Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Future is Bright...The Future is Grey

I am writing this post as I make the long journey home from the First Annual Student Archaeology Conference in York! The conference was an interesting experience and not quite what I thought it would be...not that I really know what I thought it would be. All I can say is what it was wasn't what I was expecting!

There were fewer students, given the potential platform of such conferences for meeting other like minded students and such I was shocked that so few were there. I as also amazed by the distinct lack of prehistory, there were a few papers but it was very much a historical focus, maybe this is due to the location with York providing such a rich record. A traditional speaker presents then end of session a discussion happens, I appreciate the need to run to time, however, I often felt like the discussion was the point of the conference and it was very much a secondary focus. Hindsight suggests that having session run similar to seminars may have worked better, there would've fewer papers but there would be more time available to discuss issues. After all an open forum allows for greater learning doesn't it?

I felt my paper went well, it was the first of the after lunch session and there were a few light moments. I ran a little over and had to cut the paper short which is frustrating on my part, an extra few minutes and the audience may have had a better grasp of what I was trying to demonstrate. Much was made in a paper following my own about disjointed archaeology and snobbery within academic archaeology. A lack of willingness to merge science and arts, something I have rarely experienced. However what I have noted is the divide between the academic and the professional field archaeologist. Here there lies strained working relations and I feel that the use of Grey Literature allows this gap to be bridged. At the end of the day it is the field archaeologists that encounter the majority of our archaeology, yet we very rarely consult their reports or consider their sites in our research and paper writing. I used this very valuable resource during my time in Kent and am hoping that a PhD will soon be in the pipeline, furthering my existing research and working in a close capacity with units and trusts than I did the first time it the benefit of experience.

The overwhelming theme within the conference was the need for community engagement, yet the focus of this was children, with exception to the homeless project. This is something that was also discussed in the community engagement day school in Oxford and it is refreshing to see new audiences being engaged with the past and integrated within the heritage family. However as mention above field and academia needs uniting, they are a little like divorced parents and archaeological research, I feel, is suffering as a result. The fault for this lies largely with academics, they bring the new generation of archaeologists through and if they do not discuss the commercial world a student cannot learn. Along with worrying about adding new members to our archaeology family with community projects I feel we need to take care of existing members. Without the commercial sector my dissertation could not have happened, it is that simple. It is sad to think of the discoveries that are lying in archive boxes waiting for someone to uncover them once more.

I truly believe that Grey Literature has a place in academic archaeology and that field archaeologists also have their role to play too. We both seek to understand, preserve and where possible protect the past world we simply go about it in different manners.

I hope delegates were able to take away the ideas from the last two days and apply them in real situations that they have seen or heard about. I love theory but it can create a beautiful safe bubble.

I am ending this post with the continue notion that the future is bright and the future is grey...even if it only for my beautiful little Isle for now....