Natalie Olembo - work placement with CIfA

In July 2019, Natalie Olembo joined us on an eight-week placement as part of the Historic England Heritage Training placements specifically for individuals of Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic heritage.

These placements form part of Historic England’s strategy to make sure the heritage workforce properly represents the UK population, and were offered in a variety of roles from collections care to visitor operations, from marketing and PR to graphic design.

During her time at CIfA, Natalie wrote three blogs about her experiences which are shared below:

Welcome to our summer placement student


I’m Natalie Olembo, a first year Philosophy and Politics (BA) student at the University of Manchester and over the summer I’ll be on an 8-week placement with the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) here in my hometown of Reading. What attracted me to the placement was the opportunity to see firsthand how a professional body operates and the projects set out on the placement briefing. Over the next coming weeks, I’ll be researching and writing up a report on how CIfA can improve the way it communicates careers information to a diverse and technologically aware audience. I’ll also be looking at how information about the work CIfA undertakes, as a professional body, is communicated to members and Registered Organisations, and how we can improve that.

I have just completed my first week and I can say that for someone who does not have any background in archeology whatsoever, but an interest in human history and cultures, I am fully starting to grasp the interesting world of archaeology and seeing the vast career opportunities that are available. I cannot wait to see what the placement holds in the coming weeks and where it will take me in the future. However, one thing I know is that I’m in safe hands with the dedicated CIfA members of staff who are ready to help me every step of the way.

Code of conduct: the ethical guide to public life

In the second instalment of my three blogs, I want to touch upon ethics.

As with many professional bodies, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists has a code of conduct that determines the way all accredited and CIfA act and uphold professionalism within archaeology.

When I first read the code of conduct, I was expecting your standard ‘do not do this or do not do that’ list of rules and frankly I saw it as more information I had to keep logged in my head. However, when I began my research projects and going to various meetings, I started seeing the importance of the code of conduct. Once I put my Philosophy hat on and after having various talks with members of staff, it really became clear to me why having the code of conduct is vital, not only to ensure that CIfA members and the institute behave accordingly but also when it comes to CIfA’s main aim- which is to serve and protect the public- it really does that.

The fifth principle of the code of conduct is what really caught my eye. In summary, the principle requires that members recognise the aspirations of employers, employees, colleagues and volunteers in matters that concern employment. Within this principle you have section 5.7 which states ‘A member shall have due regard to the rights of individuals who wish to join or belong to a trade union, professional or trade association’. The importance of freedom and individuality within paid employment is hugely understated. Yes, there are laws that protect people within society, but many do not realise that this does not always translate to paid employment. The ongoing struggle between Amazon and its employees, who want to unionize so they can have better working rights, is a clear example of where autonomy is unjustly restricted. For CIfA to recognise the importance of autonomy and individuality not only means that within archaeology, members are able to work with the utmost respect towards each other but when it comes to interactions with the public, they are able to apply that same principle in their everyday interactions.

The other principle that stood out to me was in section 4.7 and in summary it states that a member should not take on any work that stops them from including their own interpretations in the final report or any work that means they will be unable to use any data after they finish the project. The strive for transparency, honesty and credibility is something that shocked me at first. These are values that you would find being pushed in sectors such as politics, law or health care but archaeology would have never been on my list. Not only is this refreshing to see but this in my opinion puts CIfA high above other sectors such as politics, where you would expect this push towards transparency and credibility- but where these values can be disregarded, damaging public confidence. By barring accredited archaeologists from undertaking work that does not benefit the public, duty is placed on these archaeologists to ensure that work not done for public benefit is not supported.

These two principles, for me as someone who has no background in heritage, really show the work and push for professionalism and the protection of the public that runs through CIfA’s message. The value of individual autonomy and honesty within archaeological work is commendable and as I stated earlier, something you would expect to see in other sectors but don’t. In my opinion this value and ethical standard that CIfA requires its accredited members to have before they become accredited and after they join something that should be celebrated.

Whilst CIfA aims to show the value that archaeology and archaeologists have within society, through the knowledge and physical connection that can be gained through archaeological activities, finds and studies, it is also important to promote the value that archaeologists themselves add to society. That cannot be lost. The integrity and accountability that CIfA accredited archaeologists display by holding themselves accountable to the code of conduct is something that can promote archaeology even further. The reality of the code of conduct is that it’s not just another set of rules, but a framework that not only allows individuals to grow as a professional in their area of work but as a person too which is a huge benefit.

Promoting archaeology

In the final instalment of my three blogs, I wanted to touch upon Promoting Archaeology.

Throughout my time here at CIfA, I have come to appreciate the value that archaeology has. From the strong ethical values that run through the profession all the way to the millions of acronyms- that I would need the Rosetta stone to decipher them- it has been a very refreshing experience. I have come to understand the importance that archaeology has within society and being able to see the wealth of opportunities offered through archaeology pathways has been amazing to see. As someone who’s background is firmly rooted in the social sciences, it is rare to see a subject as versatile as archaeology. So, in seeing all this value that archaeology can bring and on the other hand the little recognition it gets in wider society is why promotion from those within the profession is crucial.

It’s no secret that many politicians do not see the value of archaeology. This is clearly shown by the attempt to try and minimise the importance of archaeological work within the planning legislation.  For many of them and most members of the public they do not see how archaeology directly affects their lives as such, they do not feel the need to go out of their way and understand its role within society. I would have never understood the value of archaeology if I had never done a placement at CIfA. I would have carried on with my day to day life without needing to ever find out what relevance archaeology plays in society. That is why promotion of archaeology is key. As how can you expect people to understand what your profession does and why it is important if they are never made aware of it.

During my time here at CIfA I have met various people within the sector, and I can wholeheartedly say that archaeologists are the most laid back and open people I have ever met. They are passionate about what they do and how they do it and that is seen in the quality of work that is done, from digs all the way to the reports and publications that are published, you can see the passion for the profession so clearly. Whilst, its great to be surrounded by those who share the same interests and passions as you, there is the risk that only those within that circle know about the good work that archaeology does, and this isn’t great in terms of trying to get society to understand the importance of archaeology. In the various careers fairs that I had back in secondary school, I cannot recall a time where I saw someone who represented archaeology, or the heritage sector come and speak to us about what their role involves. In my personal opinion, and I could be wrong, sometimes the dialogue within archaeology only seems to occur and stay within the archaeological circles. I have seen the amazing community projects that go on because of archaeology such as the Aylsham Roman Project and Operation Nightingale, but they aren’t getting enough attention as they should be and as a result the majority of the public is left unaware; I didn’t realise that there were amazing community projects such as these until I came to CIfA. If the public don’t understand what archaeology is about it’s because most of the time, they haven’t been made aware of it. Whilst it’s great to have this close working relationship with your peers,  it’s important that what goes on in archaeology is not only reserved to those within it. If wider society does not even know the basic facts as to why it’s valuable, then how can you expect the issues that affect archaeology to understood at local or government level.

It’s important to note that the outreach that archaeology does into various communities is amazing and that must carry on and be promoted; it would also be important to make a more conscious effort to promote and talk about the things happening in archaeology. The work that CIfA does from careers development to advocacy work means that archaeology is branching outside the profession itself and it’s not only CIfA, I’ve seen first-hand the amazing community outreach that other archaeological companies but it is also for archaeologists themselves to take every opportunity to promote and talk about their profession. If there are opportunities to speak at schools about what you do that would be valuable in getting not only young people to understand the profession but see it as a viable career path.  Also engaging with the work that archaeology does by talking about it on social media, is one of the ways that you can ensure that the importance of archaeology is being recognised. So, this may be promoting community initiatives or projects or talking about the latest incredible find. When you begin to make archaeology more accessible and visible to people,  that is when it’s value to society begins to be understood. I want to end on this quote taken from an article written by Taryn Nixon and Ian George ‘ heritage can unite communities and stimulate public debate; heritage is a catalyst for regeneration; heritage does contribute to the economy. However, we have to improve the way we convey our message.’ (Issue 57: The Archaeologist)