The Presented Past: Heritage, Museums, and Education

The Presented Past: Heritage, Museums, and Education

The Presented Past: Heritage, Museums, and Education

The Presented Past: Heritage, Museums, and Education


The Presented Past is concerned with the differences between the comparatively static, well-understood way in which the past is presented in schools, museums and at historic sites compared to the approaches currently being explored in contemporary archaeology. It challenges the all-too-frequent representation of the past as something finished, understood and objective, rather than something that is 'constructed' and therefore open to co-existing interpretations and constant re-interpretation.Central to the book is the belief that the presentation of the past in school curricula and in museum and site interpretations will benefit from a greater use of non-documentary sources derived from archaeological study and oral histories. The book suggests that a view of the past incorporating a larger body of evidence and a wider variety of understanding will help to invigorate the way history is taught. The Presented Past will be of interest to teachers, archaeologists, cultural resource managers, in fact anyone who is concerned with how the past is presented.


This book is the last in the One World Archaeology (OWA) series to derive from the Second World Archaeological Congress (WAC 2), held in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, in September 1990. Despite many organizational problems (Fforde 1991, p. 6), over 600 people attended the Inaugural Session of wac 2, with more than 450 participants from 35 countries taking part in academic sessions, and additional contributions being read on behalf of many others who were unable to attend in person.

True to the aims and spirit of wac 1 over three-quarters of the participants came from the so-called Third and Fourth Worlds (see Fforde 1991, p. 7 for details) and the academics came not only from archaeology and anthropology but from a host of related disciplines.

Wac 2 continued the tradition of effectively addressing world archaeology in its widest sense. Central to a world archaeological approach is the investigation not only of how people lived in the past but also how and why those changes took place which resulted in the forms of society and culture which exist today. Contrary to popular belief, and the archaeology of some twenty-five years ago, world archaeology is much more than the mere recording of specific historical events, embracing as it does the study of social and cultural change in its entirety.

Several of these themes were based on the discussion of full-length papers that had been circulated previously to all those who had indicated a special interest in them, or were available to be read at the Congress. the thematic session from which this book derives was based on two volumes of precirculated papers.

The main aims of the wac 2 Education sessions were to build on the success of wac 1’s The Excluded Past: archaeology in education (edited by Peter Stone & Robert MacKenzie, and now in paperback) by extending the geographic coverage of the school-based case studies, and by moving the focus more onto site and museum presentations of the past.

Perhaps the single most striking outcome of reading The Presented Past: heritage, museums and education is the realization that archaeology is currently at

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