“The Changing of the Guards”?

British Prehistoric Collections and Archaeology in the Museums of the Future

in Museum Worlds
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  • 1 Australian National University Catherine.frieman@anu.edu.au
  • 2 British Museum NWilkin@britishmuseum.org
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ABSTRACT

Over the past 30 years, Britain’s large archaeological museums and collections have shifted their focus away from academic visitors exploring their stores and collections and toward the dynamic presentation of permanent and temporary displays. These are arranged to emphasize compelling and relevant interpretative narratives over the presentation of large numbers of objects. The shift to digitization and the online presentation of collections is a major feature of public engagement activities at many museums but also might open older and less accessible collections up to research. In this article, we consider what role digital platforms may have in the future of British museum-based archaeology, with special reference to initiatives at the British Museum. We suggest that online collections have the potential to mediate between engaging the public and allowing professional archaeologists to develop sophisticated research programs, since these platforms can present multiple narratives aimed at different audiences.

Contributor Notes

CATHERINE FRIEMAN is a senior lecturer in European archaeology at the Australian National University. She is a specialist in knapped and ground-stone tools and currently has field projects in the Europe and Australia. Her research interests include the nature of archaeological inquiry, innovation, skeuomorphism, and the beginning of the Metal Ages.

NEIL WILKIN is the curator of European Bronze Age collections at the British Museum. His research interests include socioeconomic links between Bronze Age ceramics and metalwork, funerary practices and the material culture of death, and new approaches to the study and creation of classifications and typo-chronologies. He is currently the project leader of the Asahi Shimbun Room 3 displays at the British Museum.

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