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Editorial. Archaeological Sites and Monuments in the Care of the State – Sharing Our Experiences

Chris Corlett

Cite this as: Corlett, C. 2020 Editorial. Archaeological Sites and Monuments in the Care of the State – Sharing Our Experiences, Internet Archaeology 54. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.54.15

Summary

The focus of discussion in regard to archaeological heritage management within EAC over several years has been on archaeology and development and, in particular, maximising the value of the results of development-led archaeology. This reflects the wider trend in archaeological heritage management in Europe and in many ways reflects the focus of the Valletta Convention.

Themes at EAC symposia over several years has also touched on wider issues of connecting the public with their archaeological heritage which is of course a key theme of the Faro Convention. The Valletta Convention also touches on public engagement, and on the topic of sites and monuments in state care – it provides expressly in Article 9 for the promotion of public access to important elements of the archaeological heritage, while at the same time (in Article 5) requiring that the opening of archaeological sites to the public does not adversely affect their archaeological and scientific character.

The 20th EAC Symposium (Europae Archaeologiae Consilium) in Dublin was convened under a concept note that recognised that the State's role in the management of archaeological monuments has many different forms throughout Europe. The different degrees of involvement across Europe are usually a product of an individual state's history (often traced back to the 19th century), yet common to all jurisdictions are shared issues concerning conservation, protection, interpretation, sustainability and accessibility.

The provision of public access to archaeological sites and monuments is, along with access to well-presented museum collections, a powerful way of connecting the public to their past and enabling them to directly experience the physical remains of that past. While public access can be achieved in some cases in regard to archaeological sites and monuments which remain in private management, it is safe to say that, at the least, the bringing of such sites into public or state ownership or management has been throughout Europe a key means by which countries have sought to promote public access. Indeed, in some cases currently existing state archaeological services had their origins in the services created in the 19th century for the management of the first archaeological monuments in state care.

While the challenges of managing development-led archaeology have been a central focus of debate across Europe for several decades, the challenges of presenting archaeological monuments to the public while (in the words of the Valletta Convention) protecting their archaeological and scientific character have continued throughout this period. With a new focus on the achieving the aims of the Faro Convention in the archaeological context, meeting those challenges must now be seen as an issue of even greater relevance. Furthermore, presentation of archaeological sites and monuments to the public in the context of tourism has long been seen by governments as of great economic value. While this is a welcome argument in support of the value of archaeological heritage and one evident in recent EU statements on cultural heritage, this has often presented challenges for managers of the archaeological heritage in terms of reconciling economic and heritage interests.

The Dublin symposium was held over two days and comprised twenty-one presentations. The main topics discussed were the conservation, protection, interpretation, sustainability and accessibility of sites and monuments in the care of the State (whatever form that might take), or in the case of the Netherlands, the role of Trust organisations in tackling many of these issues. At the conclusion of the symposium, two things were clear; we share a great many of the same issues and there is an enormous benefit to learning from our shared experiences. However, what may be lacking are regular opportunities to learn from these shared experiences going forward.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank all the presenters who have kindly taken the time to adapt their symposium contributions into articles for the present volume, as well as all those who chaired the sessions and participated in the symposium discussions. A very special thanks to my National Monuments Service colleagues who assisted in the organisation in the symposium, in particular Michael MacDonagh (Chief Archaeologist), Sean Kirwan and Dave Farrell, and also to our colleagues in the Office of Public Works (in particular Aisling Gaffney, John Cahill and Frank Shalvey) for providing EAC with the venue for the symposium and hosting several events. Also a special mention of thanks to Djurra Scharff and Desislava Gradinarova, former and current assistants to EAC.

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  • Keywords: European Archaeological Council, Europae Archaeologiae Consilium, Dublin, archaeology, heritage, conservation, protection, interpretation, management, Valletta Convention, Faro Convention
  • Accepted: 1 November 2019. Published: 28 February 2020
  • The publication of this article is funded by the European Archaeological Council.

Corresponding author: Chris Corlett
Chris.Corlett@chg.gov.ie
National Monuments Service, Republic of Ireland

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