Vivian Smits is doctoral student at Grasca – graduate school in contract archaeology.
My research evolves around the use of material archaeological heritage: its selection, its use and its relevance for contemporary society. With contract archaeology as a point of departure, but with the eyes of a conservator, I look into the processes that transform material culture into cultural heritage.
Being a conservator, I am especially interested in how material culture is affected in the chain of heritage production, i.e. by ways of selecting and deselecting in the different stages of contract archaeology, by collaboration – or a lack there off – between heritage professionals, the means, goals and information flow within the process of heritage making, as well as the handling of the material culture itself on a daily base within the archaeological process.
The project looks into different aspects of heritage making. Amongst others it investigates how the archaeological process is affected by cultural politics, policies and legislation, as well as the organizational structure within Swedish cultural heritage management. A case study including an inquiry among archaeologists provides an insight on the working processes within contract archaeology and collaboration processes between actors. As processes of selecting and de-selecting shape future research possibilities as well as define and restrict the stories immediated to the public, their practical implementation and effects in regard to heritage making are highlighted in particular. Also, the values implemented and methods used for selection of material culture are assessed and analyzed. Combined with an analysis of the means and goals for different actors involved, this provides an insight on decision making in different stages of the process. This will apprehend on how museum collections, being the final containers for material culture, are affected and in what way this, eventually, affects the presentation of history. In regard to this, the goals and needs for knowledge production in relation to contemporary society will be evaluated.
I hope that my work will provoke a reflective discussion on how professional stakeholders perform their tasks, as well as re-new the discussion on what we – as a society – deem important and why.