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Archaeology and Heritage and Social Media

Centre for Archaeology and Heritage’s social media pilot programme team (Lauren Bell, Tumi Markan Jones, Muyang Shi and Dessislava Veltcheva)
Centre for Archaeology and Heritage’s social media pilot programme team (Lauren Bell, Tumi Markan Jones, Muyang Shi and Dessislava Veltcheva)

Since February the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage at the Sainsbury Institute has been working with five undergraduates in UK and Japan to create a social media presence using Facebook and Twitter. Here our students (Lauren Bell, Tumi Markan Jones, Okazaki Sakuya, Muyang Shi and Dessislava Veltcheva) provide some further thoughts in a series of tweets in response to questions from Centre Head Simon Kaner. Follow the debate and further developments on Facebook and Twitter.

We wish all our students every success after graduation.

SimonWhat can social media do for the dissemination of Japanese archaeology and heritage?
Tumi: Since the founding of Facebook in 2004, people have engaged with news in very different ways. While there are inherent problems with social media, it lets us interact with people we couldn’t easily before.

Lauren: Absolutely! Without social media, we wouldn’t have been able to spread the information that we are posting to such a global audience. We now also have followers from all over Europe, North America and Japan itself.

Sakuya: It’s wonderful to see reactions from archaeological researchers and non-archaeologists from so many countries! We are getting ‘likes’ and interest in posts on both archaeology and cultural heritage topics.

Dessy: Exactly! Social Media massively reduces the distance between countries and creates bridges between people who are interested in Japanese Archaeology and Heritage.

Muyang: As well as connecting people, we post a lot of useful information that might aid people’s own attempts to explore the topics we cover, such as book recommendations, conference papers and online databases.

SimonWhat more would you like to find out about Japanese archaeology and heritage?
Tumi: I personally want to know about and share what’s happening internationally in terms of Japanese archaeology and heritage as there are undoubtedly people who want to engage with it but can’t visit the country itself.

Muyang: Following Tumi’s answer, I would also like to know what kind of roles Japanese archaeology and heritage play in furthering cultural, economic and political ties with other countries.

Sakuya: Also, I’d like to know the ways that people enjoy archaeology and heritage. I personally love inspecting old pottery designs in museums, but there must be more than that! I’d like to learn about them and share them with our followers.

Lauren: Definitely! I think it would be great to find out more about the innovative ways that archaeology is displayed to the public in Japan and how we can learn from them abroad.

Dessy: Like Lauren, I also want to know how prehistory has been shown to the public, as well as whether there are any new ways that Japanese archaeology and heritage has been displayed to younger audiences.

Social media team’s fifth member Okazaki Sakuya (right)
Social media team’s fifth member Okazaki Sakuya (right)

SimonWhat would you recommend in terms of ‘following’ people, websites etc for Japanese archaeology and heritage?
Muyang: Apart from our facebook and twitter? I’d recommend websites for museums and organisations like the Sainsbury Institute and the Daiwa Foundation. They provide useful information about new exhibitions as well as opportunities to get personally involved.

Sakuya: I’d especially recommend the “e-Museum” website. You can search for national treasures and important cultural properties, housed in Japan’s many museums, as well as examine detailed images and read descriptions in a range of languages.

Dessy: Google Plus communities would be my recommendation. You can both post articles that you have found and see what other people have posted as well! As for finding academic papers, the keywords function in Google Scholar ‘alerts’ is a great tool!

Tumi: If you need something to use in teaching, I would suggest keeping an eye on ‘ORJACH’, the Online Resource for Japanese Archaeology. It contains full lesson plans on loads of different topics and should be getting regularly updated over the coming year!

Lauren: I have set up a news feed on the in-built ‘News’ app on my apple devices which looks for the keywords ‘Japan’ and ‘archaeology’ or ‘heritage’ in the latest news stories. This can find great articles!

SimonWhat is your favourite Japanese archaeological site and why?
Lauren: My favourite is the site of the earliest skeletons, a very rare find due to high soil acidity in Japan! The so-called Minatogawa people, found at Sakitari-do, lived 20,000 years ago in Okinawa.

Sakuya: Lauren’s choice is cool! What I love are the Tokoro archaeological sites, in Hokkaido. You can see many depressions that were originally pit-dwellings scattered in the Tokoro woods!

Dessy: Sakuya’s Tokoro archaeological site is one of my favourites as well! I also really like the Torihama site, where researchers discovered what people were eating 9000 years ago inside preserved pottery!

Tumi: While these sites are beautiful, my favourite ‘site’ is the tatara smelter in Shimane prefecture. The only one still managed in Japan, it is part of an uninterrupted tradition of iron smelting that spans the last thousand years.

Muyang: I would say the kiln sites in Seto, Aichi Prefecture, which are amazing archaeological sites, not only for their historic importance within Japan as one of only six ancient kilns found so far, but for their connection to ancient China.

SimonIs a ‘virtual heritage’* in danger of replacing interest in the real thing?
Muyang: Probably not. ‘Virtual heritage’, as it stands, mainly just complements and expands on real objects, providing new means of distribution and interaction. More importantly, exhibition spaces like museums have evolved from being just ‘showboxes’ thanks to new technology.

*‘Virtual heritage’ is distinct from ‘digital heritage’. The former means the display of tangible cultural heritage in digital form, while ‘digital heritage’ is, as defined by UNESCO, heritage that starts its life online and has only ever existed in digital form 

Sakuya: Virtual resources and real properties provide different benefits. The former allows for easy object comparisons, while objects in museums and at sites have a tangibility that provides a connection between the past and present generations.

Lauren: It is becoming increasingly common to find new means of exhibiting artefacts and enhancing the visitor experience through things like virtual reality, but I don’t think this detracts from the original.

Tumi: If anything, I would say virtual and augmented reality displays give people a greater appreciation of physical objects, by putting them in context and providing an interactive learning experience.

Dessy: I agree that digital heritage is giving artefacts another dimension! It also lets anyone connect with and explore heritage, which may make them want to go and see the real-life sources as a result.

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