Bulgarian archaeology. Ideology, sociopolitics and the exotic, Douglass W. Bailey

Archaeological participants: audience and practitioners

In simplest terms there are two categories of participants in Bulgarian archae-ology. On the one hand, there is a massive public audience. On the other hand, there is a much smaller group of professional practitioners. The former group includes members of the public who attend museums (either as children, via education, or as adults with a genuine interest about the past) and members of the public who visit sites (either in response to an inherent curiosity about their own past, or in the case of foreign visitors, out of the curiosity of the tourist). [6]

One of the most successful contributions to the development of the archaeo-logical machine in Bulgaria since 1944 was the co-ordinated investment in museum construction and dissemination of knowledge about the past to the Bulgarian public. [7] Major regional cities without museums received funding for their construction or for the acquisition of appropriate premises. [8] Public dissemination of archaeological discoveries was achieved via museum display, televisual news items and film shorts. The organisation of travelling exhibitions of Bulgarian finds to foreign countries (e.g. of the Thracian silver hoards or the Varna gold grave inventories) increased the audience, literally, along global dimensions. [9] Driving these investments was a national cultural policy in which the cultural disciplines like archaeology played a central role (Bailey forthcoming; Popov 1981). Cultural workers co-operated to awaken national consciousness. Themes in the fine arts were explicitly detailed to have immediate relevance to working life, offering edifying lessons from Bulgaria's heroic past of the struggle against foreign rulers and invaders. Indeed, a central tenet of Bulgarian cultural policy in the communist period was the use of past monuments and material culture in the construction of socialism.

Major national celebrations put archaeological output in the public spotlight. The celebrations of 1,300- and 800-year anniversaries of the founding of the First and Second Bulgarian Kingdoms, respectively, drew heavily upon archaeological knowledge. Indeed, the late Velizar Velkov, formerly director of the Archaeological Institute and Museum (AIM) noted that the political enthusiasm (indeed as detailed in Party directives; Ovcharov 1976: 2) and funding invested in the preparations for these festivals directed the AIM to carry out excavations on medieval capitals (Pliska, Preslav and Turnovgrad) when other sites with greater scientific claims for funding were neglected (Velkov 1993: 127).

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6. One may include in the audience-group a transitional category: foreign archaeologists (either practicing professionals or students).

7. For a detailed proclamation of Bulgaria's national cultural policy prior to 1989 see Costadine Popov's volume, Bulgarian Cultural Policy (1981), published in the UNESCO series Studies and Documents on Cultural Policies.

8. 'Appropriate' premises include Revival Period houses, the architecturally imposing, former law courts in Sofia for the National Historical Museum, the Buyuk Mosque in Sofia for the home of the collections of the Archaeological Institute and Museum.

9. In many cases the best publication of the Varna or Thracian material comes from foreign produced (and financed) exhibition catalogues (British Museum 1976; Cook 1989; Fol and Lichardus 1988; Musee des Antiquites 1989). For possible negative consequences of international display of exotics as a stimulus for looting sites and trading in antiquities, see Bailey (1993).