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The Making of History – or the Synergy Effect Between Contract Archaeology, the Conservation Institute and Museums

Vivian Smits


The choices made by the conservator during the conservation process are as important in the making of history as any decision made by the archaeologist, the museum curator, historian, etc. As part of my research project in GRASCA I am addressing the issue of how the practice of conservation can and should contribute to the stake-holders common goal of communicating the past.

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1The choices made by the conservator during the conservation process are as important in the making of history as any decision made by the archaeologist, the museum curator, historian, etc. How can and should the practice of conservation contribute to the common goal of communicating the past?

2Our ways of communicating the past are affected by numerous elements. The process of selection of artefacts by the archaeologist during fieldwork, as well as the choices made in the subsequent conservation process, greatly affect which of, and how, the stories of the past are mediated in the present as well as in the future.

3As Swedish legislation already emphasizes the need for communicating archaeology at the stage of contract archaeology, it is time to also re-assess the role of the conservator in communicating the past.

The aim of the research project

4Traditionally archaeological collections are formed by the products of careful selection (one way or another). During the 19th and 20th century archaeological excavations primarily addressed specific research questions. For decades now, however, the bulk of new museum acquisitions consist of the accumulated products from field work initiated by development projects for infrastructure, housing, etc. How does this affect archaeological collections and our ways of communicating the past to the public? And how can we ensure that the selected material is of relevance for society today?

5As a part of this research project I aim to address the issue of the role of archaeological conservation in the communication of material heritage. How can a synergy be reached through collaboration between contract archaeology, the conservation institute and the receiving museum?


6Through interdisciplinary research on the topics of, among others, conservation, Archaeology, museology, cultural heritage studies, and intermedia, the synergy of collaboration between the involved partners is being studied. The marketing activities of the ongoing archaeological investigations of the area of Nya Lödöse in Gothenburg, Sweden will serve as a case study.

Expected results

7A deeper understanding of the roles and possibilities of each partner involved in the making of history is needed in order to improve collaboration between them. This will not only optimise the use of resources available, but it will also aid the targeting to a wider public with more differentiated focus groups through mediation of socially relevant topics. This will be of assistance in our work on making and keeping history relevant.

GRASCA GRAduate School in Contract Archaeology

8GRASCA is the initiative of Linnaeus University in Kalmar, Sweden. Supported by the Knowledge Foundation, and in collaboration with four Swedish companies in contract archaeology or associated fields of competence, the Graduate School supports eight PhD students as of November 2015. The supporting companies are Studio Västsvensk Konservering in Gothenburg, Bohusläns Museum in Uddevalla, Jamtli i Östersund, and Kalmar läns museum/Museiarkeologi Sydost in Kalmar.

9In recent years the entire sector has undergone comprehensive changes in the way the aims for contract archaeology in society are defined. Bids for contracts are increasingly being evaluated in relation to their societal impact.

10GRASCA will strengthen the knowledge base and increase company proficiencies focusing on advancing knowledge and competencies through research in those areas that have become critical for successful bidding, related to the academic fields of public archaeology, conservation, heritage studies and public history. As a result of their participation the companies involved will obtain an increased competitiveness which provides them with a unique opportunity to develop a leading role in Swedish contract archaeology and the associated academic field of archaeological conservation.

Studio Västsvensk Konservering (SVK)

11SVK is the largest conservation studio in Sweden. The studio offers a wide range of services in the field of conservation of contemporary, historical and archaeological artefacts. With 16 conservators specialized in different disciplines SVK is unique in its kind. We offer long-term strategies for the management and use of cultural environments, as well as hands-on conservation and restoration of historical and archaeological artefacts, environments and public art. Specially developed studios are set up with advanced technical equipment in order to facilitate the national and international demands on professional conservation as expressed by E.C.C.O. and ICOM. SVK is run by Västarvet, the county organization for cultural heritage in Västra Götaland. We are a proud participant of the GRASCA project.,

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Electronic reference

Vivian Smits, “The Making of History – or the Synergy Effect Between Contract Archaeology, the Conservation Institute and Museums”CeROArt [Online], HS | 2017, Online since 03 June 2017, connection on 11 May 2021. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Vivian Smits

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Licence Creative Commons
CeROArt – Conservation, exposition, restauration d'objets d'arts est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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