Archaeology and the Media: A Special Relationship?
By news editor, on 27 February 2012
The first of five topical debates about archaeology and heritage in a contemporary world, “Archaeology and Media” proved to be a lively and engaged discussion about the role of media in archaeology and the role of archaeology in media.
The event, held on 20 February, was chaired by Maev Kennedy (arts/archaeology correspondent, the Guardian), and featured Alexander Langlands (presenter of BBC2’s Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm and Tales from the Green Valley), Caroline Norris (producer, Horrible Histories), David Keys (archaeology correspondent, the Independent) and Charles Furneaux (Managing Director of Kaboom Film & Television, former commissioning editor, Channel 4).
As archaeology struggles to find its place in the current era of restricted funding, with a dominant focus on the economic value of STEM subjects, the topic of archaeology and the media is particularly relevant.
My interests in the history of archaeology in the late 19th and early 20th century cover a period in which government support for archaeology was nearly non-existent – a useful parallel for negotiating today’s market driven attitudes to scholarship. In the past, archaeologists used print media, film, exhibitions and marketing to raise money for research from a variety of stakeholders, including major industrialists.
As Monday’s debate ensued, it was evident that archaeology as a discipline now has much to learn about the technical and logistical structures shaping television provision particularly. These restrictions override current archaeological frameworks emphasising multiple narratives and complex theoretical devices in favour of a linear, fact-filled storyline.
However, as Caroline Norris noted, programmers are constantly seeking new content, and in making their research accessible archaeologists can become inspirational communicators in their own right.
The message at the end of the day was loud and clear: grasp the metaphorical bull by the horns and shape the provision of archaeological and historical programming in future by communicating effectively now.
Review by Amara Thornton, Honorary Research Associate, UCL Institute of Archaeology.
This debate is one of a series being held in 2012 to mark the Institute’s 75 years leading global archaeology. Further details of all anniversary events are available on the Institute’s dedicated 75th anniversary webpages.
Watch the debate again at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/archaeology/calendar/articles/20120220