The Council for British Archaeology understands that as an organisation we are not representative of society in the UK today. We are committed to working towards diversity, inclusion and equality in the heritage sector. However, the Black Lives Matter movement has made it very clear that more work is still urgently needed, and we have been considering how we can make changes to ensure that we continue to work towards these goals, in all aspects of our work as an organisation.
The CBA believes wider participation is essential to archaeology and it underpins our core values and approach to our work. Anyone can participate in archaeological activities and archaeology should be open to everyone. We actively aspire to help people to discover and explore stories and connections using archaeology. We believe archaeology enables us to bring together diverse communities and create inclusive practice. It can help people to learn about the past and encourage them to feel connected to the places and communities around them. However, this does not mean that we believe all legacies from the past should be preserved statically or without question. Heritage is constantly being redefined, reinterpreted, and renewed by each generation, and we must ask what we want our contribution to the story to be.
Our history has shaped our present, and that includes the darker parts of history which have led to inequalities and prejudices in our modern society. Many aspects of heritage are contested. While some people have positive associations with them, other people find them painful or difficult. Public representations of heritage which are connected to a history of violence against some communities, not only traumatic for those communities but risk perpetuating inequalities into the present and the future.
For all these reasons, it is important that we listen to the voices of communities who tell us about contested heritage now, particularly as Black, Asian and minority ethnic people are underrepresented within the heritage sector and therefore have been excluded from decision-making processes. Heritage cannot contribute to the well-being of communities and support learning and discovery about the past unless the heritage practice we undertake today is both diverse and inclusive.
These issues are particularly resonant in relation to some public memorials and statues. We recognise the emotion and the hurt that public historical commemoration can generate. We believe these emotions need to be aired and discussed and that inclusive and open conversations with diverse groups of people will offer the best and most sustainable future for contested heritage, as well as helping to create a better legacy for future generations. The CBA welcomes creative responses to contested heritage. We believe that it is important to create conversations and to show a more representative view of history through heritage practice and behaviours.
We know that a statement alone will not create this change. We are aware of the current lack of diversity within the archaeology and heritage sector and our own organisation. We are committed to developing further and implementing our own diverse and inclusive working practices to address this.
- Working to create an improved Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy which better reflects our values and intentions as an organisation;
- Engaging with colleagues from Black, Asian and ethnic minorities to help highlight issues within the heritage sector to support and facilitate positive action;
- Developing an online resources hub highlighting as wide a range as possible of diversity, equality and inclusion resources;
- Looking to appoint an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Champion at Trustee level to guide and inform our future approaches and actions;
- Considering what positive action we can take to increase diversity across the CBA at Trustee, staff, membership and project level;
- Continuing to ensure that our social media do not promote any exclusionary or prejudiced views;
- Actively promoting the work and experience of a wider range of archaeologists;
- Supporting wider training and promotion of inclusive practices and approaches to archaeology;
- Supporting positive action to promote diverse and inclusive placements and apprenticeships wherever possible.
We are very aware that more needs to be done and that archaeology and heritage are not representative of wider society. We will actively address our own actions to ensure they are fully reflective of society today. We will continue to work with the wider heritage sector to ensure it is more inclusive and diverse both in participation and practice.
Council for British Archaeology
13th July 2020