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This year, the University of Chester Alumni Association chose to support students who were eager to host their own academic conferences. Students were encouraged to apply for a small fund to help them organise and run their own academic conference. This was an opportunity for students to showcase their research and invite others to do the same here at the University. The skills gained from running a conference, dealing with external speakers and presenting research are invaluable on today’s CV.

The first students to be awarded this funding were a group of third year Archaeology students. They held their third Archaeology Student Conference, with support from the Alumni Association, on December 13, at the Grosvenor Museum in Chester. They put together the following report…

“Throughout politics, popular culture, and the Heritage Sector, the Early Medieval period is surrounded by controversial debates, and hot topics. Ranging from the sale of ‘dark age’ inspired products at heritage sites, to the interpretation of famous artefacts at museums and living sites across the country. ‘Dark Age’ controversy is not just limited to the world of archaeology and heritage, but also features prominently in modern politics as a method to further arguments on nationhood, religion, race and migration. The ‘dark ages’ also feature heavily in popular culture, sometimes using the period to inspire fantasy, like in The Lord of the Rings, and sometimes opting for a more ‘historical’ approach, like the TV show, Vikings. The conference was designed to discuss these kinds of topics and more.

Dr Chiara Bonacchi, Professor Howard Williams and Dr Adrian Maldonado

 Left – right: Dr Chiara Bonacchi, Professor Howard Williams and Dr Adrian Maldonado.

“Twenty-one Archaeology students were joined by two fantastic speakers: Dr Chiara Bonacchi, a researcher at University College London and public archaeologist, and Dr Adrián Maldonado, an early medieval archaeologist with a sustained and active profile in public engagement. Professor Howard Williams kindly arranged for these speakers to attend.

“The conference itself was very successful, over 60 people attended which included members of the public, commercial and academic archaeologists and historians, and students from Universities in Liverpool. A buffet was supplied from funds kindly awarded to the event by the Alumni Association, alongside tea and coffee kindly supplied by the Grosvenor Museum. These refreshments helped to fuel an interesting day of debate and discussion.

“On behalf of the students who came together to organise this conference we would like to offer our gratitude to the Grosvenor Museum for hosting our conference in their wonderful museum; the Archaeology and History department for their support and advice; the University of Chester Alumni Association for their financial support (without which the attendance we received would not have been reached); our two wonderful guest speakers for travelling to the conference and providing thought provoking talks and finally, to Professor Howard Williams, for giving us this opportunity and offering a huge amount of support and advice.”

Digging in the Dark Ages logoYou can read more about the conference on the Digging in the Dark Ages blog:

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