Seminari a l’entorn dels valors del patrimoni i l’interacció amb el públic en l’arqueologia [Seminar on heritage values and public interaction in archaeology]

Within the framework of a workshop for the “Heritage Values” project, the GAPP (Heritage and PublicArchaeology Group) at University of Barcelona organized an intense seminar about public interaction in archaeology. Intense, because we had the opportunity to share and debate projects and ideas with nearly 20 colleagues in one day, which started for me at 5 am to take the train from Madrid to Barcelona.

The seminar consisted of three parts: sustainability and participation in heritage policy; cultural tourism and new technologies; and the role of public archaeology as a participation tool. The outcomes of the seminar will be published soon, so I will not make a traditional review of the different papers presented, but rather a general comment on the topics debated and will share some thoughts about them.

Image: Seminar poster and programme (source: Universitat de Barcelona)

How do we interact with the public as professionals? How does the public interact with archaeological heritage? Three actors, two questions. Passive and active approaches to the same issues. The challenge, to make people interact with and value heritage, and to make professionals get involved to achieve this goal. It sounds like we are forcing everyone to do something they don’t want to but in fact, attending to the results of some of the projects, people want to interact with heritage and that is something to take into account. Further research in public attitudes towards heritage is needed in order to understand how this works (and how it can work better).

How can new (and old) technologies help us improve the tourism experience from heritage resources? That could possibly be a leading question for a debate, understood the “old way”. However, this part was more about the challenges of using new technologies, the use of technology per se without a clear goal, the lack of interaction with professionals in tourism, the difficulties in expanding networks, and so on. Real issues that defy everyday management of archaeological heritage in the context of outreach and tourism.

Image: Jaime giving his presentation (source: Gemma Cardona)

The third part is for me the most difficult to comment on, as I was one of the speakers. While the concept of public archaeology is perverted by disoriented actions, these actions are public archaeology anyway. We cannot call for action and then repudiate the results. Building bridges for cooperation and improving the way things are done is essential, and many projects are showing a path. However, the path is not straight and each project needs its own solutions. We need to stand as a collective to get the job done.

Sometimes public archaeology is not even mentioned, but the spirit is there. As I have said somewhere before, I don’t care if you call it different names, as long as you do it.

Jaime Almansa Sánchez


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