Learning from Las Vegas – Archaeology in the Experience Economy

Cornelius Holtorf has written a provocative piece in the most recent “The SAA Archaeological Record (v7.3, May 2007) called ‘Learning from Las Vegas’. He writes:

“For archaeologists to take on producers of popular culture such as Hollywood and Disneyland with a view to correcting their historical or scientific “mistakes” is not only a hopeless undertaking but ultimately also counterproductive. We would put at risk one of the most siginificant assets of archaeology in the Experience Economy: its brand value.[…] Learning from Las Vegas means learning to embrace and build upon the amazing fact that archaeologists can connect so well with some of the most widespread fantasies, dreams, and desires that people have today.[…] I am suggesting that the greatest value of archaeology in society lies in providing people with what they most desire from archaeology: great stories both about the past and about archaeological research.”

I think he may well be on to something here…

(NB, I originally titled this post ‘Learning in Las Vegas’, and repeated the error in the text of the post, which undermines the point Dr. Holtorf was making, see below…)

4 thoughts on “Learning from Las Vegas – Archaeology in the Experience Economy

  1. The article is actually entitled “Learning from Las Vegas”. That is significant because of the intended reference to a very famous book from 1972 by Robert Venturi, Steven Izenour and Denise Scott Brown with the same title (still available in a revised edition). As its description on amazon.com states, this book was calling for architects to be more receptive to the tastes and values of “common” people and less immodest in their erections of “heroic, self-aggrandizing monuments”. It created quite a stirr among architects. See here for a recent interview with Venturi and Scott Brown. Clearly they were (and are) on to something!

  2. You are quite right. My apologies for goofing the title. I will fix that right away. I was quite taken with your article too, not least because of what it implies for public archaeology, but also for our relationship, as archaeologists, with the number of Classical or ancient-themed video games out there.

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