of archaeology”.
There are many specializations in contemporary archaeology: the landscape archaeologist, the geoarchaeologist, the osteoarchaeologist, the GIS and the 3D expert etc. I am a video storyteller of archaeology!

I don’t think I don’t do archaeology. I dig with my other colleagues, I use trowel and pickaxe, I fulfil my sheets and write my diary. But my scope is to communicate what I dig and the way I like most is recording videos. Why recording videos?
Video is a way of telling but also the scope, the final product. Almost everyone like to take part in a video, everyone like to see themselves in a video and to say to friends: “Hey, have you seen me in that video?”. Last but not least, YouTube is one of the most popular search engine on the Web and when you publish your video on YouTube everyone can see it.
Video is also the medium that narrates stories in the best way because it puts together images and sounds. And every archaeologist knows that a site is an infinite container of stories. We have all the ingredients for a good recipe!

Film making a Vignale 2

I ask constantly myself if I can record a story about what I’m digging and in which way I can tell it. There are countless ways to do it: free you creativity and choose the one you think better for your necessity. You can let archaeologists talk about the site or write and record a story set in the past. You can make a time-lapse video or tell a day at the excavation. What about a point of view of a child or the memories of an old man?
The first step is one of the most difficult: if you aren’t a field director you need an approval for recording your footage; secondly you need the availability of the archaeologists for taking part in the video. Usually archaeologists like to stay in front of the camera. After some shooting they will be confident and involved in what they are doing. Have a look at this video recorded in Vignale and presented at TAG 2012 in Liverpool. Its title is “Last days of fieldwork in room 14” and tell what have been dug in this area of the site through words, photos, time-lapses and diaries. The point is that also excavation can be told in a entertaining way using the right media.

One of the aspect I like more of narrating archaeology via camera is that video is not only a visual medium but also an involving one. It can involve common people to take part in the narration of an archaeological site. At Vignale (Tuscany), a Roman mansio excavated by the University of Siena, in October 2013 children help archaeologists in denounce the activity of looters in the site with a brief video, entitled “Giù le mani dalla nostra storia” (Hands off our history). In agree with archaeologists, they wrote a screenplay and got to the site to record this footage. They had a strong relationship with Vignale and recording this video they had the possibility of doing battle for the site.

After this brief venture in the world of the video storyteller of archaeology, I would like to have a good screenplay with an archaeo-story and record it. Unfortunately, as in 2013, July isn’t a period of film making, so my “Day of Archaeology” is a static day of study. Anyway I’m sure I’ll see many videos embedded in other posts. I’ll enjoy them and the stories inside them!

The Humming From Behind the Webpage

The racing tune of Largo al factotum by Rossini was on the radio as I came into work and has stayed in my head all day. It’s great uplifting piece of music to be rounding off the week and an apt backdrop to a busy Day of Archaeology 2012 (as well as one of my favourite Tom and Jerry cartoons!). Have a listen while you read the next few posts!


Largo al factorum (YouTube video)

I am only in work today for the morning so this post is shorter (and ultimately later as I am now posting this from home) than if Day of Archaeology 2012 fell on one of my full working days like last year. My post has always been at 80% full time which helps to fit in with family life (husband, 2 year old and a 7 year old) and all the other things I try to fit into my evenings and weekends in my ‘free’ time.

My half days are ‘bitty’ days. Too short to get my teeth into something big but great for clearing up all those little ones that arise during the course of the week. So far this morning I’ve dealt with email correspondence on matters such as arranging a review copy of a book to be sent to the journal (we rarely review books but this one has a particular digital slant to it and so makes the grade), sorting out dates for the next CBA Publications committee meeting, dealing with the queries raised by Val Kinsler, the journal’s long-standing copy-editor, on an article for the next issue, as well as setting up the access file for the forthcoming volume and making small changes to the search and subscription database to reflect the new content. I also received a phonecall from a referee regarding a recently submitted text.

Summary page of 'Visualising the Guild Chapel', Internet Archaeology 32 (forthcoming)

Summary page of ‘Visualising the Guild Chapel’, Internet Archaeology 32 (forthcoming)


I have a quick meeting with Stuart from ADS downstairs over our IfA Workplace Learning Bursary application in between spending what’s left of the morning polishing a pretty much completed article (above) ready for release, and make a start on the copy-edited draft from Val, specifically collating queries to send back to the authors.  Both articles are in fact designated for Open Access as the authors either successfully applied to their departmental research fund, or wisely built in publication funding in their original project bid. All too frequently it is still the case that the outputs of research (and their associated costs) are not given much thought at the start of a project/bid. But if things like publication costs are not factored in at the start, it is almost impossible to recover them later. This to me seems to be the biggest hurdle in the move to Open Access in archaeology whatever additional waivers there must always be for those without access to such funds. But Open Access is something Internet Archaeology is committed to achieving. I attended a really useful and interesting day in London at the start of June on Open Access organised by the Repositories Support Project and have been buoyed by the recent announcements and activities (e.g. the Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts’ recent speech, and the newly released Finch report), all which point to the inevitability of Open Access. What else can I say – watch this space!

The John D. Cooper Center series: archaeoLOGIC

At the Dr. John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center, we feel it is our duty to not only share Orange County’s heritage with our residents, but with the world. So we started The Cooper Channel! Our very own YouTube channel where we can educate the world the wonderful and rich history that Southern California has.

This series is called archaeoLOGIC, an archaeology quiz show, where Cooper Channel host and archaeologist, Diana Gurfein, presents local artifacts for our viewers to try and guess.

So in honor of Day of Archaeology 2012, we are presenting a few of our best episodes of archaeoLOGIC. Give it a watch and see if you identify the artifacts.

Good Luck!

For more information on the Cooper Center, visit our websites!!/CooperCenter_OC

Some Previous Episodes



A day in the life of The Archaeology Channel

Behind The Archaeology Channel ( are real people.   These are people who are really excited about telling the human story with digital media on the Internet.  Every piece of video or audio content that we put out has an enormous amount of human legwork behind it.  Normally, you don’t get to see that.  But now, we’ve patched together a short video to give you a “sneak peek” into the goings-on in our office on a typical day.  We’ve posted it on YouTube:

Enjoy!  (But maybe we shouldn’t have revealed ourselves so shamelessly!)

Rick Pettigrew, Executive Director
Archaeological Legacy Institute