>Vince Russett's picture of local society lectures, however amusing,
suggests that it is a very long time since he attended one. I belong to
several county and local societies and in each case the majority of
speakers come from Archaeological Units, Museums and Academia. He certainly
knows very little about journal production.<
While I was, of course, exaggerating for effect, I still think there is a
kernel of truth in this (although perhaps more in the way of this being the
perception of what it is like to join an established archaeological society
as a young person and see a couple of lectures). And sadly, there are an
awful lot of talks not too far removed from my absurd example still around.
As to journal production, actually I do know a thing or two, having been
involved in the production of one county journal, and being a frequent
contributor to a second. You are certainly right in that there are problems
with producing a journal every year, a point I raised myself in a mail to
britarch over Xmas some time.
Kates post bears repetition: sadly, I find this to be all too common a
complaint from the MA students that I help from my local University.
>The reason I go to an archaeology society is because I am interested and I
want to learn about it, however many of the members are very knowledgable
about the subject and act as though they have some kind of superiority over
I agree that they know more about the subject than I do , but the whole
point of joining the society was so that i could learn and get experience.
I dont know if this is a common feeling amongst young memebers of societies
but whether it is or not, it is still a rather off putting and could act as
a deterrent for many youngsters.
I am often left standing on my own during the evenings whilst other members
will mingle and discuss things despite my efforts to do otherwise.
I was wondering -do older members think that younger members have nothing
to offer- surely they should be encouraging them not putting them off.<
I'm not trying to be negative: indeed, the existence and promotion of
things like Time Team Club will help (despite the occasionally negative
comment on the TT Web forum!). Don't expect miracles, though - I don't
think the vast majority of watchers of TT (and the half as many again who
watch Meet the Ancestors) are potential society members. TT surely has
other appeals besides that of archaeology, in the same way as comparable
programmes in other fields, such as 'Ground Force' (up to 11 million
viewers, I think) or 'Changing Rooms'.
Now whatever you think of the content of those programmes the 'working
against the clock' and the 'unravelling a mystery' and even (sadly) the
'Friends syndrome', an artificial and vicarious enjoyment of comradeship in
groups which many people have difficulty finding in real life (even
Teletext refers to the TT stalwarts as 'The Gang'), also probably account
for a significant part of the viewing figures.
I do go into schools and colleges as part of my normal work programme, and
I find that, if not patronised, young people respond well to archaeology,
but there is great difficulty in turning this interest into action.
At best, the consumers of TT and MTA and so on will be a useful political
force in the background, aware of the existence and importance of
archaeology: at worst, we are fooling ourselves that the audience will be
natural converts to societies: after all, a very large number of people
watch Premiership football on the television, are very knowledgeable about
it, and talk about it a great deal, but not many play it!
I am still confident that archaeology has a bright future, and that things
are going the right way, but to set up hopes that almost certainly can't be
fulfilled won't help.