Session Abstracts:

Monty Dobson: Inaugural Scholar and Visiting Assistant Professor at the School of Public Service and Global Citizenship, Central Michigan University

Title:Managing the message: my evolution from academic to television producer.

My own journey to producing television films was in direct reaction to the popularity of rubbish history and pseudo-science based content on television.  The proliferation of pseudo-science programmes such as Ancient Aliens and Bigfoot Revealed on television reflects the existence of a market for entertaining, thought provoking television content. However, the above mentioned programs are wildly inaccurate and misleading representation of science and archaeology at their worst, programmes like Ancient Aliens serve to perpetuate discredited racist and colonialist ideologies in the guise of investigative inquiry.  If we hope to stem the tide of rubbish history and science programs, we must put ourselves out there and tell the exciting stories we have in a way that engages the public imagination.

In this paper I will advocate increased involvement of academic archaeologists in the production of content.  In the past, cost was a major inhibitor to independent television production.  However, advances in digital filmmaking have greatly reduced the cost of production and leveled the playing field for independents. Funding challenges remain, but by leveraging university assets and forming creative and synergistic partnerships it is possible to produce high-quality, entertaining and educational content that challenges the status quo.  

Don Henson: Honorary Director at Centre for Audio-Visual Study and Practice in Archaeology (CASPAR)
Title: Understanding the Stereotypes of Archaeology on Television

Archaeology has a long tradition on television in the UK, beginning with Animal, Vegetable, Mineral? in 1952, an archaeological quiz show. This was soon followed by a straight documentary strand, Buried Treasure in 1954 and Chronicle from 1966 to 1986. This kind of format, the documentary, has remained very popular and remains the dominant mode of archaeology on TV.

More popular in recent times is the dramatised documentary, using actors in costume to portray individuals using various degrees of dramatic narrative. Good examples include Neanderthal in 2001, and Pompeii: the last day in 2003.

The most popular of recent series have been those that have placed their focus squarely on archaeological process, emphasising the work of the archaeologists and the role of interpretation. This has been the major contribution of Time Team, on our TV screens since 1994, following by programmes like Meet the Ancestors (1998-2003), House Detectives (1996-2002) and Two Men in a Trench (2002-03).

So, there has been a wide variety of types of archaeology programme on television. Most have been educational in that they aim to impart knowledge or understanding. Some have overt entertainment elements, such as larger than live personalities, or dramatic narrative. Very few have entertainment as their main mode of communication, although archaeology does feature in rather more entertainment shows than we think.

So, why did Bonekickers fail so badly. Can it be treated as an archaeology series? Where does it fit within the tradition of television archaeology.

Marjolijn Kok: Institute of Landscape Archaeology and Heritage Studies
Title: Archaeotainment: A Critical View at the Mingling of Heritage and Fun

In this paper I will examine how archaeology is represented in entertainment. The use of heritage in different media such as movies and games is not equal to heritage education. Nonetheless, it shapes the mind and I call this mixing of archaeology and entertainment "archaeotainment". Archaeologists should worry how their profession is displayed, but maybe sometimes they are looking at the less important things to criticize. It may not be how we are portrayed but how our object of study is portrayed that give us the greatest concerns. Colonial overtones and the homogenization of non-Western cultures could be more damaging to our profession than the fact that we (mostly) do not go into trenches wearing guns. By analysing the visual aspects and level of engagement or interaction of three different media - movie (Indiana Jones), games (Lara Croft) and toys (Playmobil) - I will try to show the positive and negative elements involved in the use of heritage in archaeotainment.

Carenza Lewis, University of Cambridge, Department of Archaeology
Title: Bullwhips, bullion and making a difference – the role of TV archaeology in social change projects.

This paper will consider the role of TV archaeology in helping archaeology to drive forward social change by enhancing various aspects of people's lives.  It will be based on the speaker’s experience of harnessing the appeal of archaeology and the communication skills used in broadcasting to develop effective social programmes raising educational aspirations, boosting educational performance, building personal self-confidence, developing new ways of assessing skills, enhancing community cohesion, and enriching the lives of individuals with special needs.  The paper will be based on evidence from several thousand people of all ages who since 2005 have taken part in archaeological activities run by Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA), the outreach unit set up by Dr Carenza Lewis at the University of Cambridge after she left Time Team (http://www.arch.cam.ac.uk/aca/). 
The paper will begin by considering the way in which experience gained in broadcasting, including Time Team, led to the creation of Access Cambridge Archaeology. It will then explore the impact that the public profile TV creates for archaeology had on the development and expansion of ACA programmes as it set out to reach a wider range of people.  The paper will then examine the extent to which the expectations of those taking part on ACA activities correspond to what they expect from having watched archaeology on TV, and how this impacts on outcomes.  Finally, it will consider they way in which the activities of ACA have themselves been picked up by, and presented in, broadcast media, and reflect on the difference between these and the way archaeology is often portrayed elsewhere in the media.

Theano Moussouri, University College London, Institute of Archaeology
Title: Unpacking the meaning and value of education, learning and entertainment.

In the museum studies literature, the terms “education” and “learning” have been used interchangeably, while the term “entertainment/fun” is often seen as opposed to education and/or learning. This paper will use motivation research to argue that museum visitors see no apparent conflict between fun and learning. Indeed, research shows that people who enjoy learning, particularly the type of learning afforded by a museum, consider learning in a museum entertaining. Although the exact numbers and priorities vary, a large number of people visit museums seeking a learning-oriented entertainment experience. Existing evidence suggests that these type of experiences lead to a significant increase in learning.

Furthermore, this paper will discuss the connotations the terms education, learning and entertainment have both for practitioners and visitors/users. It will also argue that we need to work harder to both understand the connotations and nuances of the terms, and to help reinvent for the public more appropriate definitions of these terms.

Victoria Park, International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Newcastle University.
Title: Read all about it? Newspaper coverage of the excavation of human remains.

 The newspaper article provides an interface through which the ‘everyday’ excavation can be presented to the public, and coverage has increased over the past 20 years. However, the newspaper article is far from a simple account of an event, it is socially constructed within the constraints of the news media format. As a result, coverage often attracts concern from archaeologists, particularly when human remains are concerned. The competing ideas between archaeologists and news media with regards to content and purpose of the newspaper article means it can be viewed as a site of conflict.
This paper takes data collected from newspaper articles, the public, and archaeologists, as well as drawing upon mass media theory to explore the issue in more depth, seeking to understand the contrasting views of newspaper coverage of the excavation of human remains. It will consider issues such as what archaeology is to the news, and what the newspaper article is to archaeology. The paper will also touch upon the ways in which newspaper articles draw upon wider popular culture images of archaeology as a way of engaging their readers.

Ian Richardson, Treasure Registrar, The British Museum
Title: Britain’s Secret Treasures

The television programme Britain’s Secret Treasures represents the end product of a year and half of pitches, negotiations, research and production by ITV studios, and the collaborative efforts of the British Museum.  It is a programme about archaeology, focusing on artefacts discovered by members of the public, rather than professional archaeologists, which have been reported to the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). The objects were chosen on the bases of specific criteria centering around their historic significance, but naturally it was necessary to consider the items’ appeal to viewers; either as aesthetic or touching pieces in their own right, or for the story behind their burial or discovery. 

Throughout negotiations and production, the television studio and the British Museum debated the treatment of issues such as value and best practice, with both sides finding a mutually agreeable formula.   The was not as difficult as it could have been – perhaps because the PAS, in its relationship with metal detector users, represents a nuanced position in archaeology and is attuned to compromise.

At the moment (June 2012) as the production period draws to a close and the marketing of the series begins to take shape, the British Museum has been pleased with its relationship with ITV.  The museum developed a successful strategy for dealing with what it anticipated would be a logistically challenging production period.  

The compelling question, and one that is dependent not just on the appeal of the television show but also on factors like the weather and national news stories (the show will be broadcast at the same time as the start of the Olympics) is about the impact of the programme once it is broadcast.  In the immediate aftermath it should be possible to gauge impact in terms of online response (visits to the PAS website, for instance) but more difficult to gauge will be a ‘real world’ response, and whether the show results in more finds being reported and more museums being visited, which of course would be the best hoped for result of this collaboration for the British Museum.

Lorna Richardson: PhD Candidate, Centre for Digital Humanities at University College London
Title: Session Social Media Coordinator 

Francesco Ripanti, PhD Candidate, University of Siena
Title: Entertainment and Edutainment together – Multimedia and video-narration in archaeology
 This paper discusses uses of film and film production as a means of enhanced communication between archaeologists and the wider public. Given recent advances in digital technology, including cameras and high-speed internet, online dialogue can be fostered through effective and creative film production. But, how do archaeologists navigate the differences between entertainment and edutainment? This paper argues that by leveraging public interest in fieldwork, archaeologists can tell micro-stories recorded on film and audiences are then free to respond to areas of their own interests: a children to a funny scene, an archaeologist to a description of a particular feature, a member of the local community to some allusion to the place where he lives etc. An example of this is the successful experimental film project produced by archaeologists at the Roman site of Vignale (Italy). In 2012, the archaeologists produced a docudrama with 3D reconstructions  interspersed with video documentation of the fieldwork in progress

David Toon, Cloak and Dagger Studios
Title: The Theatre: Shoreditch, 1595
Discusses the collaborative project between The Museum of London, archaeologists who excavated the Shoreditch site and Cloak & Dagger Studios from the perspective of the filmmaker.  One of the biggest points of interest to arise from our project wa that by taking the excavation data through the journey of constructing and presenting a multi-media project, a number of questions emerged for the archaeologists that maybe they wouldn’t have thought of in their original analysis. The process of visualizing the structure in 3d allowed the team to test theoretical assumptions about the structure and how it functioned and looked above ground.  From an audience point of view, basing the 3D model of the Theatre on accurate data from the excavation also enriches the user’s experience. 

Gerry Twomey, Bamburgh Research Project
Title: The role of media in the rediscovery of Hope Taylor’s Bamburgh
Title: Methodological approaches to media at Bamburgh Research Project
  1. The role of media in the rediscovery of Hope Taylor’s Bamburgh.

This paper is intended to be a summary of how the work of Brian Hope Taylor at Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland came to light over a number of years following his death in 2001.

Brian Hope Taylor’s Bamburgh legacy.

Brian Hope-Taylor excavated at Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, UK between 1959 and 1961 and from 1970 to 1974.  He never completed a final report detailing his work. The castle has been investigated since 1996 by Bamburgh Research Project, and a significant portion of the early years of the project between 2000 and 2006 were concerned with rediscovering what Hope Taylor had achieved at Bamburgh. The project’s media department played an important role in recording these investigations and went beyond the excavation to unearth the story behind the dig. What emerges is a story that parallels a wider subject of how fundamental changes in archaeological methodology and theoretical approaches have transformed British archaeology in the latter half of the 20th century.

The work of BRP media has shown that video recording integrated within archaeological projects can offer an opportunity to preserve the valuable legacy of important archaeologists. A feature length documentary film will be the major outcome of this research.

  1. Methodological approaches to media at Bamburgh Research Project

Multi-media, and specifically video, can augment and inform the archaeological record. Bamburgh Research Project media has captured over 1500 hours of digital video spanning 6 formats since 2000, and produced numerous films with varying success.  Film crews are comprised of media and archaeology students and volunteers.

The BRP media method borrows heavily from the low key, single camera small production team method that we had witnessed in 1999 working with BBC’s Meet the Ancestors. We combined that with conventions of archaeological recording – instead of a context register we had a tape register and instead of context sheets we had tape log sheets.

The notion of recording every context throughout its excavation was untenable. Our approach favoured on-site interpretation and social documentary to record beyond the traditional record, much like an augmented site notebook.

We collected regular PTC’s (presenting to camera) with excavators, detailing their developing interpretation of the site, and extensive footage of the layers and features under excavation. We followed the story of Hope Taylor at Bamburgh, collecting many interviews with people who had known or dug with him. That investigative process helped us understand Hope Taylor’s site better and proved invaluable when interpreting his recording system.

By recording the dig daily, we hoped to critically assess the quality of archaeological practice on site. The footage could be edited and disseminated. The archaeology of a site has it’s own narrative. Broadband internet, social media and the popularity of community archaeology, lends itself perfectly to a multi-media approach.

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