Key-words: Republic of Ireland, Discovery Programme, Archaeology Ireland, schools, universities, postgraduate, profession
In Ireland I think it could be said that while archaeology plays an important role in national identity, this role is implicit and not very well defined. Images of monuments in mist or glorious sunshine and artifacts displayed as treasure or jewellery are very widely deployed. This constructed past serves a variety of different purposes for a rapidly changing present, from utilization as a symbol of the long tradition of Ireland's high technological expertise -- nowadays being best expressed in the computing industry, as a backdrop for the sustained (as opposed to sustainable) drive to increase tourism, to the context for a call of a revitalization of Celtic spirituality (see discussion in Gibbons 1996). More traditionally, of course, material remains played a very important role in the construction of national identities in Ireland (e.g. Crooke 1999). For these varied reasons archaeology is seen in a positive light, as a positive project, both by political decision-makers and the public. One illustration of this is the Discovery Programme, a government-funded research initiative set up in 1991 to enhance knowledge of Ireland's past through integrated programmes of archaeological research (Waddel11997; Eogan 1998).
However, unlike the writing and practice of Irish history, archaeology has not been regarded as a contentious discipline in understanding the past. It appears in the public arena as contentious usually only when an archaeological problem is presented as holding up development. This taken-for-granted view of archaeology (with an allied perception of archaeology equalling excavation) is the result of a number of factors, not least the attitudes of archaeologists themselves. Many of these factors are related to education and obviously the issue of whether we want to change this perception is at the heart of the relationship between archaeology and education in Ireland.
Here the primary focus will be on the Republic: of Ireland but with some comments on Northern Ireland. Deevy (1999) provides an important, up-to-date source of information on structures, government agencies, legislation, local and national organizations and education for both the Republic and Northern Ireland.
Archaeology at school
Archaeology features in school curricula at both the primary and secondary level across a number of subject areas. In the second level curriculum there are two multi-subject cycles, Junior (12-15 age group) and Senior (15-18 age group), which are tested by state examinations. While archaeology features in a number of the subject curricula, it is in the history course in the Junior cycle that students have the most sustained presentation of archaeological approaches and information. Here in the first of three sections in the syllabus, How we find out about the past, the approach is to use an archaeological perspective to look at prehistoric and early historic Ireland and one ancient civilization (Rome, Greece or Egypt as examples). From the point of view of archaeology this course is a major advance on the syllabus prior to 1989. However, it presents archaeology as the handmaiden of history (the archaeologist as a particular kind of historian) and the emphasis is on a cultural historical, metanarrative approach. The quality of the textbooks is variable and they suffer from presenting at secondhand what would now be regarded as somewhat old fashioned archaeological literature.
One of the major advances of the Junior cycle history course is its focus on project work, particularly in the first section. This has led to an increased use of the National Museum of Ireland and regional and local museums and interpretative centres and archaeological sites as educational resources. As a response to this demand there has been increased effort put by these institutions into educational services. As one example Dublinia, a centre describing itself as a bridge to Dublin's medieval past, has produced an Educational Resource Pack (1999) with thematic information and worksheets. The Irish Young Archaeologists' Club (IYAC) is run from Dublinia as an adjunct of the centre's Education Service. A publication that also demonstrates the value of close collaboration of archaeologists and teachers is Discovering the Bronze Age (1997), a study pack produced by the Discovery Programme in association with an education centre.
Archaeology in the university
There are departments of archaeology in University College, Cork (UCC), University College, Dublin (UCD) and the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway). In Northern Ireland there is a Department of Archaeology and Palaeoecology in Queen's University, Belfast (QUB). In all of these universities archaeology can be studied to degree level (normally BA, in the case of QUB also BSc). In the case of UCD and NUI Galway all undergraduate students study archaeology as part of a joint (normally two subjects) degree, in UCC and QUB there is also the option of taking archaeology as a single honours degree. The archaeology department in QUB is in both the Humanities and Science faculties but in the Republic the archaeology departments are based in Arts (humanities) faculties (and also are members of Celtic Studies faculties). As a very broad generalization it could be said that the undergraduate programmes focus on the archaeology of Ireland and Britain in a European context. There is some focus on methodology, with a particular emphasis in the UCC and QUB programmes on environmental archaeology. In the Republic there are high student-to-staff ratios (on average one member of staff per 30 students).
In addition there is a significant archaeological component in the undergraduate programme offered by the Department of History in the National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUI Maynooth) and the Department of Medieval History, Trinity College, Dublin (TCD). Classical archaeology is taught as part of the degree programmes in classical studies in Irish universities. A relatively recent development has been the commencement of teaching of archaeology in the third level, institute of technology sector. This reflects the growth of interest in heritage and tourism. For example, in the Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT) the National Diploma in Humanities (Applied Cultural Studies) has an archaeological component, as does the National Diploma in Humanities (Rural Heritage/Heritage Studies) in the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT).
At postgraduate level there are a variety of certificate, diploma, MA, MPhil and MLitt courses offered by the different departments of archaeology. All the universities are involved in continuing and adult education through varied course structures. In terms of the taught postgraduate courses there has not been as yet a major development of specialized courses. However, UCC offers an MA in Methods and Practices in Irish Archaeology, aimed at students who wish to make a career in professional archaeology. QUB offers an MSc in Palaeoecology and an MA in Medieval Archaeology. In UCC a number of departments, including archaeology, collaborate to run a Masters programme in Heritage Management.
One important initiative in this area is the recently established Centre for Maritime Archaeology (CMA) at the University of Ulster, Coleraine. The Centre is jointly funded by the a postgraduate diploma/MSc course aimed at archaeological graduates as well as graduates from associated disciplines who wish to pursue a career in maritime archaeology.
Lack of financial support has always been a problem for postgraduate students in archaeology in the Republic of Ireland. An additional perceptual barrier has now been created as students no longer pay fees at undergraduate level,
but they do for postgraduate courses. The number of postgraduate scholarships has been very restricted and traditionally these have been awarded at masters rather than Ph.D level. This largely reflects archaeology's place as a subject within the under-funded arts/humanities faculties. A new programme of government assistance for research in the humanities and social sciences, launched under the rubric of Government of Ireland scholarships, has begun to improve the situation. It is expected that this scholarship scheme will be extended.
This is an important point in terms of the broader context of university education as the number of Ph.D students currently coming through Irish universities is very restricted. This has implications for the possibilities of the archaeological research community reaching the critical mass needed to facilitate debate and different interpretive approaches.
Relationship between the universities and the profession
There has been a major expansion of the contract sector in Irish archaeology during the 1990s. This is a reflection both of sustained economic growth and the recognition of the need for the mitigation of impacts on the archaeological resource as a central part of the planning process. Critical to the latter process has been the completion of a preliminary national inventory in the form of a county-based Record of Monuments and Places (RMP). The majority of professional archaeologists (66% of an estimated total of about 500) now work in the contract sector, either for one of a number of companies or for/as individual contractors. Traditionally there has not been a strong sense of a divide between university-based and other archaeologists and this unity was expressed in the Irish Association of Professional Archaeologists. However, the rapid expansion of the contract sector has had a side effect of emphasizing the main sub-groups within the archaeological community; university, museum, National Monuments Service of Duchas, The Heritage Service (both the National Monuments Service and the National Museum of Ireland have an important regulatory role in archaeological practice and the planning process), contract archaeology and specialists.
It could be said that while the profession has dramatically increased in size (membership of the Irish Association of Professional Archaeologists in 1990 was 120, the current membership figure is was 250), it is still operating under structures largely unchanged since the 1970s. The question of the extent to which university course curricula contribute to a basic professional training has to be seen in the context of the low staff numbers in the university departments. It is also of relevance that the majority of undergraduates taking archaeology as part of a joint subject degree have no intention of carrying on in the subject. While the universities provide broadly similar undergraduate programmes ensuring some degree of uniformity, there is no agreed thematic curriculum similar to that in Britain. Archaeological graduates would be regarded by the contract archaeology sector as having the minimum fieldwork and interpretive expertise necessary to work in the field. Because of the current demand graduates have no difficulty finding employment and there is a continuing shortage of field staff, particularly at higher levels of expertise and experience.
Apart from the specific issue of the training of undergraduates there is the wider question of the links between the university sector and the archaeological profession at large. The Irish Association of Professional Archaeologists holds two meetings per year and academic involvement in these meetings has tended to decline in recent years. This may reflect the increasingly higher profile of contract archaeology, but it has meant that there is less engagement by university archaeologists in the wider debates concerning the direction the profession is heading in. On the other hand there is no national forum for discussion of research or interpretive perspectives being undertaken within the ambit of the universities which might help to encourage contact and communication within that sector.
Archaeology Ireland and the public
Archaeology Ireland is a quarterly archaeological magazine that has been published since 1987. The establishment of the magazine was an initiative aimed at providing a high-quality product for a wide audience. It has a current circulation of over 5000 with a readership in the order of 20,000 with sales by subscription and through retail outlets. It is a full-colour magazine which focuses on the presentation of current research, rapid presentation of results, discussion of current and long-term issues of policy and management. It takes a very broad view of archaeology and covers the whole of the island. One continuing concern is to illustrate that excavation is only one of a wide range of archaeological approaches to interpreting the past. An important landmark in the development of the magazine was its transformation into a private limited company, supported by shareholders, known as Archaeology Ireland Ltd. Central to the ethos of the magazine is a commitment to education, both about the excitement and challenges of archaeological work and about the frameworks and policies within which archaeologists operate. The magazine is not reliant on any institution or organization and this has been vital in allowing it to take an independent editorial stance on controversial issues.
The magazine's commitment to education and the provision of information is reflected not just in the format and content of the magazine but also in a number of other initiatives. These include the publication of supplements on statutory and professional bodies, heritage and visitor sites and worksheets for school projects. The Irish Heritage and Environment Directory (Deevy 1999) grew directly from this commitment and was published by Archaeology Ireland for the Heritage Council. The lack of up-to-date, accessible and well-presented publications aimed at a wide public audience has been a problem in Ireland. Archaeology Ireland has taken the initiative of producing a guide to the World Heritage site at Bru na Boinne (Condit & Cooney 1997) as well as publishing an on-going series of Heritage Guides to sites and complexes across the country. In the same spirit of conveying ideas and information about archaeological approaches to the past, Archaeology Ireland has established an annual one-day thematic conference. After three years with attendances each year in excess of 200 people this looks set to become a successful tradition.
Archaeology and the interpretation of the past
Some of the factors touched on above combine to make this a complex issue. Yes, archaeological information now provides the basis for interpretation of many different aspects of the Irish past, particularly the prehistoric past. However, because of the traditional dominance of a cultural-historical, narrative approach in university education and in the presentation of data, the idea of multiple, equally valid interpretations of the past has not been widely explored (for example, see discussion in Brett 1996). In turn, the theoretical basis of current archaeological interpretation is frequently implicit, rather than being critically examined (see discussion in Cooney 1995; 1996; O'Sullivan 1998; Tierney 1998). When this information is used in visitor interpretation the focus has been on presenting a coherent story-line rather than on exploring the different meanings and complexities of the archaeological record. The Irish Tourist Board, Bord Failte, has a national strategy which presents different sites and historic towns in terms of emphasizing different themes within an overall chronological scheme, which also has led to a focus being placed on certain interpretive themes for particular sites.
In effect, then, archaeological information is being utilized to present particular perspectives on the Irish past while many of the practitioners would still maintain that the archaeological information they are producing is a neutral, value-free interpretation of that past. Many archaeologists believe that the primary emphasis of their practice at present has to be on the collecting and sorting of raw data, not accepting that this in itself is a particular theoretical stance. The archaeological profession in general has been content to provide information to be used by other disciplines in creating perceptions of the past which very often fail to appreciate the subleties and complexities of the archaeological record (see discussion in Woodman 1992; 1995).
The future for Irish archaeology
Irish archaeology faces a testing time currently and in the future. There are many issues that need to be addressed, such as the lack of political commitment to fund the investment in staff and resources in the state services required to conserve and manage the archaeological resource effectively (see prescient discussion in Ryan 1991). Specifically, in relation to education the universities and the profession need to engage in debate about maintaining and improving standards of archaeological practice and methodology, through both the formal course structures and the development of in-service courses.
It should be clear from the previous paragraph that I believe a major challenge for archaeologists, particularly those responsible for education, is to put their heads above the parapets and engage their students and the public in debate about the significance of the archaeological record in interpreting the past. Currently the discursive ground in this intellectual debate in Ireland is dominated by historians and historical geographers, who often fail to understand in any detail the materiality of the past. Archaeology needs to be much more actively engaged in this debate. It also needs to engage more fully with the post-medieval period where it has the potential to provide new ways of approaching the past (e.g. Orser & Fagan 1995).
What archaeology can achieve is illustrated by the Tower Museum in Derry (Lacey 1989; Carnegie 1994). Here the exhibition focuses on the history of conflict in the city and presents it as a microcosm of the history of Ireland. Given the current political developments in Northern Ireland it will be important for archaeologists to play a role in the ways in which the contested past is presented to serve a changing present. Irish people pride themselves on a strong sense of identity with the past. Archaeologists are really only beginning to appreciate the central role that archaeology has played in creating these identities and the necessity to be actively engaged in the debate about how Ireland's past is constructed.
Acknowledgements. Thanks to John Bradley, Brian Lacey, Jim Mallory, Barry Raftery, John Waddell and Peter Woodman for thir comments, which have added significantly to the paper. The views expressed are those of the author.
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GABRIEL COONEY, Department of Archaeology, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.…