Kate Giles, Senior Lecturer, Department of Archaeology University of York


Kate Giles (BA, MA, PhD, York) is a buildings archaeologist with a specialism in the recording, archival research and theoretical interpretation of historic buildings. She is particularly interested in the relationship between people, places and possessions and in the archaeology of pre-modern ‘public’ buildings, such as guildhalls.

Kate trained as an historian and art historian and had a brief spell as an archivist at the Borthwick Institute for Archives, before discovering buildings archaeology at the University of York, where she did her MA and PhD. Since 2000, she has been the York Minster Archaeology Research fellow, and since 2002, a full time member of staff in the Department at York. As Director of the MA in Archaeology of Buildings, she is passionate about the potential of buildings archaeology and buildings history to enhance understanding of the significance of historic buildings, and to inform their management, interpretation and display to the wider public. This approach is evident in her own research, and that of her research students who work on a wide range of historic building types and research issues. She is always interested in hearing from potential students or collaborators about future projects or ideas.

Buildings and the Body Keynote Address

This paper will examine and reflect on recent trends in interpretive approaches to historic building and the body. The paper will start by exploring the recent ‘biographical’ turn in material culture studies, asking whether this provides a useful way of thinking through our own anthropological engagement with historic buildings, but also the ‘lived lives’ and sensory experiences of past inhabitants. Rather than advocating one particular approach to historic buildings interpretation, the paper will highlight the dynamism and diversity of current research.

The paper will also outline some of the challenges for the future: the need to engage across disciplinary boundaries and period divisions; the need to engage with the full ‘life-history’ of a building, including repair, restoration and reconstruction out of context; and the need to inform in meaningful ways the future conservation and interpretation of historic buildings beyond the academy.


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