Letter: Archaeology underpins it all

This letter sent to the Star was written by Robin Hughes, Trustee, Joined Up Heritage Sheffield, (S35)

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 6:50 am
Manor Lodge

Joined Up Heritage Sheffield shares the great concern being expressed across Sheffield at the threat to the future of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Sheffield. This is a department that flies high in national and international rankings – it is in the top 50 archaeology departments in the world.

It is highly rated by its students. It contributes significantly to the life of the city of Sheffield, for example via its involvement in the recent castle site excavations and through outreach projects. The fact that a petition opposing closure has achieved over 18,000 signatures in a mere day or so illustrates the strength of feeling.

It is, or should be, unthinkable that the department disappears, in whole or in large part. Yet two of the three options for its future which will be considered by university management on May 25 would lead to its demise. And there are questions to be asked about how university management has treated the department in recent years.

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Everyone should by now be aware of the benefits that come from a historic environment that is cared for and understood. Businesses, especially in the independent and creative sectors, are increasingly seeking historic buildings and areas, realising the attractions they offer to their customers.

The historic environment has well-documented benefits for health, well-being, social inclusion and the environment.

Its value as an educational resource is obvious, recently exemplified nationally by the adoption of Sheffield Manor Lodge as a mandatory case study for the Historic Environment GCSE.

What makes something historic is an understanding of its past – what lies beneath. Archaeology underpins it all.

A city that knows its past is ready for its future, and should be able to look to its major thought-leading institutions to invest in that knowledge.