Tag Archives: Living History

Archaeology of the ‘Austen Age’ Exhibition (15 July):

In my last post I outlined my new educational endeavours, and my 2017 CBA (Council for British Archaeology) Festival of Archaeology event – Archaeology of the ‘Austen Age’ pop-up exhibition. So here’s some more information on this event (more will follow on the exhibition & ‘Academy‘).

This year’s focus on the late Georgian and Regency eras commemorates the 200-year anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, exploring the material world of her lifetime (1775-1817), from a local (Derby and Derbyshire) perspective. It draws upon Austen’s novels & letters, and early biographies, to consider culture, society, and everyday experiences at this time.

Rather than the usual pin-boards & trestle tables, I’m trying something different this year, experimenting with notions of ‘atmosphere’, and providing opportunities for visitors to consider sensory experience in the past (involving greater use of costume, ‘setting’, and handling collections). This develops some of the methods I occasionally employed when teaching in adult education, in attempting to communicate information and ideas in more engaging ways – to which students responded positively. The previous post describes these approaches in more detail, outlining how Archaeological Theory might inform different forms of interpretation & dissemination with the potential to be more meaningful for the general public – which I won’t repeat here. Instead, I’ll briefly outline what the exhibition entails.

I’ve organised the displays into several sections, which each concentrate on several themes – inevitably limited to outlining and overviews of topics that I intend to explore in more detail in future educational sessions (& introducing my research in and approaches to these subjects):

Mrs. Leach & the Antiquarian Academy, which outlines what the venture is all about (e.g. content, approach & methods, & background research) & forthcoming events; Antiquarianism; and describes in brief what Historical Archaeology is & does.

Correspondence & Communication, which looks at letter-writing, postal systems, & transportation (particularly mail networks, coaching, and traveller’s accommodation), through local and wider sources.

Travel & Tourism, which considers tourism (leisure & landscapes; & health tourism), touching upon the Austen family & Derbyshire.

Power & Privilege, looking at country houses and estates in the local landscape, with regard to Jane Austen’s work & background

Poverty, Charity, & Welfare, examining charitable provisions, such as almshouses; and responses  by local authorities to poverty and care – using local cases.

Crime & Punishment, examining sites of law and order in the local landscape, and introducing local cases – as well as an incident in the Austen family.

Urban Evolution & Pastoral Idylls, considering urbanisation, industrialisation, and idealisation of the countryside – particularly how this related to social identities and relatioships.

Foreign Travel & Trade, Colonialism & British Identity, exploring how material culture affected attitudes towards colonial domination & exploitation, including slavery.

Housing & Domestic Material Culture, considering domestic buildings, and in particular looking at eating & drinking.

Body, Character & Experience, looking at social and cultural effects upon the body, and considering relationships between relationships & identities through the body – particularly examining dress and appearance

Ritual & Religion, particularly considering church and parish; touching upon expressions of belief through material culture – and how religious symbolism was linked to social identities and relationships; and introducing Christmas customs.

Love, Marriage, and Family Life,  briefly highlighting how emotion might  be approached archaeologically.

And finally,

Death & Burial, looking at funeral traditions; mourning and memory; burial practices and graves; and memorialisation and grave monuments;

I hope that anyone in the area will drop by to see what’s going on – it’s a ‘pop-up’ exhibition (open for two hours on next Saturday afternoon); but if unable to come along, I’ll be posting various related material here; on the other website; and on Twitter.

Through this venture, I’ve found fun ways to explore the past, and I’m really looking forward to sharing these discoveries: I hope that others will enjoy my endeavours as much as I do.