My current Department and the Historical Museum at the University of Lund made worldwide news recently! Some of my colleagues have for many years been investigating the Iron Age site of UppÃ¥kra near Lund.
But many people around the world will only now have heard the name of the site…
Discovery News wrote:
June 15, 2007 â€” One thousand years before the cartoon character Mickey Mouse was even a glint in Walt Disney’s eye, a French artist created a bronze brooch that looks remarkably like the famous rodent, according to archaeologists at Sweden’s Lund Historical Museum, which houses the recent find. The object, dated to 900 A..D., was excavated at a site called UppÃ¥kra in southern Sweden. The bronze brooch may remind modern viewers of Mickey Mouse…
A spokesman for the Walt Disney Company told Discovery News, “Mickey has always been a timeless Disney character with universal appeal across the generations. This certainly reinforces that notion in a way we never expected.”
This should not (only) be taken as a fine example for ridiculous tendencies of the media to relate everything to trivialities of popular culture and certain American multinationals.
Instead this case (like so many others) should make us all think again about what it takes to bring results of a major archaeological research project to a mass audience around the world. What is it that this news report is addressing that the project has apparently not been addressing earlier? What does it take for archaeology to produce meaningful insights for a worldwide audience? (And – crucially – how might popular interest be translated into higher numbers of applicants to our courses?)
Or should we rather be happy with the niche market of ‘interested’ citizens which we reach well already now, and forget about the rest? Is small beautiful?
More information on UppÃ¥kra is here (Wikipedia).