2017 ASHA-IA Conference

2017 ASHA-IA Conference

2017 Conference

Travelling Stories: connecting people and landscapes was the first joint conference of Interpretation Australia and the Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology. It was held between 10 – 14 October 2017 and aimed to pull together folk with the ultimate aim of creating a greater understanding for all of the environments in which we live. It was a conference with a difference, travelling in its venues from Launceston to Hobart via key natural and cultural heritage places through Tasmania.

The ASHA Committee would like to thank everyone that attended the 2017 Travelling Stories conference. We hope that you had a fantastic time travelling through Tassie and experiencing all sorts of stories, and learning new ways of interpreting them. A HUGE thank you goes out to the conference committee, from both ASHA and Interpretation Australia, who have put in an emmense amount of effort into this conference, to such great success!

We would also like to congratulate Ian Smith on his Best Paper award for: Hikoi to hohi: archaeology, biculturalism and interpretation at Rangihoua Heritage Park, New Zealand.

We look forward to our next conference in 2018 which will be in partnership with the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology.

We have archived the session abstracts and draft program. Skip down to:
Sessions Overview
Session abstracts
Conference schedule
Conference sponsors

See the conferenceFacebook event here.

ASHA twitter account manager Sarah Hayes has pulled together a summary of the conference on social media – see it here on Storify

Travellingstories: connecting people and landscapes


The conference sessions were divided into:

  • ‘Joint Sessions’ which were scheduled as plenaries; there will be no other concurrent sessions
  • ‘ASHA Sessions’ which were a focus on historical archaeology but which are open to all to present in and attend. These will be concurrent with IA sessions and possibly other ASHA sessions
  • ‘IA Sessions’ which were a focus on interpretation but which are open to all to present in and attend. These were concurrent with ASHA sessions and possibly other IA sessions.


Joint Sessions

Digital Technologies for Interpretation

The diversity of digital technologies that is available to enhance interpretation and to facilitate the dissemination of new knowledge is becoming overwhelming. There is a growing concern that technological advancements might be the catalyst for new interpretation strategies rather than clearly defined agendas of outcomes-focused engagements. There are legitimate concerns about technological lifespans, the degree to which technology is really a democratizing force, and the scale of capital and recurrent investment costs. However, these need to be weighed against the extraordinary benefits that can accrue through the engagement of new and old audiences via digital media. Papers in this session will showcase and critique case studies where the use of digital technologies has been an integrated part of project planning and where the results have had the capacity to creatively engage audiences from the local to the international.

Research and Interpretation: Roads, Paths, Tracks and Waterways

GIS systems usually treat ‘places’ as polygons of activity whilst roads, paths, tracks and waterways are relegated simply to ‘lines’ of connection. Assuming that Robert Louis Stevenson’s observation ‘to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive’ is at least partly true, this session will address how the importance and significance of ‘routes’ and ‘travel’ can be recognised, investigated and presented as being more than things that allow people to move from one place to another. As places of work and experience, do routes require special forms of research and interpretation for a public that might be travelling more but visiting less?
[See also Researching and Interpreting Transience]

Working in Partnerships: Research and Interpretation

Working – or claiming to work – in cross- disciplinary or multi-disciplinary modes is now de rigeur in Australian tertiary institutions and often a requirement for the submission of successful grant applications. However, the whole is often no greater than the sum of the parts due to a lack of integrated planning and poorly defined research and/or interpretation outcomes. This session will present papers that describe and/or critically reflect upon projects where the goals of knowledge generation and outreach have sought to transcend the disciplinary silos that constrain the imagination and reduce access to the fruits of research that we claim to be important.

ASHA Sessions

Interpretation and Public Outcomes in Consulting Contexts (NEW SESSION)

It is generally accepted that public dissemination should be a key outcome of archaeological excavation. Consulting archaeologists are often faced with a range of opportunities, and constraints, when working on sites where public engagement during or after archaeological research or excavation has the potential to provide positive outcomes.

The general success of site open days, articles and archaeology events show that the public are interested in the volume and range of projects that consultants are working on around Australia. However, practical constraints such as costs, project timing, safety and/or access issues hinder this important component of projects. The dissemination of results and project information may also be stunted by client control over public outputs. This session seeks papers that address these issues and the broader challenges of the consulting arena such as: the role of heritage in urban design and planning; the language and legibility of archaeological information that should be communicated to public readers; or methods of evaluating our past successes and failures.

Landscapes of Labour and Industry

It is nearly 25 years since Graham Connah noted that in the two hundred years of European settlement in Australia “the whole appearance of this land has been changed… the Australian landscape is like a drawing to which each generation has added a few lines, whilst erasing a few others”. Our engagement with concepts of landscape, from ‘usefully ambiguous’ analytical device to heritage-listing criterion, has changed considerably too since the publication of ‘The archaeology of Australia’s history’. Papers in this session will discuss recent work that seeks to better describe, conceptualise and analyse the physical changes to the Australian landscape and what they might represent in terms of changing colonial enterprises and programmes of society/ nation-building.
[See also Grand Plans: Early Industrial Aspirations of the 19th Century, Examining Their Successes and Failures]

Grand Plans: Early Industrial Aspirations of the 19th Century, Examining Their Successes and Failures

Across Australia, the 19th century mentality was full of grand plans for the establishment of early industry. Often the blueprint for these industrial plans were imported from elsewhere which ultimately connected industrialists with technological developments in Europe and provided some very interesting tangible associations between countries. While this industrial movement connected people and technologies across the world, it was the technologies and industries that adapted to the Australian environment that succeeded. Those that didn’t succeed, however, make for some very interesting and highly entertaining failures.

Cost and Benefit: The Role of Material Culture in Telling Migration Stories

Material culture, including the homes people lived in and the stuff they owned, can provide an abundance of information on the cost and benefit of the migration experience. From questions of the assimilation of Chinese immigrants to studies of social mobility to the impact on Aboriginal communities, ‘cost and benefit’ underlies much of what historical archaeologists are examining through the study of material culture. This session will explore both the approaches used to understand the meaning of material culture and the stories that can be told using these techniques.

Researching and Interpreting Transience

Stories of travel are defined not only by the points of origin and destinations that bracket a journey, but also the places and landscapes that are traversed along the way. These waypoints are often pivotal, and yet the temporary nature of their occupation can render them ephemeral, leaving little permanent trace of the people that have passed through them. The papers in this session are concerned with how we can effectively engage with this transience, whether through research or interpretation. Deriving from global processes such as migration through to more localised forms of movement and travel, the session considers liminal and transitory spaces through the stories they can tell, the challenges they present, and the extent to which they can be meaningfully understood and brought to life.

IA Sessions

Telling ‘Inconvenient’ Stories: Climate Change

‘There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.’ (Barack Obama 2014)

Providing access to accurate data and interpretations of the science of climate change shouldn’t be ‘inconvenient’ but it often results in ad hominem attacks and vitriolic online discourse. This session seeks papers and presentations about interpretation projects concerned with climate change, the reasons for them and the responses that they have generated; considerations of strategies to engage with ‘difficult’ responses will be especially welcome.

Design, Print and Production

This is one of those times where size really DOES matter, as does scale, colour, form and of course font! Great interpretation comes in many shapes and sizes, the best interpretation uses design, materiality and form to suck in the audience long before they know what the content or purpose of the interpretation is. Solid content, or having a catchy and engaging story to tell, is only one part of the challenge of great interpretation. So much goes into the behind-the-scenes design, specification, production and installation, some call it magic, others call it hard work…these are their stories!

Travelling Tails Tales: Working with Kids and Animals – from 0-400 Legs

Freeman Tilden is credited with best defining interpretation in the manner in which we all use it today;
‘An educational activity which aims to reveal meanings and relationships through the use of original objects, by firsthand experience, and by illustrative media, rather than simply to communicate factual information.’ (Tilden 1957, p 7)

Sounds easy right?! Perhaps not so much when one’s target audience is children, or when your subject is a moveable feast of 4-400 legs or NO legs as the case may be! If your subject hides during the day, camouflages itself or is microscopic … how exactly do you tell its story and make it tangible to your audience?


Tues 10 October Arrive in Launceston – Welcome evening reception (Queen Victoria Museum)
Wed 11 October Launceston sessions (The Tramsheds)
Thur 12 October Travel day Launceston to Hobart via Midlands (travel is included with full conference registration)
Fri 13 October Hobart sessions:
Plenary Sessions and lunch – Baha’i Centre
Conference Sessions – Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
Conference Dinner – Brooke Street Larder
Saturday 14 October Optional Hobart site visits or trip to Port Arthur Region

You can download maps showing the conference locations here.


We would like to thank the following conference sponsor:

Port arthur historic site