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Humour and the Individual in Museum and Site Archives

February 6, 2012

A Workshop to be held on Saturday 26th May 2012 in Room 612, UCL Institute of Archaeology, Gordon Square, London.

Technology, policy and practice are increasingly leading to an airbrushed view of archaeological practice, in which the realities of life in the field and archive alike are removed from final archives and formal publications. Building on a session at the 2011 Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference, this workshop seeks to explore such ‘marginal expressions of individuality – not only because they tell us something about the way projects developed but also because they remind us of what fuels archaeology – togetherness, thirst, lust and dreams’ (Duncan Brown).

At the TAG Conference, a number of themes arose from this session on humour and archaeology in relation to museum and site archives:

  • The retention/loss of personal anecdote in site archives – problems of the loss of the individual voice as site archives are systematically ‘cleaned up’ in a digital format.
  • The presence of significant bodies of humour and anecdote in historic site archives and what forms these take – the materiality of the formal and informal archive.
  • The loss of anecdotal detail in HER records, both paper and electronic – instances of the [rare] preservation of humour in such locations.
  • Informal records – diaries, audio and visual recordings, site songs and communal memories – the ‘site hut’ as a repository for the larger memories of a project and its participants.
  • The use of humour as metaphor for the individual and method of communication within site and museum interpretation.

We seek papers on these topics that explore the subtleties of humour: how such fragmentary sources identify individuals experiences of practice, and how we deal with both the preservation and continuation of such memories given the increasingly homogenized world of ‘professional’ heritage.

300 word proposals for papers of twenty minutes are now being accepted up to Friday 23rd March 2012. To submit proposals or ask questions about the workshop please email the organizers: Joe Flatman ( and Hilary Orange (

To attend the workshop (no charge) please register on

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