History of Public Archaeology (2013-2018)

In summer 2018 I graduated with my PhD in Anthropology, with a specialization in Archaeology. My PhD project was about public and collaborative archaeologies, which are methodologies meant to transform the process of archaeological research by involving people from outside the discipline. 

My dissertation project was titled “Public Archaeology: Perception and Practice”. In my dissertation I explored the ways institutions have influenced, limited, and promoted the development of public archaeology, while remaining largely unrecognized as stakeholders. The goal was to more realistically examine the institutional contexts and pressures that public archaeologists face when conducting research that is meant to be democratizing. In examining archaeological theory, I spend additional time conceptualizing fully collaborative work, in which the contrast between various stakeholders (researchers, institutions, descendant communities, local residents) is particularly striking. Through this dissertation, I have made concrete the social, political, and disciplinary conditions in which public archaeologies have developed.

I conducted this research using methods of ethnographic archaeology, studying not only the written information on how public archaeology developed over time, but doing a survey of practitioners and closely studying four long-term projects in the field. An earlier form of this project was an attempt to understand who and what was important in public archaeology by conducting a mathematical analysis of published written materials (a Social Network Analysis, specifically), but that turned out to not be a good approach for this subject. At least it resulted in a cool and useful bibliography!

I am committed to continuing this work in a thoughtful way which respects the privacy concerns of all participants in archaeological research, including the institutions involved in it.

I am always happy to hear from others studying similar topics, and welcome suggestions of projects to include in my research!