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We hear a lot about how important it is for university academics to get out of their ivory towers and be involved in ‘public engagement’ and fortunately in our particular field of interest a fair number of professionals (although not all, sadly) recognise the importance of not staying aloof.

ivorytower

In fact, there are probably few sciences/arts in which professionals and amateurs can get more intertwined than in archaeology and especially prehistory. You only have to look at the number of “megalithic” websites and forums – The Modern Antiquarian, The Megalithic Portal, Stone Pages, etc., to see evidence of it. Some amateurs take what the professionals produce and construct truly crazy theories. Some use the professionals’ output as a starting point for high quality work of their own. Most people are somewhere between those two extremes but all of us have one thing in common: we all tend to “consume” the flow of theories and revelations coming from books, talks, digs and papers from professionals in our field of interest. In fact, it’s the bread and butter of our hobby and I’d venture to suggest that without that continuing professional input our public fascination with the subject would falter or even end – and with it would go a lot of highly beneficial amateur involvement with prehistory including countless visits to monuments, amateur research and inherent public stewardship.

Of course, there are good pros and bad ones, friendly ones and arrogant ones – as a brief look at some of the forthright comments on the forums will reveal. The good ones are undeniably excellent though, and if one example of really good public engagement in our field in terms of accessibility and publications had to be specified it would probably be the Longstones Project 1997-2003.

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