Leah Acheson Roberts

How can contemporary sculpture be used as an interpretive resource for archaeology in a museum context?

Archaeology has a responsibility to represent and engage with the broader public. As a crucial point of interaction between archaeology and the public, museums should provide a participatory and engaging journey into the human past. It is my view that traditional museum display methods are unsatisfactory for this purpose, creating a sterile atmosphere that limits engagement and encourages the passive acceptance of specialist explanation.

Creativity and imagination are fundamental to archaeological practice. The interpretive journey that starts with traces of the past continues through a willingness to imagine how things once were. Museum visitors should therefore be ‘like archaeologists’ and encouraged to reach their own interpretations of displayed material. This research explores contemporary art as a vehicle for enriching the museum experience. Contemporary sculpture can achieve this aim: I believe that three-dimensional artwork has the greatest capacity to activate visitors and inspire imagination via its arresting physicality and spatial magnetism.

This research addresses the currently limited application of contemporary art within the discipline by demonstrating the significant role it can play to museum visitor comprehension of archaeology. It explores the range of interpretive functions contemporary sculpture can offer, including the communication of important archaeological themes, contextualising displayed objects and presenting more abstract, conceptual ideas such as the selective nature of the archaeological record.

My research develops a methodology through which the communicative impact of different sculpture types and specific artworks are assessed, using a combination of published perspectives, visitor responses and artist interviews. It also involves the development of an exhibition project with an artist and museum, through which my ideas can be tested and original data by survey, acquired. Ultimately, this study aims to produce an innovative museum strategy that examines contemporary sculpture as key interpretive resource for UK museums.


Research Directory Records

Educational background

  • Foundation Diploma in Fine Art, Byam Shaw School of Art, 2007
  • BA, Archaeology, UCL 2010
  • MA, Public Archaeology, UCL 2011
  • People: Power and Organisation by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi – one of a series of sculpture-groups commissioned for the new Early People Gallery at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh in 1998

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