Ancient Muses: Archaeology and the Arts

By John H. Jameson; John E. Ehrenhard et al. | Go to book overview

10 Evoking Time and
Place in Reconstruction
and Display
The Case of Celtic Identity and
Iron Age Art

Harold Mytum


INTRODUCTION

The aim of site reconstruction and interpretation is to inform and educate the public while also offering entertainment. This may be achieved through displays of structures and artifacts, by presenters in role, by actors offering an interpretation of the past, or by the use of music, language, and art. Museums authenticate their interpretation with the support of artifacts from the past; reconstruction sites do so through the coherence and integration of the various forms of newly produced material culture, sometimes linked to experimental archaeology. The role of art in interpretation and in the reconstruction of particular times and places has not previously received attention. This chapter explores general issues regarding the integration of art in archaeological reconstruction and illustrates, through the specific case study of Celtic art, tensions that exist at both an academic and contemporary cultural level.

Visitors come to archaeological sites because they are different from everyday life, representing a past that was in so many ways alien to that of today. On sites with reconstructions, visitors expect to experience that difference through their senses, and sight is one of the most important. The concept of the tourist gaze has been developed by Urry (1990), who challenges Hewison's critique of the heritage industry (1987), arguing that visitors gaze on the same presentations in varied ways and draw from them their own conclusions. This is certainly the stance taken here, supported by many years of observation of and interaction with visitors at Castell Henllys Iron Age fort in Pembrokeshire,

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