As you may have gathered, I am researching the impact of digital technologies and forms of communications on audiences for archaeological information. A way of saying – does ‘the digital’ change whether people outside the sector are interested in archaeology, and if so, how?
But I felt I needed to kick-off my project from a slightly different perspective, before I can move into other areas of my many-headed hydra of a research subject. So what do archaeologists think of ‘the public’ in the first place? During the time I spent researching my PhD thesis, I saw a lot of assumptions being made about many things to do with ‘the public’ by professional archaeologists. But what do we, as professionals, really, honestly, deep-down, think about public engagement, outreach, citizen archaeology, community archaeology, public archaeology or whatever we are calling it this month?
I read a really interesting article by John C. Besley in Science & Public Policy (2015, 42 pp.201-214) and I recommend to anyone interested in public engagement and public interaction with any academic subject. If we are to take part in public debates about heritage value, heritage crime, place-making, funding for research, protection of (what we call) heritage assets, how do we really feel about communicating with ‘the public’? Do we honestly want to worry about impact and public outreach, or is this all a front? Do we feel our knowledge is important and valued? Do we feel our work has a place in the public arena, or is the very thought of public engagement with archaeology a huge waste of time and effort, when we could be putting ourselves to other uses, and furthering scientific knowledge about the past? Do we continue to think that there is a deficit in public knowledge on archaeological subjects, and that we need to educate people to understand us and what we do? Ivory towers are, like, so 1958 – aren’t they?
So these thoughts in mind, I have devised a predominantly multiple choice survey which aims to collect quantitative data on UK archaeologists perceptions of ‘the public’ and public engagement. It would be great if as many UK-based archaeologists as possible could take part, as honestly and as openly as possible. The survey is completely anonymous, and I will not be able to tell who has taken the survey – so I am hoping for some open responses.
The link is here, please take the survey if you are based in the UK and a professional archaeologist. Your help with my project would be much appreciated: https://websurvey.textalk.se/start.php?ID=90697