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Title: Presenting archaeological sites to the public
Other Titles: Key concepts in public archaeology
Authors: Grima, Reuben
Keywords: Excavations (Archaeology)
Community archaeology
Archaeological sites -- Malta
Archaeological museums and collections
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: UCL Press
Citation: Grima, R. (2017). Presenting archaeological sites to the public. In G. Moshenska (Ed.), Key concepts in public archaeology (pp.73-92). London: UCL Press.
Abstract: The presentation of archaeological sites to the public, broadly consid- ered, encompasses a vast and bewildering array of encounters between a cacophony of audiences, each with their very different needs, and an equally cacophonous variety of archaeological contexts, each of which presents its own problems and challenges. Two short examples will underline this point. On the south-eastern tip on the island of Malta, the remains of a megalithic structure dating from the Neolithic, and excavated a cen- tury ago, stand perched on an eroding cliff-edge, and are gradually but inexorably falling into the sea. The occasional visitor that is persistent enough to locate the remains is met by warning signs to keep away from the site and the treacherously crumbling cliff-edge. At the heart of one of the great cities of the ancient Mediterranean, the church of Santa Sophia in modern-day Istanbul is not only the most sublime monument of the Byzantine world, but also incorporates works of Ottoman as well as ancient Greek civilisation. Of the three and a half million people that thronged through the site in 2014, probably only a minuscule proportion realised that they had walked past a bronze door created in the second century BC for a Hellenistic temple in Tarsus, and only installed in the church by a Byzantine emperor a millennium later. These two quick vignettes may begin to give a sense of the infinite variety of challenges that may be gathered under the rubric of ‘presen- tation of archaeological sites to the public’. This chapter will attempt to give some semblance of order to this variety by examining a selection of the more prevalent challenges. The terms ‘archaeological site’, ‘the pub- lic’ and ‘presentation’ are discussed and defined first. Some of the issues surrounding the presentation of archaeological sites are then discussed, using the concept of accessibility and its different forms as a set of pegs to structure the discussion.
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