When is an object an artefact?

Karina Croucher

Art work produced by school learners, on display in Manchester Museum

I recently had the great pleasure of co-leading a project, ‘Dig: Creative Interpretations’, working with schools in Greater Manchester, around the topic of parks, drawing on material from the Whitworth Park Excavations. For our particular part of the project, Melanie Giles and I led a team of PhD students (Ellon Souter, Jodie Kim and Jenna Ashton), who worked with local primary and secondary schools to produce some amazing postcards and poems, as a part of a workshop which reflected on issues of use, and the ownership of spaces, in parks.

photo 5 (2) Everyday objects become artefacts

Old bottles on display

The postcards and poems went on to form a component of a recent exhibition at Manchester Museum.   Aside from being immensely proud to have work included in the exhibition, it was fantastic to see everyday objects taking centre stage…

View original post 295 more words

Advertisements

When is an object an artefact?

Art work produced by school learners, on display in Manchester Museum

I recently had the great pleasure of co-leading a project, ‘Dig: Creative Interpretations’, working with schools in Greater Manchester, around the topic of parks, drawing on material from the Whitworth Park Excavations. For our particular part of the project, Melanie Giles and I led a team of PhD students (Ellon Souter, Jodie Kim and Jenna Ashton), who worked with local primary and secondary schools to produce some amazing postcards and poems, as a part of a workshop which reflected on issues of use, and the ownership of spaces, in parks.

photo 5 (2)

Everyday objects become artefacts

Old bottles on display

The postcards and poems went on to form a component of a recent exhibition at Manchester Museum.   Aside from being immensely proud to have work included in the exhibition, it was fantastic to see everyday objects taking centre stage as the focus of exhibition cases. For instance, Lego bricks and other children’s lost or discarded toys are on display, providing insights into childhood in the past (and the subject of a PhD topic by Ruth Colton), with the re-use of pop-bottle stoppers as marbles conjuring up narratives around play, and how these items came to be lost, forgotten or thrown away, and discovered many years later. It is probably safe to say that their owners were unlikely to have guessed the eventual fate of their objects, in museum displays. Alongside toys, there is evidence of the subversive activities which often take place in parks, then and now, including alcohol bottles and hash bags. As discussed on a recent Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, parks were supposedly alcohol-free places, and their findings here demonstrate the long history of hidden behaviour taking place in park spaces.

Perhaps more than anything, the excavation, our work with local school groups, and the museum exhibition, highlight the value of studying everyday objects and behaviour. It is refreshing to hear the stories of the everyday, rather than those of the rich and powerful, as is so often the case with archaeology.

I’m looking forward to encouraging archaeology students to think about the topic in my lectures at the University of Bradford next semester – along with visits to local and National Museums (including the British Museum), lectures will discuss what makes a museum exhibit or artefact, and address the relationship between the past and the present.photo 4

The Whitworth Park Community Archaeology and History Project is directed by Prof Sian Jones, Dr Hannah Cobb and Dr Melanie Giles, and the project assistant is Ruth Colton.

Check out blended images of the Park, produced by Stuart Jeffrey

Reflections on Continuing Bonds, May 2014, #YODO

A short write-up on Continuing Bonds: a special Dying Matters Awareness Week event, hosted by LOROS Hospice and Leicester Cathedral, 14th May 2014

The conference provided an excellent forum for discussions around death and dying. The day was instigated by Prof Christina Faull, who I had the fortune of meeting at the Palliative Care Congress in March, where our conversations sparked the incentive for Wednesday’s event. Following a welcome by Rev Peter Hobson of Leicester Cathedral, the day commenced with some inspirational comments and reflections from Professor Mayur Lakhani, Chair of Dying Matters, including some of the practical advice of the ‘Dying Awareness Week: You Only Die Once’ #YODO campaign (encouraging people with advanced disease to ask questions of their doctors, including  ‘what can I expect’, and to ask for help with a care plan for the future). He also reminded us of the growing importance of our digital legacies – including discussing what we would like to happen with Facebook and other Social Media forums, and the possibilities for arranging digital messages to be sent to loved ones in the future.

I had the tough job of following Mayur Lakhani. I talked about practices from the Neolithic of the Middle East, including burial beneath house floors, the plastering of skulls, and some introductions to grave goods, framed in the context of ‘Continuing Bonds’. I ended with some reflections on experiences of excavating human remains. My talk was followed by Prof Sarah’s Tarlow’s overview of burial practices through time, including particular focus on the Medieval, and the expected beliefs about the body and burial at the time of Richard III.

Rev Alison Adams proceeded with a thought-provoking reflection on burial and some of the key issues and decisions in preparing for Richard III’s final resting place, including the practical needs to be visible and accessible, while quiet and respectful. She also highlighted the importance of ritual and ceremony (whatever religion or absence of religion) , including insights from her work with prisoners, and the anguish at the denial of funeral attendance.

Prof Kevin Schurer called in to provide a talk on changing demographics, focusing on the impact of an increased mortality rate on personal and communal experiences of death (in the past), as well as role of paintings/portraits taken of the deathbed, something which has gradually become taboo. The talk highlighted just how lucky we are today, with life expectancies vastly increased from those of our ancestors.

The day ended with some insightful group talks around key themes from the day, chaired by Mandy Motley, Director or Education at LOROS Hospice, including asking the participants to reflect on their legacies. The discussion proved valuable – a chance to hear more from other disciplines and different perspectives, whether religious, secular, medical, or personal.

It was fantastic incorporating the views and experiences of a range of professionals during the day, including hospice workers, religious leaders, archaeologists and historians, and framing the event around Richard III provided a grounding for including debate from different perspectives, crossing the contemporary and (pre)historical divide. A fabulous edition to Dying Awareness Week.