Global perspectives on British Archaeology:
an East Anglian model for positioning our heritage in international context
Supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council ‘Follow-on funding for impact and engagement’ scheme
From footprints left by the earliest inhabitants of northern Europe (on Norfolk’s north coast) to the buried prehistoric landscapes of the Fens (exemplified by Flag Fen), from the Neolithic flint mines of Grimes Graves to the Anglo-Saxon burial mounds of Sutton Hoo, East Anglia boasts some of the finest remains from the ancient past, of importance not only for understanding Britain, but also of global significance. And yet appreciation and presentation of these all-too-often hidden treasures remains at the local level, and is often bypassed by international visitors who may go to Stonehenge, Roman Bath or Viking York, but will mostly miss out on what the rest of the country has to offer in terms of heritage. This project will help establish a sustainable framework for presentation and research of East Anglia’s heritage within a bigger international picture, including engaging communities in international cultural exchange through archaeology. It is envisaged this international positioning of East Anglian heritage can stand as a model for wider strategic thinking on presentation and management of British heritage.
This project grows out of two successful exhibitions on the theme of Japanese prehistoric figurines at the British Museum, and a comparative exhibition of Japanese and European figurines at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia (2009-2010). These exhibitions attracted great public interest both in the UK and Japan. During the 2010 exhibition, an artefact from Grimes Graves was exhibited for the first time in the county where it was discovered in 1939. The extraordinary story of this Grimes Graves ‘chalk goddess’ inspired a series of further academic, youth and civic exchanges between Japan and the UK, demonstrating how powerful archaeology can be in revitalising local communities and for knowledge transfer and public engagement with new audiences internationally. This series of exchanges provides the inspiration and foundation for the current project.
Aims and objectives
At a time of increasing challenges to local and national heritage authorities (including council heritage services and bodies such as English Heritage), this project will help develop capacity within communities to realise further potentials of heritage resources within their locality by clearly demonstrating the ‘international significance’ of these resources, and the potential benefits in developing international interest. This requires a reassessment of the linkages between archaeology amenity groups (including local societies and Heritage Lottery Fund community projects) with those charged with protecting the archaeological resource, academics, other heritage stakeholders (e.g. tourist boards), and development organisations (Local Enterprise Partnerships). Central elements of the project’s work providing exposure to the potentials of international approaches to heritage will be exhibitions and public workshops, and digital media.
The east of England has an exemplary record in researching, managing, conserving and developing the historic environment, including pioneering regional archaeological assessments, which informed future strategies for researching and managing what is recognised as a vulnerable and finite resource. In bringing a new ‘international’ dimension to approaches to heritage in the east of England this project aims to contribute to this exemplary evolving record. Using existing infrastructure (e.g. Festival of British Archaeology, Heritage Open Days), the project will foster new knowledge exchange between stakeholders, develop new means of interactive public engagement with archaeology, engaging new communities and audiences. It will provide access to examples of best practice in this area, hitherto limited to the anecdotal. The long-term aim of the project is to demonstrate how such an ‘international’ approach to East Anglia’s heritage can inform policy and practice into the future, both in the UK and abroad.
Project duration: January 2017 – December 2017
Principal Investigator: Dr Simon Kaner (Head, Centre for Archaeology and Heritage, Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, University of East Anglia). Contact: Simon Kaner
Co-Investigator: Dr Sam Nixon (Senior Research Associate, Centre for Archaeology and Heritage, Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, University of East Anglia). Contact: Sam Nixon