So – the results of our survey are in! I’ve been busy with the visible diggers team over the past week crunching number from our survey, which was completed by over 100 students who had undertaken archaeological fieldwork from around the country. In the process of pulling out the main points for our presentation at the Cardiff CiFA conference next month, several main issues have become apparent. The aim of this piece of research was to assess student perceptions of archaeological fieldwork and to find out whether students in general felt that their interpretations were being heard in the field.
Our survey showed that most students had enjoyed their fieldwork placements, but the few that didn’t were all in their first year – maybe this was just down to the fact that they had no prior experience of archaeology and it simply just wasn’t for them or maybe the reason lay in the amount of instruction and support they received. Interestingly, ten percent less female students surveyed felt that they had received sufficient instruction than male students. Could this be because of gendered differences in communication? Could it be that there is too much ‘mansplaining’ at archaeological excavations? Indeed, most of the figures at the top of the archaeological profession are still white, middle-class males and perhaps greater racial diversity and gender equality will help rectify this problem. Archaeology students are, in general, much more diverse in terms of age and background and can often provide fresh interpretations which approach the archaeological material from a fresh angle.
Perhaps the most poignant issue raised by the survey was that the majority of students surveyed, from first year right through to masters, either said that they weren’t or were not sure that they were contributing to the overall interpretation of the site when they had clearly engaged in interpretive acts such as section and plan drawings, context sheets, photographs and discovering a significant find. This is clearly problematic, as if students are not made aware of the skills they possess, which have been developed by classroom teaching and on-site tuition then they are being failed by their institutions. This also has impacts for the future – if students are not aware that they are making interpretive contributions, how are they going to communicate this with members of the public or with colleagues if they enter the archaeological profession?
Our paper will be presented next month, so I’ll keep you updated with how it is received at the conference!
In other news, two major exhibitions are opening in Manchester next week – Making Monuments on Rapa Nui: The Statues from Easter Island at Manchester Museum, for which a 3.3 ton moai statue has arrived on loan from the British Museum, and Eastern Exchanges: East Asian Craft and Design at Manchester Art Gallery. Of course, not one to miss a preview, I’ll be attending both and will report next week! Until then 🙂