• The future of cultural heritage (including archaeology) curricula

    There are lots of different ways that we can teach about the past and use the past to better inform ourselves about the present. Archaeology has long employed hands-on techniques in field schools and some experimental courses, but I’d like to talk about how we might best use technology and/or a combination of experiential work, “fieldwork” – writ large – and technology to improve our curricula. If we want to encourage an appreciation for cultural heritage, how can technology best be used to teach this? What approaches don’t work? How do we know? I’d love to talk with anyone who has experience in this area or even remotely related areas.

    A lot of people have used fake excavations and virtual excavations in teaching, and I’m not sure that that is the best way to learn. Does the use of Second Life in teaching about the past make cultural heritage more meaningful and more comprehensible? What about using GPS-based and geospatial techniques? I think that the cultural heritage area of study is open to a lot of different kinds of teaching methods, and that the structure of curricula can be changed in many different ways, but I’m not at all sure how to evaluate what works, what doesn’t, and what is just plain fun but silly. We at the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State are currently revising our curriculum, and we are also discussing including a focus on cultural heritage; how can we do this with an innovative, appropriate, and useful digital spin?

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3 Comments


  1. ArchMeg says:

    This sounds really interesting Lynne. When I taught Intro to Arch. I abandoned the virtual materials because I didn’t find them all that helpful. Many of our intro students won’t go on to become archaeologists, so developing programs that don’t just teach them how excavations work, but help to instill a greater appreciation for cultural heritage writ large would be really great.

  2. I think one of the biggest challenges in this regard is creating a curriculum that doesn’t just address the needs of archaeology, but all domains of cultural heritage (history, museuology, historic geography, art history, etc.). As we’ve talked about already, a program in cultural heritage informatics – which equips students with both technical (practical/applied) and theoretical knowledge that they can then apply to their own specific area of cultural heritage is a far stronger approach then a very discipline (or department) specific curriculum. This approach also means that students from lots of different domains will mix and mingle, getting the benefit from each other’s perspectives – as opposed to the program being filled with students from one department.

    • I totally agree – that’s why I called the session cultural heritage (including archaeology). Too often, people who do cultural heritage forget about archaeology, and vice versa. On top of that, intro courses have students from all areas. What I am struggling with is how to do interesting things with a large class that is innovative but really teaches them something that is useful that they can take away & apply to their lives.

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