Mr. Barney Sloane, EAC Director, couldn´t miss last EAC annual meeting held 5 to 7 March 2020 in Prague. In a given interview he has assessed the meeting and relations between archaeology and public and has outlined the visions for the future.
When the EAC was found and what the main mission is?
The Europae Archaeologiae Consilium (EAC) – or European Archaeological Council – was founded in 1999. It is a democratic network of heads of national services responsible under law for the management of the archaeological heritage in the Council of Europe member states. The EAC therefore represents the managers of the historic environment and the associated cultural heritage.
The main mission of the EAC is to support the management of the archaeological heritage throughout Europe and to serve the needs of national archaeological heritage management agencies by providing a forum for organisations to establish closer and more structured co-operation and exchange of information. The collective membership of the EAC is well placed to offer advice and guidance about all aspects of heritage management and to develop broad-based strategies for archaeological heritage management on the basis of professional expertise. The EAC functions in an advisory and consultative mode and liaises and develops links in this context with international organisations that have an interest in the methods and goals of heritage management.
Bring closer a main topic and single expert parts of the EAC Prague´s conference.
The topic of the conference was the increase of public benefit from archaeology undertaken as part of development or construction. Some people think wrongly that this type of archaeology creates delay and costs too much. We know that across Europe archaeological costs represent less than 0.1 % of all construction costs. This tiny cost creates huge benefits – these benefits go beyond the basic aim of archaeology, which is to understand our shared past. We know that archaeology can bring people together, can excite communities, can create scientific breakthroughs, can grow tourism and can discover unknown wonders. However, we also know that archaeologists could be better at helping society realise those benefits. The conference was held to see what we can do about that.
A part of the conference was meeting of Public Benefit Working Group. Appoint the proposals resulted from the meeting. Can you explain the most important steps the institutional archaeology makes towards public and for the future?
The proposals of the “Public Benefit Working Group” are to create a toolkit for all European member states of EAC (and may be others) to help explain the benefit to developers (investors), decision-makers, archaeologists and communities, so they can understand better how to create those public benefits by working together, rather than in opposition.
We agreed that EAC would publish this toolkit by 2021 and would encourage member states to start using it. This toolkit will allow members to create short and clear documents, which could be understood by everyone, and which will help explain how archaeology can create these benefits. Part of the toolkit will be an online library of real case studies, showing where these benefits have been created already.
How the relations between archaeologists and public have been changing recently?
During the 1990s development-led archaeology was seen primarily as an expert and professional activity, which involved agreement between authorities, archaeologists and investors. The public was rarely involved. In the last two decades this has begun to change and both archaeologists and the general public recognise more clearly that each has a role. Television programmes, media stories and exhibitions have shown that the public remains deeply interested in their collective past, whilst archaeologists have recognised that they should be sharing more of their discoveries with the people in whose communities these discoveries are made.
How archaeology is seen recently? Any changes or shifts in that field to be recorded?
Politicians in many states recognise clearly that culture – and in particular archaeology – matters greatly to voters. The evidence for this can be seen in the number of heritage laws that have been created over the last twenty years. But the global financial crisis inevitably led to a reduction in available money (whether public or private), and so archaeologists are now looking to create the maximum value out of the limited resources available. EAC thinks therefore that development-led archaeology is becoming a more mature and intelligent activity.
Outline briefly results which have been achieved during the conference.
The conference brought together 80 heritage managers across Europe. These delegates heard 19 papers, providing a rich and varied range of perspectives on the issue of maximising public benefit, from which we can begin confidently to build a framework to achieve our goals. We have agreed key principles of that framework and now we can see a clear way of establishing the ground rules for its implementation. In sharing the perspectives, EAC members became more confident that the issues that they each face in their own states are in fact shared very widely across Europe.
What are your impressions about this year´s EAC conference?
The deputy minister of culture Mr. Vlastislav Ouroda , Mr. Petr Spejchal, Deputy Director of the National Heritage Institute, and Mr. Rudolf Pohl, Deputy Director of the National Museum were gracious enough to provide the conference with the warmest of welcomes, and the Head of the Department of Archaeology at the Czech National Heritage Institute, Dr. Martin Tomášek and his team were the most professional, effective and accommodating hosts. The presence of the deputy minister demonstrated the importance attached to this conference and ensured that the delegates approached the business of the conference constructively and seriously. The delegates were very inspired and enthused by the ideas that they heard and as President, I could not have been happier with the outcome. The 21st EAC Heritage Symposium “Archaeology and Public Benefit: moving the debate forward” was a great success – and, thankfully, it was not interrupted by any impact of the current health situation around the spreading of the coronavirus.