In order to develop understandings of modern society and its materiality, future research concerning people and things should:
- Develop understandings of all stages in the life-history of modern artefacts. An artefact biography approach helps to consider all aspects of an artefact’s ‘life’ as meaningful and moves on from a traditional focus on production
- Pursue multi-scalar approaches to artefact and material culture studies. Research into single objects need to be integrated with new understandings of the large-scale manufacturing, distributional, economic, social and cultural processes in which they were involved. This might include consideration of ‘material networks’
- Explore ways to deal with the large quantity of material culture from this period. There are problems relating to recording, storage, conservation and display. In view of the large quantities of material found or curated by members of the public and presented at museums or other heritage places, the development and dissemination of good practice with regard to sampling, recording and conservation is important.
- Build on knowledge of the empirical characteristics of artefacts to develop deeper understandings of objects as embedded in social life. Further work is certainly needed on developing knowledge of the material characteristics of modern artefacts and the techniques and technologies involved in their production. Large volumes of modern material culture are already curated by Scotland’s museums, but much of this is little used for research at present and collections could be publicised and promoted more widely. At a time when the long-term storage and care of archaeological artefacts and archives is an urgent problem better guidance is needed to inform decisions about what to keep, what to record and what to discard. All of these are present and relevant concerns for the archaeology of the modern past, but these interests and concerns need to be situated in relation to the ultimate aims of this archaeology by understanding how objects can inform upon and were embedded within society in the recent past.
In all of the above, the over-arching aim should be to provide a deep perspective on modern life by revealing, evidencing and interpreting the recent history of relationships between people and things.