Reflecting on evaluation in public archaeology

Kate Ellenberger, Lorna-Jane Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


As heritage professionals, our community-facing projects are embedded in the politics of cultural heritage and reverberate throughout the communities where we work. The only way to know if archaeological outreach and community engagement are working is to ask stakeholders, and there is growing support in our community of practice to further develop this aspect of the field. There is also increasing pressure to use evaluations, particularly standardized impact assessments motivated by neoliberal political critiques, to argue that archaeological projects are legitimate uses of economic resources. As the field continues to develop more robust mechanisms of self-assessment, we urge further reflection on whether our assessment of successful outcomes balances differing expectations and definitions of success, requirements of funding institutions, willingness of the participants, and needs of the practitioners. Are we working towards assessments of our own satisfaction with work done, the satisfaction of the dominant political forms of cultural value, the formal procedures of our funding streams, or the experiential and educational needs of the non-professional with whom we engage? We present a picture of the institutional contexts of US and UK public archaeology evaluation up to this point and propose ways to move forward that address the ethical underpinnings of public archaeology practice while strengthening the institutional visibility of public archaeology work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-94
JournalAP: Online Journal of Public Archaeology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Cite this