Jonathan Gardner

An archaeological examination of Mega-events in London, 1851-2012

An archaeological examination of Mega-events in London, 1851-2012

My work examines the material remains of recent, large-scale, international events (mega-events) utilising a diverse set of contemporary archaeologies – the use of archaeological methods and theory to examine the present or very recent past. Specifically, I aim to interrogate the ideological foundations of these event by recording the material and archival traces they leave behind. I seek to understand how these events are legitimated by the destruction, modification or elision of their sites’ previous functions, how during their use they rely upon certain ideas of the past, present and future, and ultimately what happens to these ideas and the materials themselves when the events are over.

My three case studies cover the earliest of London’s mega-events, the Great Exhibition of 1851 and its long-lived offspring the Sydenham Crystal Palace (1854-1936), the 1951 Festival of Britain and lastly, the London 2012 Olympics. I aim to trace the evolution of this type of event and the technologies and strategies they have employed in their production and consider the legacy they have left us.

My study involves field recording and archival research for the London sites and their associated materials (e.g. merchandise), as well as comparison with other Olympic sites around the world and related events such as World’s Fairs. I will also consider the role of a more traditional archaeology in the formation of Olympic sites – my research as a whole stems from my experiences working as a field archaeologist on the London 2012 site at Stratford between 2007 and 2008.

Funding organisation

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council


 Educational background

  • BA, Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology, UCL, 2007
  • MA, Cultural Heritage Studies, Institute of Archaeology, UCL, 2011
  • London 2012 Olympic Lane (A12 southbound, Stratford)
  • The London 2012 main stadium and a footbridge retained from the areas previous industrial use on the City Mill River, Stratford
  • Excavation of a 19th Century gun-punt (boat) on the site of the London 2012 main stadium, Stratford in December 2007
  • A bust of the designer of the Great Exhibition’s Crystal Palace, Joseph Paxton, in Crystal palace Park, Sydenham, London.
  • An athlete inside the London 2012 main stadium at the Anniversary Games, 2013.

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