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Rob Isherwood

Director, Community Archaeology North West

I completed my PhD at Manchester in 2009. This marked the end of eight years with Manchester Archaeology; a BA(Hons), and MA preceded my doctoral research into Community Archaeology. It's a relatively small department at Manchester. This helps to create a friendly atmosphere where everyone knows everyone else, and there is a strong sense of unity. Moreover, it helps towards the merging of academic and social life.

The support given to research students in Archaeology is exceptional. The advice and direction provided by my supervisors ultimately helped me towards successful applications for funding awards from the AHRC for both my MA and PhD, without which I would have found it impossible to continue my studies. The size of Manchester University means that there is tremendous scope to receive training from outside your main discipline. Because of my research topic, I began my PhD by taking a number of training courses in ethnographic and community interview methods.

Since completing my PhD I have established my own consultancy in Community and Educational Archaeology. I'm currently designing learning programmes to enable the Historic Environment Record to be used as a school resource. I'm also developing widening participation programmes in archaeology across Greater Manchester and the North West region. 

  • Thesis title: Community Archaeology: A study of the conceptual, political and practical issues surrounding community archaeology in the United Kingdom today.
  • Supervision panel: Professor Siân Jones (primary supervisor), Dr Melanie Giles (second supervisor) and Helen Rees-Leahy (Advisor and panel member)
  • PhD funding: AHRC

Helen Kristmanson

Director, Aboriginal Affairs and Archaeology, Department of Communities, Cultural Affairs and Labour Government of Prince Edward Island

In 1996 the Miawpukek First Nation in Conne River, Newfoundland, Canada, asserted their Aboriginal and treaty rights to carry on traditional hunting activities in the Bay du Nord Wilderness Area. The resulting legal case generated a voluminous array of historical evidence and primary documents. As an archaeological consultant to the Miawpukek Band at that time, I was contracted to evaluate the use of archaeological knowledge as a form of evidence in Aboriginal rights and title litigation. It soon became clear that the criteria set out by the legal tests were, from an archaeological perspective, founded on problematic assumptions about culture, identity and authenticity.

As my interests in these subjects deepened, I began to think more critically about traditional frameworks of archaeological interpretation in Atlantic Canada, and enrolled in the PhD program at the University of Manchester. My subsequent thesis was entitled: Archaeology to Court: the use of archaeology in Aboriginal rights and title litigation. The faculty, administrative staff, and fellow students at the University of Manchester were all friendly and welcoming. While I spent much of my programme based in Canada, my work within Manchester Archaeology introduced me to a new level of scholarship and a much wider world of archaeology than I had previously known.

Since completing my doctoral program, I have accepted a new position with the Government of Prince Edward Island on the east coast of Canada. As Director of the Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat, I am responsible for the coordination and management of governmental matters related to First Nations and Aboriginal organizations. I am also responsible for all archaeology conducted within Prince Edward Island, and am the first to hold the position as Provincial Archaeologist. I feel fortunate to have found a job which so closely aligns with the experience I developed during my Manchester programme, and allows me to work with the Aboriginal community as both an archaeologist and government official.

  • Thesis title: Taking archaeology to court: the use of archaeological knowledge in aboriginal rights and title litigation
  • Supervisor: Professor Siân Jones
  • PhD funding: OSS Award for overseas students and Parks Canada

Angela McClanahan

Lecturer in Visual and Material Culture, Edinburgh College of Art

I decided to undertake doctoral study with the Manchester Archaeology programme after working as a qualitative researcher on a community archaeology project in the Orkney Islands in the summer of 2000. Having been trained in the 'four field approach' in Anthropology (ie that archaeology, cultural anthropology, biological anthropology and linguistics together provide a holistic view of human cultures) as an American undergraduate, I was keen to examine the role that the past plays in our understandings of the present.

During my time at Manchester, I found a research culture that was lively, supportive and friendly. My fellow postgrads and I were actively included in staff research projects, and I also found the staff enthusiastic about contributing to student activities, including participation in student seminar programmes, delivering joint papers at scholarly conferences and joint publications. These kinds of experiences create a collegiality that is absolutely invaluable to the postgraduate research experience.

All of these things make Manchester an exciting, challenging and rewarding place to pursue postgraduate research. Studying there certainly prepared me for my current role as a lecturer in an art college, where my interdisciplinary and wide ranging view of materiality helps engage a diverse community audience. The training and experiences I received at Manchester were crucial in my attainment of and ability to carry out successful work in this post.

  • Thesis title: Monuments in practice: the heart of Neolithic Orkney in its contemporary contexts.
  • Supervision panel: Prof Siân Jones (main supervisor) and Dr Sally Foster (external supervisor, formerly Historic Scotland)
  • PhD funding: Nafum Award for North American students and Historic Scotland