‘Heritage’ CHAT

CHAT (Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory) is a popular conference that attracts a truly interdisciplinary audience. The next CHAT is in mid-November and registration has just opened. The theme this year is ‘heritage’ – organised in collaboration with Atkins Heritage, English Heritage and the UCL Centre for Museums, Heritage and Material Culture, the conference offers a unique discussion of the subject, and approaches to it, from both practitioners and academics.

Concern for heritage of the recent past has long been confined to the particular interests of a sub-set of architectural historians for whom listing post-war buildings (notably of the reconstruction years) was a clear focus. Archaeologists are also now taking an active and enthusiastic interest in the modern period; the only surprise is that it has taken so long. After a steady start, and an almost inevitable concentration on industrial and military sites and landscapes, it has quickly become more than the fringe interest it perhaps once was, a side-show to the main attraction. In local planning authorities, archaeological units and trusts, as well as national agencies and universities, the heritage interest in contemporary and historical archaeology has now emerged with strength and alacrity. English Heritage’s Change and Creation programme, in partnership with Atkins Heritage, and the universities of London and Bristol is evidence of this, as is the Images of Change book (Sefryn Penrose 2007), the recent Modern Times issue of Conservation Bulletin (2007), numerous published articles and several entries in the Heritage Reader (Fairclough et al. 2008). A head of steam is quickly building.

I last attended the conference in 2006 and presented some of my doctoral research on enthusiastic cultures of industrial archaeology:


“If you can walk down the street and recognise the difference between cast iron and wrought iron, the world is altogether a better place.” The Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society: a case study
Hilary Geoghegan (Ph.D. Candidate, Royal Holloway, University of London)



Founded over afternoon tea in 1968 by two engineers and a locomotive driver, the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society (GLIAS) currently has over 600 members; making it the largest Industrial Archaeology Society in the UK. Borne as a response to the rapidly changing industrial landscape of London and the fear that sites would be lost without a trace, GLIAS brings together like-minded people to record and monitor the shifting city. Drawing on interviews with GLIAS members, their newsletter and journal, as well as participant observation, this paper considers what has been described to me by one GLIAS member as ‘the ugly offspring of two parents that shouldn’t have been allowed to breed’ – industrial archaeology. I comment on how industrial archaeology is understood by Society members and the perceived prejudice members felt from the discipline they refer to as ‘dirt archaeology’. My fieldwork with GLIAS has also suggested a movement away from the recording and monitoring of industrial sites to a series of ‘quasi-academic’ Society lectures and walks. Taking as an example the Society’s current project – the recording of the lower Lea Valley (site of the 2012 Olympics) – I explore the changing methods of industrial archaeology as practiced by GLIAS; raising questions of site access, health and safety, an ageing membership, committee formation and the inherently challenging problem of defining industrial archaeology.




This year, the organisers have kindly accepted my abstract on ‘heritage at home’ and I look forward to reporting back to readers on the conference findings.


Heritage at Home: Having a passion for the past


Hilary Geoghegan (Royal Holloway, University of London)


Enthusiasm for the past has never been stronger. The British public visit heritage sites all year round; examples include visits to National Trust and English Heritage landscapes and properties as well as national, local and private museums. The research discussed in this paper moves beyond these more formal and public spaces of heritage to consider how individuals with a passion for the past cultivate their interests in the domestic space of the home. Drawing on the author’s earlier work into cultures of technology enthusiasm, she considers the domestic spatialities and materialities of having a passion for the past; from neat shelves of local history newsletters in the study, to collections stored in the attic, and model railways in garden sheds. This paper introduces a new research project that seeks to explore the hidden cultures of heritage at home.






For more info please follow this link: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/archaeology/events/conferences/chat-2008/

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