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Community Activism in Heritage - ARC00079M

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Louise Cooke
  • Credit value: 5 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21
    • See module specification for other years: 2019-20

Module summary

What makes a community? Location, ethnicity, religion, place in society? All of these engage with heritage in some way. For many, heritage is an important aspect of their identity. How then do we as heritage professionals interact with them? What is our role, whom do we serve? This module will explore how we can best support communities, but also how this can come into conflict with our responsibilities towards heritage. We will look at UK and international examples of where heritage and communities interact, not always peacefully. The key skill to develop is how to create a community project that benefits not only heritage but also the communities who engage with it.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21

Module aims

Public engagement is a key part of modern heritage practice and increasingly so in modern archaeology. There has been debate about the merits of different approaches to this; crudely characterised as top-down and bottom-up. There is also debate about the impact of such engagement. This module will give students:


  • an appreciation for the importance of engaging with communities;

  • the benefits of this for both heritage practitioners and the members of those communities;

  • skills in enabling bottom-up heritage facilitation that delivers long-term community benefits.

Module learning outcomes

On completion of the module, students should have an understanding of:

  • the historical development of community heritage practice;

  • theories of community engagement and public heritage;

  • current standards and principles that support public heritage (e.g. the Faro convention);

  • problems and issues in the management of community heritage projects;

  • the different international contexts for community heritage engagement;

and the ability to:

  • critique academic writing about community heritage work;

  • evaluate existing and past community heritage projects;

  • write effective briefs and funding proposals for public heritage projects;

  • communicate effectively with non-heritage practitioners;

  • work as part of a team and yet meet differing aims and objectives.

Module content

We will begin by looking at the development of community engagement with archaeology and how it is currently funded, mostly through the National Lottery and crowdfunding. How to put together a funding application or project design will be covered as part of this. We will then look at different kinds of heritage activism: utilitarian, democratic, dogmatic, methodological. Various systems of values will be explored in which heritage and our role is placed into wider social context, along with some political stances that affect our role. This will lead into considering the nature of democratic activism and citizen participation, and how these can be applied to engagement with heritage. Finally, we will look at how ethnicity leads to concepts of identity and community formation and how this can often result in disputes between communities, and between communities and the heritage profession.


Task Length % of module mark
Critique/project design
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback will be available within 6 weeks

Indicative reading

Merriman, N (2004) Public archaeology. London: Routledge. Available at:

Sayer, F (2015) Public history: a practical guide. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Smith, L & Waterton, E (2013) Heritage, communities and archaeology. London: A & C Black. Available at:

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.