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Workshop 3: Heritage and public impact in Norman Conquest archaeology

On the 26th April the Archaeologies of the Norman Conquest Network descended on Norwich Castle Museum for a packed day of talking museums, heritage, and outreach.

Bringing together academics and museum and heritage professionals to consider the public impact potentialities of the Network, our third workshop focused on strategies for communicating the archaeology of the Norman Conquest to wider audiences, and how different professional fields might best work together to improve public understanding of this period.

The workshop highlighted that while “1066” is seen as an important date in English history, its presence in museums, media, and education is often awkwardly dealt with, and with an absence of material culture meaningfully integrated into the narrative.

The day was split between presentations from archaeologists and heritage professionals and small breakout sessions to reflect on the material covered in the talks – and the day left us with a lot to think about. It was exciting to hear from Don Henson about the opportunities arising from new topic options in secondary schools and how we might help shape a more materially-minded tradition of teaching the Conquest in schools. Discussion of museum exhibitions raised the question of whether museums are the places best suited to conveying narratives of the Norman Conquest, or whether heritage sites are better suited to this. In light of this question, it was fantastic to hear from Tim Pestell of Norwich Castle Museum (NCM) on the Castle Museum’s ongoing renovation and Heritage Lottery funding grant, especially as the NCM is both a heritage site and a museum. We had the fantastic opportunity to venture under the castle and view the current excavations taking place in the cellar underneath the keep.

Continuing with our theme of “heritage and public impact”, we heard how projects have involved communities and members of the public through local schemes and citizen science - though both Naomi Sykes and Carenza Lewis highlighted the risks that can come with such approaches. Naomi suggested the Ancient Animals app as a fantastic example of another way of getting the public involved in heritage research (more about the app and the associated project here).

While this was the last workshop planned for the Archaeology of the Norman Conquest Network, please watch this space for more news of the Project and potential future collaborations and

schemes resulting from the meetings.

While technological difficulties prevented us from live-streaming the workshop, the talks were recorded, and the videos of these will be published as soon as possible.

List of speakers:

Tim Pestell (Norwich Castle Museum) – Norwich Castle Museum renovation

Rosie Weetch (British Museum) – The Norman Conquest behind glass: challenges and opportunities for displaying the Norman Conquest in museums

Michael Lewis (Portable Antiquities Scheme) – PAS and the Norman Conquest (and the Bayeux Tapestry visit)

James Miles (Church of England) – The Church Heritage Record and the potential for collaboration

Don Henson (University of York) – Continuity and innovation in making connections with the

Conquest in schools and colleges

Carenza Lewis (University of Lincoln) – The Norman Conquest, media, and public understanding

Chris Lewis (King’s College London) – The Exon Domesday project, interpretations and outreach

Naomi Sykes (University of Exeter) – Opportunities and challenges of Conquest-focused citizen science

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