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'Consumer choice' and public archaeology in and beyond the academy

by Sarah Colley
Australian Archaeology ()
  • ISSN: 03122417

Abstract

Archaeology students at the University of Sydney answered a questionnaire about what first attracted them to archaeology and any changes in their opinions about the subject following university study. Primary and secondary education, media and visits to overseas archaeological sites were major factors in developing students' interests in archaeology. More students were interested in overseas archaeology and in archaeological processes than Australian archaeology or archaeological knowledge. The main impact of university study was to increase students' awareness of the scope of archaeology, its contemporary relevance, the contingency of archaeological knowledge and the complexity of method and practice. Results are compared with other data about public attitudes to archaeology. The study suggests that potential students, like other members of the public, are attracted to aspects of archaeology which don't reflect realities of professional practice. Stressing archaeology's contemporary relevance and skills training for employability seems unlikely to attract more students. Ways to increase public interest in Australian archaeology include actively embracing archaeology's links with history and palaeontology, more focus on narratives of discovery in public education, and increasing the scope of archaeology taught in schools and shown on television.

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