Institute of Archaeology


Archaeology-Heritage-Art Network

This Research Network examines the varied ways in which archaeology, heritage and art converge across a broad range of concepts and practices, from artistic interventions in the museum space to archaeological interpretations which deploy and take inspiration from contemporary art. Whilst the network remains open to diverse topics and research strands, key themes reflect the strengths of the Institute of Archaeology and the Heritage Studies Section in particular. 

These include: the use of art to critique archaeology (and vice-versa); the emergence of the photo-essay as a critical tool in archaeology and heritage; the role of art in public archaeology; artists, archaeologists and heritage practitioners as social activists; intersections of conservation and creativity; and the importance of art and heritage to wellbeing.

Archaeology and heritage have a long shared history with art, as well as crucial points of tension which help animate their convergence and divergence. Artists have routinely looked to archaeology for inspiration, from painters referencing the spectacular discoveries of Pompeii to the adoption of an 'archaeological lens' by contemporary artists keen to approach landscapes or objects in new ways. At the same time, archaeologists and other heritage professionals have made significant use of artistic practice to better understand their field of interest, whether in the form of photography, creative writing, performance, sculpture or simply sketching unearthed material. In recent years the critical examination of these cross-fertilisations has become a vibrant area of practice and research in its own right.

Building on this, the long-term aims of the network include:

  • Providing intellectual space for the critical analysis of the interrelationship between archaeology, heritage and art
  • Encouraging transdisciplinary research into this area
  • Increasing public engagement with ongoing archaeological and heritage research at the Institute through diverse artistic practices (exhibitions, workshops, public lectures, participatory events)
  • Building a network beyond the Institute of scholars, heritage practitioners, curators, writers, artists and archaeologists already engaged in this field

With a specific orientation towards heritage, this network thus contributes to a burgeoning sub-field which is inherently interdisciplinary and provides numerous opportunities for outward-facing projects under the auspices of the Institute of Archaeology. A key ambition here is to 'open up' new and innovative ways of thinking about and researching the past in the present through greater engagement with artistic practices. 


  • The network held its inaugural event at the Institute of Archaeology on 23 May 2014. A display of artwork was exhibited in an informal setting, aiming to re-imagine the 19th Century 'Conversazione' - a relaxed forum for discussion of the arts and sciences.
  • The network held its 'Conversazione II' at the Institute on 12 December 2014.
  • The network also co-organised the Institute Research Seminar series on 'Future Pasts | Present Futures: Critical Conversations on the 'Contemporary' across disciplines' (Term II, Spring 2015).
  • The network organised a group visit to The Museum of Innocence exhibition at Somerset House (March 2016).
  • The network held its 'Conversazione III: Fragments - Archaeologies in and of the architectural library' at the RIBA on 21 July 2016.
  • The network organised a lecture by acclaimed artist Marguerite Humeau at UCL on 19 October 2016.

Related outputs

  • Sterling, C.P. 2013. Ruins in Reverse. An Exhibition at Tate Modern (March 1st - June 24th 2013). Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 23(1):1, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/pia.423
  • Acheson Roberts, L 2013. The Role of Sculpture in Communicating Archaeology in Museums. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 23(1):6, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/pia.425
  • Sharing the Field: Art in the Landscape and Landscape Archaeology
  • CHAT 2013: Experience