Industrial archaeology

Industrial archaeology

Industrial archaeology, like other branches of archaeology, is the study of material culture from the past, but with a focus on industry. Strictly speaking, industrial archaeology includes sites from the earliest times (such as prehistoric copper mining in the British Peak District) to the most recent (such as coal mining sites in the UK closed in the 1980s). However, since large-scale industrialisation began only in the eighteenth century it is often understood to relate to that and later periods. Industrial archaeologists aim to record and understand the remains of industrialisation, including the technology, transport and buildings associated with manufacture or raw material production. Their work encompasses traditional archaeology, engineering, architecture, economics and the social history of manufacturing/extractive industry as well as the transport and utilities sector.

The term 'industrial archaeology' was coined in the 1950s in Birmingham, England by Michael Rix (academic) although its meaning and interpretation has changed. Its development as a separate subject was further stimulated by the campaign to save the Euston Arch. Palmer and Neaverson ("Industrial Archaeology Principles and Practice", 1998) defined it as: “the systematic study of structures and artefacts as a means of enlarging our understanding of the industrial past.”

Initially practiced largely by amateurs, it was at first looked down upon by professional archaeologists. However, it has now been welcomed into mainstream archaeology. Since the timeframe of study is usually relatively recent, industrial archaeology is often (but not always) able to achieve a more reliable and absolute recording of past behaviour than is possible for the more remote past.

Like other branches of archaeology, industrial archaeology involves painstaking analysis of physical remains, albeit with a strong emphasis on industrial processes. For instance, in studying a medieval lead smelting site, one would want to identify the transport links which brought in the raw lead ore; the place where lead ore was crushed or processed before smelting; the processes and materials used to smelt it; and the places where lead was stored or further processed. An example of an industrial archaeology site is the Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, site of the first integrated iron works in North America which dates to the 1600s.

One of the first areas in the UK to be the subject of a systematic study of 'industrial archaeology' was the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, UK. This landscape developed from the seventeenth century as one of the first industrial landscapes in the world, and by the 18th century had a range of extractive industries as well as extensive iron making, ceramic manufacturing (including porcelain and decorative tiles) and a series of early railways. The significance of the Ironbridge Gorge was recognised in 1986 with its designation as a World Heritage Site, and work by the [ Ironbridge Archaeology unit] over recent years has revealed a great deal about both technological and social developments during the post-medieval period.

Following the pioneering lead of [ Ironbridge] , other areas have been subject to often innovative studies. Recent work in Manchester, UK, by the [ university field unit] have led to new approaches. Sheffield, UK, is one of the world's most intensively studied industrial archaeology localities. Over the last decade a concerted effort by [ ARCUS] and the University of Sheffield has led to Sheffield's 18th and 19th century history as a steel producer being revealed. This has been enabled by a massive series of redevelopments allowing access to the archaeology.

Topics in industrial archaeology

See List of industrial archaeology topics

International Charters

The Nizhny Tagil Charter was adopted by TICCIH at its XII Congress in Russia in 2003, and is the international standard for the study, documentation, conservation and interpretation of the industrial heritage.

Academic programs

Many university archaeology departments include the industrial period in their degree courses. Dedicated industrial archaeology and industrial heritage courses are usually at post-graduate level.


There are national industrial archaeology societies in many countries: the Society for Industrial Archaeology (SIA) in North America, the Association for Industrial Archaeology (AIA) in Great Britain, CILAC in France, and the Italian AIPAI are among the largest. They bring together people interested in researching, recording, preserving and presenting industrial heritage. Industrial architecture, mineral extraction, heritage-based tourism, power technology, adaptive re-use of industrial buildings and transport history are just some of the themes that could be investigated by society members.

They may also be involved in advising on historic conservation matters, or advising government units on revision or demolition of significant sites or buildings.

See also

*Aviation archaeology
*Box Tunnel
*Quarry Bank Mill
*Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site
*Ironbridge Gorge Museums
*Kenneth Hudson

External links


* [ Ireland's industrial heritage]
* [ European Route of Industrial Heritage]
* [ Ironbridge Gorge Museum]
* [ Industrial archaeology exhibit] at Smithsonian Institution

ocieties and organisations


International Organisations

*TICCIH, The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage, is the international association which represents industrial archaeology and the industrial heritage. It is ICOMOS's specialist adviser on industrial heritage. It has both individual members and associated societies, such as the Society for Industrial Archaeology (SIA), the Association for Industrial Archaeology (AIA) and TICCIH in Australia.

* E-FAITH [] , the European Federation of Associations of Industrial and Technical Heritage, is a European network of non profit non governmental organisations whose objectives are to promote the study of and research in, recording, conservation, development and management, and interpretation of Industrial and Technical Heritage and to facilitate co-operation in Europe between those engaged in these activities.

National Organisations

*Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology an Australian and New Zealand society focusing on historical and industrial archaeology.
*Society for Industrial Archaeology [] a primarily US based organization
*Association for Industrial Archaeology [] a primarily British based organisation
*Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland [] An all Ireland body
* Vlaamse Vereniging voor Industriële Archeologie - Flemish Association for Industrial Archaeology [] , platform for volunteers and industrial heritage organisations in Flanders, established in 1978

Local Organisations

* [ Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society]
* [ Staffordshire (uk) Industrial Archaeology Society]
* [ Ironbridge Archaeology unit]
* [ Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society]

Reference materials

* [ I.A. Recordings] a web based resource site

Degree Programs

* [ Industrial Archaeology Master of Science and PhD degree program] at Michigan Technological University
* [ Master of Arts degree] at Ironbridge Institute

Further reading

*Birmingham, J., Jack, R.I. and Jeans, D. (1979) "Australian pioneer technology: sites and relics", Richmond, Vic.: Heinemann Educational Australia, ISBN 0-85859-185-5
*Birmingham, J., Jack, R.I. and Jeans, D. (1983) "Industrial Archaeology in Australia: rural industry", Richmond, Vic. : Heinemann Publishers Australia, ISBN 0-85859-319-X
*Buchanan, R.A. (1972) "Industrial Archaeology in Britain", Harmondsworth : Penguin, ISBN 0-14-021413-5
*Cossons, N. (ed.) (2000) "Perspectives on Industrial Archaeology", London : Science Museum, ISBN 1-900747-31-6
*Daunton, M.J. (1995) "Progress and Poverty: an economic and social history of Britain, 1700-1850", Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-822281-5
*Deetz, J. (1977) "In Small Things Forgotten", Garden City, N.Y. : Anchor Press/Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-08031-X
*Gordon, R.B. and Malone, P.M. (1994), "The texture of industry : an archaeological view of the industrialization of North America", Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-511141-9
*Hamond, F. and McMahon, M. (2002) "Recording and Conserving Ireland's Industrial Heritage", Kilkenny : Heritage Council, ISBN 1-901137-39-2
*Hills, R. L. (1989) "Power from Steam: a history of the stationary steam engine", Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-34356-9
*Hudson, K. (1966) "Industrial Archaeology: an Introduction", 2nd rev. ed., London : John Baker, 184 p.
*Hudson, K. (1969) "World Industrial Archaeology", Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-21991-4
*Jack, R.I. and Cremin, A. (1994) "Australia's Age of Iron", South Melbourne : Oxford University Press in association with Sydney University Press, ISBN 0-424-00158-6
*Kane, R. [1844] (1971) "Industrial Resources of Ireland", The Development of industrial society series, Shannon, Ireland : Irish University Press, ISBN 0-7165-1599-7
*McCutcheon, W.A. (1984) "The Industrial Archaeology of Northern Ireland", Rutherford, N.J. : Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, ISBN 0-83863-125-8
*Newman, R. and Howard-Davis, C. (2001) "The Historical Archaeology of Britain : c.1540-1900", Stroud : Sutton, ISBN 0-7509-1335-5
*Orser, C.E., Jr (1996) "Images of the Recent Past: readings in historical archaeology ", Walnut Creek ; London : Alta Mira Press, ISBN 0-7619-9141-7
*Palmer, M. and Neverson, P. (1998) "Industrial Archaeology : principles and practice" [ [electronic resource] , London; New York : Routledge, ISBN 0-203-17066-0
*Thomas, J. (ed.) (2000) "Interpretive Archaeology : a reader" ,London : Leicester University Press, ISBN 0-17-850191-8
*Watkins, G. (1999) "The Textile Mill Engine: parts 1 & 2", Ashbourne : Landmark, ISBN 1-901522-43-1

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • industrial archaeology — n. the study of the history of technology based on the discovery, examination, and sometimes preservation, of the buildings, machinery, etc. of earlier industrial activity industrial archaeologist n. * * * …   Universalium

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  • industrial archaeology — noun Date: 1951 the study of the buildings, machinery, and equipment of the industrial revolution • industrial archaeologist noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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  • industrial archaeology — in,dustrial archae ology noun uncount the study of the buildings and equipment that industries used in the past …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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