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Public Benefit: the challenge for development-led archaeology in the UK

Sadie Watson

Cite this as: Watson, S. 2021 Public Benefit: the challenge for development-led archaeology in the UK, Internet Archaeology 57.


Archaeologists welcoming the public  onto site at 8-10 Moorgate
Archaeologists welcoming the public onto site at 8-10 Moorgate

The challenge of providing public benefit from development control archaeology has been a concern across Europe after both the Valletta and Faro conventions encouraged the view that the public must be the key beneficiaries of archaeological work, and since then the theoretical concept of public benefit has become well recognised across our profession. However, it seems to me that the archaeological sector does not yet provide this in a meaningful way or know how to maximise the public benefit potential of our work; indeed, this is acknowledged at the highest levels (e.g. British Academy 2017, 33).

The EAC established their Working Group on 'Making the Case' to investigate examples of best practice and provide a practical toolkit for the better articulation of public benefit arising from development-led archaeology (EAC 2019). In the UK the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists has published a briefing document that outlines the potential for public benefit offered by archaeology (CIfA 2020). This dovetails well with a new research project, funded by United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) and hosted at Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), intended to ensure that public benefit is at the heart of decision-making throughout the development control sector in the UK (MOLA 2019). This article provides an introduction to the rationale behind this project and outlines how the project ambitions could be achieved through a careful navigation through the complex structures of development programmes' procurement and management.

Corresponding author: Sadie WatsonORCID logo

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Figure 1: Archaeologists welcoming the public onto site at 8-10 Moorgate. Photo by Margaret Cox, MOLA

Figure 2: Open day on large-scale excavations on the A14, Cambridgeshire, England. Photo: A14CSH courtesy of MOLA Headland Infrastructure

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