Letter to Sheffield University

Our Chair has responded to the news of the review of  the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield  by writing a letter on behalf of SMA  – this is a review that has the the potential to effectively make most, if not all the staff redundant and the end of  one of the best archaeological institutions we have.

The letter reads as follows:

I am writing, as Chair, on behalf of the Society for Museum Archaeology, to express my dismay at the news that the University of Sheffield is considering closing their Department of Archaeology. The Society urges you to continue teaching archaeology at Sheffield.

Archaeology is seemingly under threat as an academic subject, but it has far-reaching benefits, not only to those who study it (including many who do not go on to become archaeologists) but also to our society, where an understanding of the past is essential to contextualising our present and informing our future. Practical, scientific, geographic and mathematical skills are all learned and honed in archaeology, as well as critical academic abilities. These stand all those who take degrees in the subject in good stead and students from Sheffield have benefited from belonging to a Department that has a worldwide reputation, with some of the most respected teachers and researchers of archaeology in the country. The loss of such a fine department would be devastating to the future of archaeology in the UK, not least in reducing the flow of well-taught graduates that the discipline needs, both within academia and beyond.

From the perspective of museum archaeology, some of our members have worked with the department on various projects, while Sheffield undergraduates and postgraduates have visited many collections to conduct research. Museums, especially those local to a university, benefit from a collective relationship with archaeology departments, in providing opportunities not only for research and shared learning but also practical experience for anyone wishing to explore a curatorial career. It is not only the academic world that will suffer with a closure or reduction to the Sheffield Department, because so many distinguished alumni populate all areas of archaeological practice, including our museums.

The SMA as a matter of policy, supports all the universities that currently have archaeology departments and we are opposed to any measures that threated to reduce levels of teaching and research in such a significant subject. We urge you please to do everything you can to preserve the Archaeology Department at Sheffield University and in so doing, signal your support for a subject that remains a vital part of the future of our society.

Yours sincerely

Duncan Brown, Chair SMA

To promote the interests of archaeology in museums throughout the United Kingdom