4. Vlogs

The explicit use of vlogs (video-blogs) is noted by Meyers and Killgrove (2014) and Meyers Emery and Killgrove (2015) as rare but with considerable potential for development. They note how Ask a Mortician vlogs by Caitlin Doughty have gained widespread popularity in addressing a range of death-related issues, some with historical dimensions to them. With 40 videos over a three-year period, this vlog has acquired more than 45,000 subscribers and over 2.5 million views.

Similarly, Dr Lindsey Fitzharris, who blogs on The Chirurgeon's Apprentice, has recently launched a vlog Under the Knife. While this is largely focused on the history of medicine, it does cross over into DPMA (see Episode 6: Bodysnatchers vs Vampires) and in just over six months it has achieved nearly 6000 subscribers and more than 70,000 views.

The Brain Scoop vlog hosted by Emily Graslie from the Field Museum in Chicago provides 'behind the scenes' access to the museum's collections and is therefore for the most part focused on natural history subjects. However, the episode 'Mummy Brains' crosses over into DPMA, with a discussion on mummification and funerary practices in Ancient Egypt and the role of modern investigative methods. This video alone has had more than 50,000 views (while the entire vlog has over 250,000 subscribers and more than 10 million views).

The significant number of subscribers and video views for each of the examples above exceed the popularity of current public archaeology projects, mortuary or otherwise. They demonstrate that there is certainly a potential audience for more dedicated DMPA-focused vlogs. Furthermore, just as these vlogs cross over subject boundaries, DPMA vlogs also need to seek to connect with these audiences as much as those interested in stories of scientific discoveries about the distant human past.

Another example of vlogging with contrasting mortuary dimensions is Project Eliseg – a collaborative fieldwork project between Bangor and Chester universities. The fieldwork explored a prehistoric cairn later surmounted by a 9th-century AD stone cross, and subsequently subject to a long and complex afterlife of use, fragmentation, restoration and conservation (Edwards 2009; Williams 2011). Outreach for the project took many forms and included a project website, Twitter and Facebook. An additional and distinctive feature was the use of daily vlog posts on a dedicated YouTube channel during the 2011 and 2012 field seasons, although viewing figures are low compared with the vlogs mentioned above.

The aims of the Project Eliseg vlog were to extend the audience of a relatively inaccessible rural-based archaeology project, and to communicate the complex multi-phased archaeology. In other words, within the confines of a small-scale fieldwork project, the vlogs and other digital media of Project Eliseg attempted to move beyond reporting discoveries to debating wider theoretical and methodological issues, particularly the challenge of dealing with textual and cenotaphic, disturbed and fragmentary, mortuary contexts and remains (cf. Tong et al. 2015).