Adopting Archaeology

Posted on November 16, 2016


If you have been following this blog then you will know it is Wednesday and so conference video time. This is a session I, with the help of some great volunteers, recorded at the CIfA conference.

This session will critically examine the sustainability and impact of community-led archaeological stewardship, and encourage discussion of the critical factors for resilience and sustainable futures. Adopting archaeological heritage is connected strongly with sense of place, place attachment and public amenity. It is about practical action to enhance the condition, understanding and accessibility of heritage in order to ensure access and use in the present and future. Facilitating voluntary stewardship has been identified as a strategic goal by the CBA, as responsibility for care devolves de facto to the voluntary sector in a climate of reduced public resources. This session will consider current thinking around stewardship, centred on two key questions:
• How sustainable is archaeological stewardship as enacted by and in communities?

• What is the experience and impact of stewarding archaeology today: motivations, contexts, interactions and practical operational issues with various communities?

David Jennings, University of York and Harald Fredheim, University of York

Archaeology Scotland’s adopt-a-monument scheme – twenty-something years of community led stewardship
Cara Jones
Since 1991, Archaeology Scotland’s Adopt-a-Monument scheme has supported community heritage groups to take a lead role in recording, conserving and promoting their local heritage. This Scotland wide scheme has provided volunteer groups with the practical advice and training they need to care and conserve their local heritage. Within its current phase (2011 to 2017), the team are working with 55 community heritage groups on diverse projects from Neolithic chambered cairns to Second World War airbases. No project or group is the same and each individual case requires different areas of expertise and levels of project support. A key aim of our work has been to leave a sustainable legacy of our interaction with a community group by providing training opportunities alongside project support – too often community projects ‘die a death’ once professional support is withdrawn. This paper will reflect on the twenty-something years of the Adopt-a-Monument scheme, present case studies and discuss what and where the scheme might go next.

Creating an archaeological community – the Greater Manchester legacy
Vicky Nash
Within the last two decades the Dig Manchester and the subsequent Dig Greater Manchester Projects have been encouraging the Greater Manchester community to actively engage in archaeology with the aim of providing them with the skills needed to access and interpret their local heritage in order to build a sense of ownership and understanding. As a result of these projects a diverse archaeological community has arisen and this community is working together to ensure that archaeological stewardship continues to be a sustainable practice within the region.
As we enter into the final year of the Dig Greater Manchester project, this paper will reflect on the experiences of the professional and volunteers involved and assess the legacy left by the projects.

A Friends’ Group: Impact on participants and sustainability
Robin Shawyer
All Saints is a Grade 1 Listed medieval parish church in the historic small town of Winterton. A major Heritage Lottery Fund project has repaired and reordered the church with the creation of a heritage centre for the church and town. A friends’ group was established in order to involve more people from the community in delivering the activity plan successfully. There are seven subgroups. The heritage group is a sub-group working with church and town archives in order to build the heritage story of both the church and the town. Participation in the different groups is open to all; we try to use members’ interests, strengths and ideas to extend the range of activities. Noted benefits have included increased learning, enjoyment and health. Sustainability is facilitated by delegating responsibility to sub-groups working in sympathy with the overarching project aims, raising finance where appropriate and fostering public awareness.

Enriching the list: crowdsourcing, public engagement and protected heritage
Martin Newman
The National Heritage List for England (NHLE) brings together all the national heritage protection statuses published online and receives over 100,000 visits per month. However, many of the 398,000 entries on the List are of considerable age and compare poorly against the fuller, clearer, descriptions now produced. There is a real need to enhance these old entries, and to explore new ways of maintaining, improving and presenting the List as part of Historic England’s overall digital offer. Accepting this is part of Historic England’s commitment to openness in the spirit of the culture of the new organisation. There is also a need to engage the public more widely with the protected heritage around them to raise its profile and through valuing help ensure its protection. Enriching the List is a new crowdsourcing project by Historic England, which will enable all users to add additional information and images to the NHLE without altering original content. As well as additional detail about history and architectural this will also enable users to add colour by drawing on personal reminiscences and social history, which will help people engage with the buildings and sites on a more personal or emotional level. This project will open up statutory records to users for the first time enabling professionals, the voluntary sector and individuals to both contribute and benefit from the additional content. This presentation will look at the ethos behind this approach as well as the practicalities. It will consider how involving communities in the project can raise appreciation of local designated heritage, thereby sustaining stewardship. It will also explain how delegates at the conference can use this information and get involved (either as individuals or on behalf of their organisations) in contributing their knowledge.

Stewarding Scotland’s coastal heritage at risk
Ellie Graham, Joanna Hambly and Tom Dawson
The Scotland’s Coastal Heritage at Risk Project (SCHARP) follows on from another long-running community archaeology project, Shorewatch, an initiative that asked the public to locate, record and monitor threatened sites around the Scottish coast. Launched in 2012, SCHARP is building upon the success of Shorewatch, but is also going further, recognising that recording and monitoring eroding sites does not in itself preserve them, or the information they contain. The first element of SCHARP, ShoreUPDATE, employs a citizen science approach to update existing records and report new discoveries. This information is validated and used to update priority lists for action, and is also fed back to local and national heritage managers. The second element, ShoreDIG, encourages local stewardship of threatened sites. Communities nominate places with local value and a plan of action is devised jointly by the local group and the SCHARP team. Resources are allocated and community members work in partnership with professionals on all aspects of the project. ShoreDIG projects have ranged from community excavations and surveys at sites being destroyed by the sea to interpretation and oral history projects. A
number of techniques have been employed, including using video cameras and laser scanners, and projects include excavating, dismantling and relocating sites to act as local visitor attractions. This paper will detail a range of different archaeological stewardship projects, and discuss lessons learned from almost two decades of community action around the Scottish coast.

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