Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

National Archaeology Week

Dr Brit Asmussen, Senior Curator, Archaeology, and touch and feel object with school children.

Dr Brit Asmussen, National Archaeology Week at Queensland Museum, Queensland Museum Network Blog, 23 May 2016

Written by Senior Curator of Archaeology, Dr Brit Asmussen, Curator of archaeology Nick Hadnutt and Principal Curator Science and Technology, Dr Geraldine Mate

Archaeology staff at the Queensland Museum (QM) has taken the opportunity to create a program for National Archaeology Week (NAW) for many years. National Archaeology Week was born in 2001, and aims to increase public awareness of Australian archaeology and the work of Australian archaeologists both at home and abroad, and to promote the importance of protecting Australia’s unique archaeological heritage. Held in the third week of May, this exciting nationwide program of events and activities included public lectures, seminars, exhibits, demonstration excavations and displays.

Even before National Archaeology Week existed, between 1985 and 2002 QM archaeologists provided opportunities to use QM’s important archaeological collections to foster greater awareness of archaeology in Queensland. Curators gave media interviews, opened the collection for research and visitation, and would answer over 500 inquiries a year, an important vehicle for communication prior to the use of the internet. An active volunteer program was developed, where people with suitable interests and qualifications assisted in the organisation and management of the collections. A number of volunteers went on to do degrees in archaeology.

The classical archaeology collection had popular public appeal and a number of temporary displays of selected pieces were undertaken to coincide with school holiday programs run by the Education Section.  School activities that included archaeological ‘digs’ were popular programs. Opportunities to use significant collection pieces push the ‘archaeological message’ were also taken when ‘fillers’ were required to fill a display void.

One particularly popular display filler was the cast taken from an investigation of an excavation at Southbank that revealed a deep and well preserved deposit dating from the 1840’s. Other outreach activities included a seminar series with guest experts, organised to co-inside with international exhibitions of archaeological material or to commemorate particular issues such as the centenary of the ‘The Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act, 1897’.

Today, NAW represents a chance for archaeologists at the Museum to combine their love of archaeology with a key Museum goal – to engage our community with our collections. Our archaeology collections are broad and varied – encompassing artefacts from both Australia and overseas as well as across different time periods from recent history back to Neanderthal stone tool technologies and earlier.

Museum staff are always happy to talk about archaeology. The different NAW programs over the years have showcased various projects and expertise of staff and their desire to share some of these collections, rarely on show, with our communities.

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