Cartographers of the Archaeological Experience
This is my fourth and final blog post for the Cultural Heritage Practicum topic.
Throughout my placement at ACHM I have had the opportunity to experience archaeology within a totally different context. I have found that consultative archaeology is a very pragmatic form of archaeology; the client wants advice that is straightforward and unambiguous – they want advice that is for all intents and purposes ‘objective’.
I am not here to state whether or not this is a correct interpretation of what archaeology is, and this is hardly the forum to address such a complex and unruly topic. What I am here to state is that the experiences that I have had over the past couple of months working at ACHM have been quite different to the experiences that I have had elsewhere during my studies. Furthermore, these experiences add to my archaeological back story, and they will forever influence my perspectives on archaeology and the way I practice it.
I feel that as students, we need to be cartographers of archaeological experience and we are not going to generate an expansive map by surveying along a straight line. We need to trace every contour and follow every river. This is why I am thankful for the experiences that I have had and I encourage everyone to diversify and develop their experience practicing archaeology.
First Contact with the Consultative Process
This is my third post for the Cultural Heritage Practicum topic.
I have recently participated in a field survey that is part of an overall development plan commencing in an area of Adelaide. The purpose of the survey was to locate previously identified sites and assess their condition, their cultural and archaeological significance and to also consult with the traditional owners as to what would be the best way to protect them.
Having never participated in the consultation process, I found that the survey proved to be a very enlightening experience. For instance, I had never worked with anthropologists before, and their goals for the survey were different to the goals of the archaeologist. However, as both archaeologists and anthropologists were working together at the same time, consulting with the same people, I found that it required a considerable amount of organisation which did not quite come together immediately.
However, as the survey went on, people found space for each other and were more comfortable within their roles which ended up making it run a lot smoother. It is in the nature of fieldwork that things do not go exactly to plan; furthermore, many of these things have to be worked as you go. This is part of the allure of fieldwork though; each job brings about its own set of challenges.
A Common Thread: Archaeology as a Business
This is my second post for the Cultural Heritage Practicum topic.
Even though the aim of a post-graduate degree is to prepare you for employment, it is still a large leap going from university into a functioning company or business. In university, you develop certain beliefs or ideologies that kind of establish themselves as part of your world view. These ideals are personal and represent you as an individual, and in a university environment, you are free and often encouraged to communicate them.
I like to think of a university as something like a piece of string. From afar, it looks as though the string is a single object, but when you look closer, you find that it is comprised of many fibres or ideas and, more importantly, there is no common fibre or idea running through it.
I have noticed that within companies or businesses, there is a common fibre that runs through the piece of string, and that is the bottom line. No matter what you are working on, you always have to keep in mind that you are working within an environment that relies on effective invoicing and proper management of finances. This ensures that all of the other parts associated with heritage consultancy, the stuff that we do learn in university, can be completed on time for the client.
This is my first post for the Cultural Heritage Practicum topic. On and off for the past few months I have been working at Australian Cultural Heritage Management (ACHM) which, if you do not know already, is one of the largest cultural heritage management firms in the country.
I have been working at the offices in Adelaide, mainly in the lab, weighing artefacts, entering data, editing reference lists and scanning copies of old papers, journal articles, reports and book chapters. While these tasks have not been the most glamorous, I have nonetheless found them to be a good way of observing how the company operates.
Furthermore, I must add that my placement at ACHM has come at a rather interesting time for the company, as it is currently in something of a transitional period. ACHM is a growing company, and to accommodate its growth, it has had to move into a larger office complex.
The old ACHM offices on Port Road (top) and the new offices on South Road (bottom).
I have found ACHM’s narrative to be quite compelling, as over the past decade it has grown from a small home-operated business into a large business with offices in Adelaide and Melbourne and now employs around 50 staff.
Job prospects for archaeologists have definitely increased over the years, and will apparently continue to do so for some time, particularly in the private sector. However, it was not always like this and I think it must be appreciated that businesses that were started by people as a way of creating work for themselves now employ many people, allowing them to work in their chosen field.