Following the public uproar over the discovery of heritage artefacts on the site of the state government's GovHub construction being sent to recycling rather than conservation, and the subsequent cessation of building works as Heritage Victoria stepped in, experts have offered ideas for better managing our buried past.
It's no secret that if you put a shovel into the ground anywhere in Ballarat and quite often in the region, you are likely to strike the near past and even the distant.
Anything from broken pottery to the ubiquitous glass bottle may surface, and more exciting remains such as gold jewellery and rusted colonial firearms are not uncommonly discovered.
Federation University curator of art and historical collections Clare Gervasoni won the Eureka Australia Medal in 2012 for her outstanding contribution to the study of Eureka.
Along with Dorothy Wickham and Wayne Phillipson she established Ballarat Heritage Services in 1998, offering advice and education on heritage and historical issues.
It was a great outcome, all because someone thought to look down when they were digging.Clare Gervasoni, heritage specialist
She says it's important that the public know there's more to history than simply digging things up and putting them in a museum; that the act of digging something up may actually destroy more information around the object than people realise.
On a larger scale, she offers the experience of the 2009 Forest Street development in Bendigo, where the developer of a site understood the requirements of the Victorian Heritage Act 2017, and when they discovered artefacts on the site stopped work and called Heritage Victoria.
"The developer was convinced that paying for a proper dig was the right thing to do," says Ms Gervasoni.
"This led to great publicity for them; great interest interest in the site, a great exhibition held in the City of Bendigo and eventually even a book (Hidden Worlds, published by heritage archaeologist David Annear). There was a great building on the site when it finished, highlighting the finds. It was a great outcome, all because someone thought to look down when they were digging.
"The way that something is placed, and what is around it, tells so much more than just a bottle or object. Even a bone, the way it's cut, can tell us about the history of butchering."
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