Institute of Archaeology



Investigating industrial pasts and legacies from multi- and interdisciplinary perspective | Wed Dec 18 14:00:00 | Room 777/80

The topic of multi- and interdisciplinary research has been gaining traction in recent years. Studies of industrial archaeology and heritage have long utilised interdisciplinary methods and perspectives, being concerned with various kinds of evidence of industrial processes and legacies, both material and immaterial. In this session we explore the place and value of multi- and inter disciplinary practices within studies of industrial pasts and legacies. In this, we acknowledge the growing interest in these topics within other disciplines, such as economic and oral history, sociology, geography, environmental humanities, photography and art, amongst others.We seek to examine the current conditions of knowledge production, how new bodies of knowledge and practice are being formed, the shifts of power, and how they change us. Some questions that we seek to address are: What relationships are currently being forged and why, and in what ways do different perspectives coalesce or clash, and why? Does it matter what we call ourselves? How are multi- and inter disciplinary approaches being incorporated, while maintaining communication with a ‘home’ discipline? Are there any anxieties over politics, disciplinary histories, identity, funding, career paths, acceptance, and recognition? What are perceived as typical and unconventional forms of practice?

Session timetable
14:00 | Session organisers


14:10 | João Luís Sequeira, Universidade do Minho, Portugal

Humanizing industrial archaeology

As an archaeologist, I often enter factory spaces in Portugal that until recently were fully operational. When these places cease to produce and are closed, they are also cleaned of most of the traces and testimonies of the presence of people on the site, retaining only what is believed to be of interest concerning heritage studies. Sometimes, it is the archaeologist who forgets that these sites were used by people, and relegates human traces to the background, inadvertently highlighting operating chains, processes, structures, architecture, machines, and tools. However, rather than having workers, a factory space has, first of all, people and having people means traces of feelings: tiredness, happiness, sadness, hope, anxieties, fear, joy and humour, feelings that are difficult to find in an archaeological context. This absence is even worse if the site was previously “prepared” for an investigator to enter the scene. However fortunately, there are places where key areas remain untouched, such as changing rooms, lockers inside the changing rooms, the concierge, the guard's house or the canteen. These sites are fundamental for studying the human presence within the factory. This paper aims to explore the potential of a multidisciplinary approach to these parts of the factory and what can they tell us about people. The intersection of areas as distinct as archaeology, architecture, social anthropology, ethnography and civil engineering, combined with the oral testimonies of the people who worked in those factories will work in highlighting the human part of industrial archaeology.

14:30 | Hanna Steyne, University of Manchester

The industrialisation of Thames water management in the 19th century from many, multi- and inter-disciplinary perspectives

The embankment of the Thames in central London was carried out between 1865 and 1900 as part of a city wide scheme to improve sanitation through sewage removal, drainage, clean water provision and improvements to Thames water quality. The Embankment construction took place against a backdrop of industrialisation of the waterfront, including the establishment and expansion of factories, ship building, and dock facilities. The period in which the Embankment was build has been the subject of vast amounts of research, largely by historians, and a smaller number of archaeologists. This paper seeks to illustrate the ways in which a wider variety of stories of Thames-side industrialisation can be told using alternative sources, and alternative approaches to historical source material. Taking an inter-disciplinary approach to the industrialisation of the Thames waterside allows us to move beyond purely industrial archaeological or historical narratives and understand the social complexities and realities of the lived experience.

14:50 | Susan Lawrence, Archaeology, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia; Jude Macklin, Geography, Lincoln University, Lincoln, UK; Mark Macklin, Geography, Lincoln University, Lincoln, UK; Peter Davies, Archaeology, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia; Ian Rutherfurd, Geography, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia; Ewen Silvester, Environment, Ecology and Evolution, La Trobe University, Albury-Wodonga, Australia; James Grove, Geography, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia; Jodi Turnbull, Archaeology, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

Rivers of gold: Mining legacies from the perspectives of archaeology, science and art

The gold rush in nineteenth-century Victoria, Australia, has left a legacy of abandoned mines and mining landscapes.Rivers of Gold is multi-disciplinary project that integrates approaches from archaeology, geomorphology and environmental chemistry in order to locate and understand the ongoing impacts of historic mining on Victorian rivers.The project also juxtaposes conventional scientific approaches with place-based art practice from communities living with the legacies of abandoned gold mines.As part of the project print makers from four former gold mining centres around the world were invited to contribute prints that that reflect on the meanings of gold, mining, water, and environmental damage.The resulting print collection has been exhibited six times in four countries and there has been associated participation in dramatic productions and outreach to biodiversity and landcare organisations.There has been soil sampling, chemical analysis, and archival research, but no excavation or even conventional site survey and recording.What is the role of archaeology in such a diverse and extensive project, and does it matter?

15:10 | Coralie Acheson, Arup

The Iron Bridge in mixed media: An artistic reflection on interdisciplinary research

PVA glue and coloured tissue paper may not immediately spring to mind as primary research materials for conducting a study of how the values of an industrial World Heritage Sites are communicated to tourists. Finding myself on an art day focused on the world’s first Iron Bridge certainly made me reflect that interdisciplinary research rarely turns out as you expect! Over the course of a year I carried out a mixture of ethnographic, geographic, digital humanities and contemporary archaeological fieldwork in Ironbridge Gorge. The valley is famous, amongst enthusiasts at least, for being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, but that’s not necessarily the story that the million or so tourists who visit each year encounter. Tourism, much like interdisciplinary research, is messy and colourful, varied and even a little weird. In this participatory paper I will reflect on the contributions and challenges that the four disciplinary lenses brought to the study and everyone will get to try some collage too!

15:30 | BREAK
16:00 | Ronan O'Donnell, Durham University

The archaeology of 20th century factory management: Four factories on the Team Valley Trading Estate

This paper makes an attempt to assess the implications of industrial archaeology of the 20th century for organisational or management theory. While business historians have recognised the relevance of their work to more applied management theory, archaeologists have generally failed to do so (Kipping and Üsdiken 2008). However, as 20th century industrial archaeology becomes more common archaeologists will more often encounter structures built with reference to modern management concepts. The 20th century witnessed significant changes in management practice which are understood historically. We will use both historical and archaeological methods to determine whether changes in factory management during the mid- to late-20th century (for our purposes 1930s-1990s) can be archaeologically recognised. In order to examine the changes in management practice during this period four factories on the Team Valley Trading Estate built between 1938 and 1939 were surveyed. It was possible to detect elements of planning for efficiency of movement and process both in the offices and the factory floor. Similarly, division of labour between workers of different status and gender were also evident. Such differences in status were not only part of practical organisation but were marked symbolically.

16:20 | Helen L Loney, University of Worcester; Andrew W Hoaen, University of Worcester

“Garbology” and the archaeology of industry: Field walking in the hinterlands of Royal Worcester Porcelain

Worcester is known for a number of iconic industrial-age products, including Worcestershire Sauce and the Royal Worcester Porcelain. Archaeologically, these industries are represented by both domestic and industrial discard. The city of Worcester had no central rubbish collection before the 20th century. The industrial waste from the porcelain factories was a problem throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. According to the Worcester Royal Archives waste from the kiln firings was bought by farmers to use as hardcore and was spread on fields.

By systematic fieldwalking in the fields around Worcester we have been able to recover material which dates from all stages of the operations of the porcelain factories. The manufacturing process, the chaîne opératoire, of the Royal Worcester Porcelain is well documented, as are elements of the social organization of the workshop employees. We have also been able to infer cohorts of factory workers that are represented by the waste, people otherwise invisible in the art historical record. Products recovered range from all aspects of the firing and decorative stages, for both high end and industrial porcelain uses.

By combining historical and art historical records with the archaeological analysis of finds we will discuss the importance of field survey data to the reconstruction of elements of the Industrial past, including factory development and organization.

16:40 | Hilary Orange, Independent; Mike Nevell, University of Salford; Hanna Steyne , University of Manchester


17:30 | END