An introduction to museum archaeology

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Content: Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-86076-5 - An Introduction to Museum Archaeology Hedley Swain Frontmatter More information
An Introduction to Museum Archaeology An Introduction to Museum Archaeology provides a comprehensive survey and synthesis of all aspects of current museum practice relating to the discipline of archaeology. This book is divided into four separate, but related parts. It begins with a discussion of what is meant by museums, archaeology, and museum archaeology and includes a brief survey of the history, legal foundation, and global geographic spread of museum archaeological practice. The second part of this book deals with collections in all of their aspects. This includes subjects such as the looting of illicit antiquities, the major challenges posed by the ever-mounting quantity of material from archaeological excavations, and the very recent debates over the place of HUMAN REMAINS in museums. It also discusses conservation and research. The third part deals with the use of archaeological materials and methods in displays, exhibitions, and public and educational programmes. Drawing heavily on examples, it deconstructs the different challenges posed by trying to tell archaeological stories in museum buildings and on related sites. The final section sums up the state of museum archaeology in the early twenty-first century and discusses the major issues that museum archaeology is currently confronting. There is also a detailed list of every museum and exhibit mentioned in the book, each with a Web address and an exhaustive list of references. An Introduction to Museum Archaeology provides an essential text for anyone studying museums, archaeology, or cultural heritage, and it is a reference for those working in these fields. It is full of detailed information, and it discusses concepts and provides the context for current debates. Hedley Swain is Head of Early London History and Collections at the Museum of London and chair of the British Society of Museum Archaeologists. He is an honorary lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, and a tutor at Birkbeck College, University of London. Swain has published widely on museum and archaeological matters and is the author of several major surveys of museum archaeology in Britain.
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-86076-5 - An Introduction to Museum Archaeology Hedley Swain Frontmatter More information An Introduction to Museum Archaeology Hedley Swain Museum of London
© Cambridge University Press
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-86076-5 - An Introduction to Museum Archaeology Hedley Swain Frontmatter More information
cambridge university press Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, Sa~ o Paulo, Delhi
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c Hedley Swain 2007
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS Cataloging in Publication Data
Swain, Hedley, 1961­
An introduction to museum archaeology / Hedley Swain.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
isbn-13: 978-0-521-86076-5 (hardback)
isbn-13: 978-0-521-67796-7 (pbk.)
1. Archaeological museums and collections. 2. Archaeological muse-
ums and collections ­ Management. 3. Antiquities ­ Collection and
preservation. 4. Museum techniques. I. Title.
cc55.s93 2007
930.1074 ­ dc22
2006103440
isbn 978-0-521-86076-5 hardback isbn 978-0-521-67796-7 paperback
Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of urls for external or third-party Internet Web sites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such Web sites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-86076-5 - An Introduction to Museum Archaeology Hedley Swain Frontmatter More information For Bryony and Finlay
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-86076-5 - An Introduction to Museum Archaeology Hedley Swain Frontmatter More information At the end of the lawn was a large summer or Moss House (the subject of many a poetic lay). The walls were constructed of sturdy limbs of trees ranged side by side, and covered on the outside with dry heather, while the inside was lined with moss. Shelves were fixed around formed of elm branches cut so as to leave the bark on the front edges; and on these appropriate supports were arranged the numerous urns and larger objects found in the barrows. On either side were smaller cells constructed on the same plan, but more open; in these were many of the larger fossils, notably a very fine slab of coal measures shale's with very beautiful remains of fossil plants. On the floor of the centre compartment was a plan of the temple of Avebury, formed of large pebbles to represent the stones and form the main circles. The two avenues branched off right and left leading to the smaller cells mentioned above. In the centre of one of these was a circle of the pebbles to represent the head of the serpent, according to Stukely and others. (A description by his daughter Elizabeth of the display of William Cunnington's collections in his garden at Heytesbury, as quoted in Annable and Simpson 1964, p. 5.)
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-86076-5 - An Introduction to Museum Archaeology Hedley Swain Frontmatter More information
Contents
List of Figures, Tables, and Illustrations Preface Acknowledgments Abbreviations
page xi xv xix xxi
Part 1: Introduction
Chapter 1. What for Whom?
3
Chapter 2. Museum Archaeology, Origins
18
Chapter 3. Current Aims, Methods, Practise, and
Theory
35
Chapter 4. The Legal Framework
57
Chapter 5. Museum Archaeology: Geographic Scope
69
Part 2: Collections
Chapter 6. Archaeological Collections
91
Chapter 7. Excavation Archives
115
Chapter 8. Human Remains
147
Chapter 9. Research
169
Chapter 10. Conservation and Collections Care
179
Part 3: Interpretation
Chapter 11. The Visiting Public
195
Chapter 12. Displaying Archaeology: Methods
210
Chapter 13. Displaying Archaeology: Examples
234
Chapter 14. School, Public, and Community
Programmes
265
Part 4: Conclusions
Chapter 15. Conclusions
291
Chapter 16. Museums and Exhibitions
298
Appendix, Working in Museum Archaeology
319
References
323
Index
355
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-86076-5 - An Introduction to Museum Archaeology Hedley Swain Frontmatter More information
List of Figures, Tables, and Illustrations
Figures Figure 1. The potential audiences for museum archaeology expressed as a pyramid.
page 199
Tables
Table 1. Museum policies relating to archaeological
collections.
107
Table 2. The range of information that might be held
on a computer record for an individual accessioned
item.
109
Table 3. The possible elements of a archaeological
archive deposited in a museum.
118
Table 4. How museums were planning to deal with
future archive storage needs. (Reproduced from
Swain 1998a, p. 38.)
131
Table 5. How students at the twenty-four English
universities that teach archaeology use fieldwork,
archives, and museums in their teaching. (From
unpublished interim report of the HEFCE Archive
Archaeology project.)
141
Illustrations
Plate 1. Interior of number 5 Liverpool Street, c. 1850.
The antiquarian collection of Charles Roach Smith,
later to be donated to the Museum of London and
the British Museum. (Photo: Museum of London.)
95
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xii
List of Figures and Tables
Plate 2. Archaeological finds as part of excavation
archives at the Museum of London's London
Archaeological Archive and Research Centre.
(Photo: Museum of London.)
135
Plate 3. The London Bodies exhibition (1998) at the
Museum of London. (Photo: Museum of London.)
165
Plate 4. Displays in the Early Peoples gallery at the
NATIONAL MUSEUM of Scotland. (Copyright, NMS.)
238
Plate 5. Sculptures by Eduardo Paolozzi containing
artefacts in the entrance area of the Early Peoples
gallery at the National Museum of Scotland.
(Copyright, NMS.)
239
Plate 6. The River Wall part of the London before London
gallery at the Museum of London (2002). (Photo:
Museum of London.)
241
Plate 7. The new Roman galleries at the Corinium
Museum, Cirencester. (Copyright, Cotswold District
Council.)
245
Plate 8. The boat yard at the Roskilde Viking Ship
Museum, Denmark, where the public can see
traditional shipbuilding. (Photo: Nikola Burdon.)
247
Plate 9. Lateґ nium, Switzerland. The architecture of
the museum in sympathy with the landscape.
(Photo: Jack Lohman.)
249
Plate 10. The Jorvik Viking Centre York. (Photo
courtesy of the York Archaeological Trust.)
250
Plate 11. The Jorvik Viking Centre York. (Photo
courtesy of the York Archaeological Trust.)
251
Plate 12. High Street Londinium: Reconstructing Roman
London at the Museum of London (2000). (Photo:
Museum of London.)
252
Plate 13. Roman actor and school children in the High
Street Londinium exhibition. (Photo: Museum of
London.)
253
Plate 14. Jamestown Settlement, Virginia, USA. The
Living History reconstruction of James Fort. (Photo
courtesy of the Jamestown Settlement,
Williamsburg, Virginia.)
258
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List of Figures and Tables
xiii
Plate 15. Jamestown Settlement, Virginia, USA. The
Living History reconstruction of The Indian Village.
(Photo courtesy of the Jamestown Settlement,
Williamsburg, Virginia.)
259
Plate 16. The Spitalfields Woman. Ten thousand
members of the public queued to see this new
discovery at the Museum of London in 1999.
(Photo: Museum of London.)
271
Plate 17. A Roman school box designed to be given to
Junior Schools in London and including real Roman
artefacts. (Photo: Museum of London.)
276
Plate 18. The Dig, at the Museum of London in 2001.
An event designed to help children to understand
how archaeology works. (Photo: Museum of
London.)
277
Plate 19. The "Celtic" warrior presentation developed
by the National Museums and Galleries of Wales
and designed to teach children about how objects
survive (or don't survive in the ground). (Photo:
Museum of London.)
283
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-86076-5 - An Introduction to Museum Archaeology Hedley Swain Frontmatter More information
Preface
This book tries to capture the nature of museum archaeology (the discipline of archaeology as it affects museums) as it exists at the beginning of the twenty-first century. This is a huge and amorphous subject. It includes great museums, such as the Louvre and the British Museum, as well as small district museums. It deals with the conservation and ordering of excavation archives and the looting of cultural heritage. It deals with major political quandaries such as the fate of the Parthenon Marbles and prosaic practical problems such as how to write display captions. From this, the idea that emerges is that museum archaeology has a rather strange double existence. Two personalities inextricably linked by history and a shared vocabulary but otherwise largely distinct. One half is that of the classic archaeology of Carter and Schliemann with its Egyptian mummies and Greek vases displayed as decorative arts, denuded of context and brushing shoulders with a world both of classic scholars and also of private collectors and auction houses. The other half is that of the local archaeological contractors uncovering vast assemblages of mundane domestic pottery sherds and contributing to local authority museums. Such museums try to provide contextualised galleries replete with reconstructions and dioramas, content for national archaeology days, and for young archaeology clubs, to try and make archaeology relevant to modern communities. The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 gives the background, history, and context for how museum archaeology currently operates. Part 2 deals with collections ­ the things dug up by the antiquarians, archaeologists, and looters. Part 3 looks at how these collections are communicated through
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Preface
museum galleries and programmes. Part 4 includes a list of every museum and gallery mentioned in the text. The book tries to deal with the subject globally. If you look hard enough, you will probably find museum archaeology of one form or another in every town in the Western world and in every city in the world. However, inevitably, it is primarily a story of Britain, Europe, and North America because this is where the most museums, the most money, and the most museum archaeologists are located; and this is where the museum archaeological tradition developed. As such, the "West" is referred to often. It is a descriptor that is much used and abused but has relevance within the context of museum archaeology. It is used to describe a geographical location, a philosophical and cultural outlook, an economic grouping, and a state of mind. However, in many of its examples, this book is unashamedly London-centric. I have spent most of my life living in London and a good proportion of it working for the Museum of London. Since its creation in 1976, the Museum has always had field archaeologists undertaking excavation in London; has always had permanent galleries drawing heavily on archaeological finds and methods; and has always had public and educational programmes, including temporary exhibitions, that make use of archaeological discoveries and knowledge. In the last 10 years, we at the Museum have grappled with many, although not all, of the issues facing museum archaeologists. The major exception is that despite London's multicultural, multiethnic nature, we have not dealt directly with indigenous peoples. However, in 2005, I spent most of the year working on guidance for British museums dealing with human remains and claims for their return. Hopefully, this has given me an insight into this particular world. Archaeology, particularly outside the United Kingdom, and for a whole series of historical, cultural, and practical reasons, blurs disconcertingly with other subjects, most notably history, ethnography, and fine and decorative arts. The same object might be categorised, curated, interpreted, and displayed under any one of these headings depending on its history and circumstances. This will be discussed further in later
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xvii
pages, but it also gives me the opportunity to be liberal with my examples and to follow where the discussion is allowed to lead me. Throughout the world, a series of very loaded terms have developed historically to describe archaeological and historic periods. These include such terms as Classical, Stone Age, Roman, Viking, Neolithic, First Nation, and so forth. All of these terms are specific to particular times and places and, most importantly, to those who have invented them and use them. But they remain the only easy way we have of describing certain archaeological periods and cultures in a way that most will understand. For this reason, I have tended, throughout the book when describing sites, objects, galleries, and theories, to use the most commonly used descriptor. Occasionally, this will jar: what is the point of identifying how false the term classical is in one chapter, if I then use that very term to describe an archaeological gallery in the next? However, as they say, life is too short. Museums are unreal, almost surreal creations. They have created a place for themselves in the world, where, through a slow process of self-authentification, they have come to be authenticated by wider society. Scratch the surface and it is easy to identify the weaknesses of that authenticity. One wonders if museums would be created if they did not exist. Similarly, archaeology, along with its near relative palaeontology, has a strange position amongst academic disciplines. A subject of complex, often tedious, scholarly research, it has also caught the widest public imagination. In popular culture, it has cross-fertilised, for better or worse, with treasure seeking, tomb raiding, and the supernatural. Nevertheless, there is something special about museums and about archaeology. I have a passion for both. I hope this book will make a contribution to their particular and shared mythologies.
Hedley Swain Summer 2006
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-86076-5 - An Introduction to Museum Archaeology Hedley Swain Frontmatter More information
Acknowledgments
I would like to thank Simon Whitmore who supported this project when at Cambridge University Press and Beatrice Rehl for seeing it through to completion. I am also grateful to Maggie Meitzler for her help in the editing process. For inspiration over the years in things archaeological, museological, and museum archaeological, my deepest gratitude goes out to Peter Addyman, Duncan Brown, David Clarke, Moira Gemmill, Rachel Hunter, Nick Merriman, Janet Miller, Susan Pearce, Tim Schadla-Hall, Harvey Sheldon, and Simon Thurley. A number of friends and colleagues have been extremely generous with their time and expertise in providing specific information for this book. Others have simply made comments in conversations (sometimes many years before the book was commissioned), or responded to my ideas in ways that have helped me think differently about the subject. I am very grateful to Dave Allen, Adrian Babbage, Nicola Burdon, Andy Calver, John Chase, Terry Childs, John Clark, Jon Cotton, Maurice Davies, Robin Densem, Torla Evans, Katherine Edgar, Hazel Forsyth, Brett Galt-Smith, Helen Ganiaris, Francis Grew, Jenny Hall, Mark Hall, Sophie Hall, Dave Heslop, Dan Hicks, Pete Hinton, John Jackson, Meriel Jeater, Andrew Jones, Penny Kalligerou, Jackie Keily, Suzanne Keane, Morag Kersel, Christine Kyriacou, Jane Lawrence, Henrietta Lidchi, Elena Lioubimova, Jack Lohman, Sally MacDonald, Carolyn MacLulich, Angelika Marks, Xerxes Mazda, Siorna McFarlane, Darryl McIntyre, Mary Miller, Judy Mills, Diana Murray, Tim Murray, Lisa O'Sullivan, Janet Owen, Deidre O'Sullivan, John Paddock, Deborah Padgett, Norman Palmer, Helen Persson, Laura Peers, Andrew Reid, Alan Saville, Garry Shelley, Margaret Serpico, John Shepherd, Faye Simpson, Robin Skeates,
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xx
Acknowledgments
Mike Smith, Sonia Solicari, Bob Sonderman, Kate Starling, Roy Stephenson, Bly Strube, Bryony Swain, Kathy Tubb, Claire Valerino, Blaise Vyner, Elizabeth Walker, Sarah Williams, Philip Wise, Barbara Wood, Rob Young, Konstantinos Zachos. And finally, my thanks go out to all colleagues, past and present, at the Museum of London.
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Abbreviations
ADS AHPA AHDS AIA AMA APPAG APVA ARC ARPA BCRPM BM CBA CIA DCMS DES DIG DoE EH ERA GEM HEFCE HERs IAA ICOMOS
Archaeological Data Service Archaeological and historic preservation Act (USA) Arts and Humanities Data Service Archaeological Institute of America (USA) Associate of the Museums Association All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (USA) archaeological resource Centre, York. Archaeological Resources Protection Act (USA) British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles British Museum Council for British Archaeology Congress of Independent Archaeologists Department of Culture, Media, and Sport Department of Education and Skills Detector Information Group Department of the Environment English Heritage education reform Act Group of Educators in Museums Higher Education Funding Council for England Historic Environment Records Israel Antiquities Authority (Israel) International Council on Monuments and Sites (International)
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xxii ICOM ICON IFA INAH LAARC MA MAP2 MDA MLA MoRPHE NAGPRA NMAI PACE PAS PPG16 RAO ROB RCAHMS RCAHMW RPA SAA SHA SMA SCoPA
Abbreviations International Council of Museums (International) Institute of Conservation Institute of Field Archaeologists Instituo de Nacional Antropologia y Historia (Mexico) London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre Museums Association Management of Archaeological Projects, 1991 English Heritage publication. Museums Documentation Association (now known as MDA) Museums, Libraries, and Archives Council Management of research projects in the Historic Environment, 2005 English Heritage publication Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (USA) National Museum of the American Indian (USA) Palestinian Association for cultural exchange (Palestine) Portable Antiquities Scheme Planning and Policy Guidance Note 16, Archaeology and Planning Registered Archaeological Organisations Rijksdienst voor het Oudheidkundig Bodemonderzoek (Netherlands) Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments Scotland Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments Wales Register of Professional Archaeologists (USA) Society of American Archaeology (USA) Society of historical archaeology (USA) Society of Museum Archaeologists Standing Conference on Portable Antiquities
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Cambridge University Press 978-0-521-86076-5 - An Introduction to Museum Archaeology Hedley Swain Frontmatter More information
Abbreviations
xxiii
SMRs
Sites and Monuments Records
SOPA
Society of Professional Archaeologists (USA)
SSN
Subject Specialist Network
STOP
Stop Taking Our Past
UNESCO
United Nations Educational, Scientific, and
Cultural Organisation (Int.)
UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and
Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and
Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property
(Int.)
UNIDROIT
Institute for the Unification of Private Law
(Int.)
UNIDROIT 1995 Convention on Stolen and Illegally Exported
Cultural Objects (Int.)
V TC
Virtual Teaching Collection
WEMACRU West Midlands Archaeological Collections
Research Unit
WHAM
Women, Heritage, and Museums
YAT
York Archaeological Trust
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