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Annelies Van De Ven

Alumni News: Annelies Van de Ven

In 2013, Annelies Van de Ven from the University of St. Andrews was Highly Commended for her paper entitled “Pompeii Uncovered: A History of Repression“.

When Annelies submitted her paper to the Undergraduate Awards she was finishing up an MA in Archaeology and Museology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Flash forward to the present and she is now living in London and has a post-doc in Belgium lined up for October. While it may not seem like she moved very far, in the intervening 5 years she completed a PhD in Archaeology and Museology at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Besides writing her PhD thesis, in her four years out in Australia, she engaged in a number of other projects. She helped curate several exhibitions in Melbourne focusing on the ancient world from a variety of different approaches. In August of 2017 she was even able to curate her first solo exhibition at the University of Melbourne using the Mesopotamian cast collection. Her aim was to teach visitors about Mesopotamian power structures while showing the usefulness of these kinds of cast collections in modern universities.

Annelies has also taught students at all levels about archaeology and history. Her favourite formal teaching experience was acting as tutor for students in Practical Archaeology. Through a collaboration that she set up with a local commercial firm, she was able to bring the students into the field to excavate a real historical site in the heart of Melbourne. Annelies loves sharing her passion for fieldwork and seeing students put their hard-earned theoretical knowledge into practice.

Since submitting her thesis, Annelies has worked on several excavations: in Israel, Georgia, Australia and Iraq. She has also travelled for her research, primarily to Iran.

Fieldwork is a strange bubble, that sometimes feels very removed from reality, but the experience of physically uncovering the stories of people who lived in the past is unique, and worth all the difficulty of obtaining visas and taking long flights.

The main thing she loves is getting to meet so many people from all different countries, cultures and backgrounds. She has learned so much just by talking to others about how they view history. After all archaeology isn’t just about artefacts or architecture, ultimately it is about people who are making connections to their environments and one another, even across large spans of time and space.

Annelies has also worked with a number of amazing collaborators in the field of museum and archaeology outreach, helping to facilitate hands-on public events, as well as school-based engagement projects. At the moment, she is working with project leader Sharyn Volk to deliver a captivating mini-curriculum on the Ancient World to secondary school students in rural Victoria, Australia. Using digital humanities and object-based-learning strategies to bring the past to life we provide complementary ways to learn and engage with a subject that has conventionally been seen as solely book-based.

In the future Annelies hopes to open up archaeology to an even wider public, exploring its complexity in a way that is accessible and engaging. Annelies states,

I am fascinated by how people are able to recast, reinterpret and reassemble elements of the past in order to create a sense of history and identity. I think that by better understanding each other’s processes for doing this, we are also more likely to approach one another with tolerance and kindness; fostering archaeology, and the collections it produces, as a platform for discussion and growth to help counter societal tensions around deprecation and distrust.

So far, even with a very curvy road behind her, Annelies feels like she is on the right track. Hopefully the next few years of her career will keep bring her interesting opportunities, so she can keep learning, enriching her skills, and sharing her passion with others.