Hobby archaeology: from citizen science to heritage practice communities

Leisure has been, and continues to be, a key motivation for people to engage in archaeological practice. Many individuals and groups of people conduct forms of knowledge generation and sharing, actively setting the agenda of what is researched, how and why. As such, their practices are detached and independent from those of professional and scientific communities. In some cases, this may lead to friction and conflict; in others, professionals may attempt to develop forms of collaboration from the perspectives of participation and citizen science that are ill-adapted to the autonomous nature of the activities of such heritage practice communities (HPCs).

Although certain types of HPCs, such as metal-detecting enthusiasts, have been the subject of both study and collaboration for some decades already, there is still much to learn about these groups: how did their heritage practices develop? What is the nature of their knowledge production, embedded in other motivations to engage with heritage? How do these practices, structures and ideas relate to those of professional and academic archaeology? By exploring these issues, the conference ‘Hobby Archaeology’ aims to shift the perspective away from recurring attempts at controlling and instructing these groups towards productive strategies of dialogue and collaboration.

This conference is organized by the University of Antwerp, Catholic University of Leuven, University of Bergen, Flanders Heritage and Histories.


Suzie Thomas