Tag Archives: archaeology

Announcing the Heritage Jam

11th of July 2014 at
the University of York

We’ve just launched a new heritage visualisation project at the University of York & I’m hopeful you might be keen to participate and/or spread the word. Thank you in advance for your interest!

Are you concerned with the way the past is presented? Have you ever worked with (or wished you could work with) art, photos, video, diagrams, websites or other forms of graphic and performance pieces in the context of interpreting the archaeological and heritage records? Are you interested to innovate with the visualisation of history and prehistory?

If so, we invite your participation in The Heritage Jam (www.heritagejam.org), a collaborative global event in heritage visualisation, taking place both online and in-person on the 11th of July 2014 at the University of York.
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AHRC CDA PhD Studentship


“Alfred Maudslay, Photography and the Mimetic Technologies of Archaeology: A Study in Method, Process and Effect”

Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester/ British Museum, London


An AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award studentship covering stipend and tuition fee costs is offered within the Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC) in the Faculty of Art, Design and Humanities in collaboration with the British Museum. 

The project addresses the role of photography and its relationship with other mimetic technologies in field archaeology and the subsequent institutional life of the images in the construction of ‘heritage’. The project also explores the methodological implications for a ‘photographic history’ approach to collections and institutions. 

The project will focus on the 1513 magnificent late nineteenth century photographs made of Maya archaeology by Alfred Maudslay, their relationship with other kinds of recording and their subsequent ‘life’ in the Museum. The student will have scope, within the project parameters, to develop an emphasis in photographic history, collections history, history of science, or museum practice in archaeological heritage. 

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Mark Dion and the Arts and Archaeologies of Waste

Mark Dion and the Arts and Archaeologies of Waste

– William Viney

[William Viney has a PhD in cultural studies and humanities from the London Consortium, University of London. An editor for Pluto Press and Pod Academy, his current research project examines the philosophical, artistic and anthropological significance of twins.  http://williamviney.com]

An interesting debate has simmered in the humanities about the relative importance of ‘waste’ in our material and historical imagination. This post has the modest ambition of asking what some theorists of archaeology have said about waste things, about the time waste objects seem to articulate and about the narrative interpretations that seek to chart the comings and goings of things. Having done this short tour about some secondary texts, I want to then compare those statements to a work of installation art that deals explicitly with the archaeologies of waste. The end result, I hope, offers an opportunity to overhear the ways in which the dispersal of waste interacts with the gathering, ordering and reassembly that collecting things enact. Meanwhile, I’d like to advance a temporal reading of waste which permits me to contend that archaeologists assemble time through the collection of things.

I. Gathering Waste

To collect, to describe, to classify; these are activities that seem to complicate many of the statically terminal attributes (such as valuelessness, inertia, finitude and dissolution), with which objects of waste have been traditionally associated.[1] And yet it is clear that we can collect waste, indeed, the collection of things called waste can play an important role in defining acts of collection as such. Waste, in this respect, shows itself to be an enigmatic presence within the historical record. One of the enchanting and enigmatic aspects of waste is this sense of availability, a temporal openness that helps, paradoxically, to structure its recovery, collection and analysis.

Christopher Tilley has written, “the primary event of archaeology is the event of excavation or writing, not the event of the past”,[2] and yet it is a sense of what has past that structures the possibility of framing the eventual, presentation of collected things. Through its end-loaded temporality, the time associated with waste and its lingering sense of postponement makes an important contribution to the presencing of archaeological analysis, making the collection of waste both a measure of archaeological work and a category of thing ripe for describing the aims of that work. Matthew Johnson, in his introduction to archaeological theory, employs an image of waste collection to distinguish the professionalism of contemporary archaeological practice: “What makes us archaeologists as opposed to mindless collectors of old junk is the set of rules we use to translate those facts into meaningful accounts of the past”.[3] This statement entertains some subtle oppositions. Firstly, that archaeology does not collect “junk” because it is a technical discipline able to give closure to what it collects, to make meaningful accounts of historical things. Secondly, and closely related to the first, junk is incompatible with the formation of a coherent record; junk is that stuff which is resistant to translation. Of course, Johnson uses terms like ‘rubbish’ or ‘junk’ to denote semantic incomprehensibility or valuelessness, a familiar rhetorical move that ignores the ways in which we use waste to make sense of and describe the changing value of our environment. Above all, Johnson’s conception of waste reproduces oppositions – between the dispersal and collection of knowledge, between scattered waste things and valuable and preserved artefacts – that obscure the cohering effects of waste and the gathered, recuperative acts of collection.

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