Archaeological remains are an important environmental resource and their investigation in advance of construction is undertaken for public benefit.
Archaeology and archaeological heritage is no longer only in hands of professional archaeologists. They have to share it with two other distinct groups of stakeholders such as planners and the general public. The latter group is always defined by archaeologists and planners as user group. The public is asked to participate in the planning process, but are often found very critical towards development or only partly interested in cultural heritage. Public support is seen as an important factor for the success of archaeological heritage management.
The public is as diverse as it members and that makes it into a difficult group to analyse in relation to cultural heritage. It is composed of the individual citizens and private organizations. The first group may be collated into loosely defined categories such as farmers, tourists or museum visitors. The public as tourists also have a tremendous influence on cultural heritage as consumers. Private organizations usually have a specific aim, such as the study of local history, the preservation of folktales or the advancement of non-professional archaeology. Their impact can therefore be substantial.
Consequently, archaeological activities and their results need to be communicated with the general public. This can be achieved by involving local communities in the planning and carrying out of research project directly or indirectly associated with them. Public archaeology involves a range of methods and approaches making possible to deliver archaeological knowledge to this group. This involves representation of archaeology in film, TV, fiction, and other media. Performances and enactments are set to enhance public understanding.
Other major issues of interest for public archaeology involve the relationship between personal and group identities and archaeology, commercialisation of archaeology, ethical aspects of the archaeological profession, looting of antiquities, ethical dilemmas posed by historical theme parks or the role of archaeologists as state servants.