Archaeology, Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Seminar, 25 October – School of Humanities Archaeology, Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Seminar, 25 October – School of Humanities

Nicholson Museum shell display 2019

Archaeology, Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Seminar, 25 October

Caitlin Allen | The University of Sydney

Grounding the City: the role of archaeological sites in contemporary urban life

Conserved archaeological remains are kept in situ in urban developments all over the world.  If David Lowenthal was correct in his 1985 book The Past is a Foreign Country and heritage is about creating something not conserving things, what it is that these archaeological installations create in contemporary society?  Do heritage professionals and the people using these sites share an understanding of what these sites do? And what might an evidence-based understanding of archaeological conservation in the present offer for the future?

Using these questions as its basis my doctoral research is indicting that the way the products of archaeological work, specifically in situ conservation, are received by the public is poorly understood within the archaeological profession.  Interviews and surveys with nearly 100 heritage professionals and 350 users of conserved archaeological sites in urban areas in Australia have demonstrated a disjunct between intention and reception.  Existing heritage management systems that focus on conserving a traditional range of heritage values (historic, aesthetic, technical and research) seem out of step with the needs of contemporary urban communities.  This is particularly the case when moving beyond the transmission of archaeological knowledge, to areas such as individual and collective wellbeing and the role of archaeology in creating enjoyable and liveable urban environments.

This seminar will explore what conserved archaeological sites create in contemporary Australian society and will suggest that an understanding of relationships between people and archaeological places in the present indicates new ways of thinking about in situ conservation.  A potential-filled, future-making approach in which archaeological expertise does not simply try to shape society to appreciate an archaeological view of the past, but one where the practice of archaeological conservation can be shaped to better serve the needs of and benefits to diverse communities.


The Department of Archaeology hosts a lively departmental research seminar series. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Seminars are held in the Refectory from 4-5pm, and are followed by drinks and discussion.
Refectory H113
Quadrangle A14
Click here for map

2019 Seminar Series convenors:
Alix Thoeming, Katherine Woo, and Simon Wyatt-Spratt
Click here to email

The Department of Archaeology is part of the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI).

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Oct 25 - 26 2019


4:00 pm - 5:00 pm


This event is free


Quadrangle Refectory A14



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