Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Community archaeology

A press-release from the Council for British Archaeology:
CBA Report Reveals Voluntary Archaeology Has Doubled in Twenty Years

A new report highlights the sheer scale of voluntary archaeology in the
UK, and makes important recommendations about how these activities
should be supported in the future. Over 200,000 individuals are involved
in a community archaeology group or local society, carrying out
activities as diverse as excavation, marine archaeology, recording a
historic building or volunteering for a Young Archaeologists' Club
Branch. This figure has more than doubled since a similar survey was
carried out in 1987.

The reasons for this increase are varied. Interest in archaeology is
widening, with a greater range of television programmes, websites and
publications available than ever before. It may also relate to a real
expansion in voluntary activity of all kinds, with a recent report
indicating that 43% of adults had volunteered formally within the last
12 months. It is also significant that increased funding opportunities
for local archaeology groups have become available over the past decade,
especially from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) report, Community Archaeology
in the UK: Recent Findings
, brings together a UK-wide research project
that surveyed, consulted and interviewed voluntary groups to gain a
clearer understanding of the nature and scale of voluntary involvement
in archaeology. Professional archaeologists and outreach workers were
also consulted to assess how the activities of voluntary archaeologists
could be better supported and recorded.

Key findings from the report are that:

* There are at least 2,030 voluntary groups and societies active
in the UK that interact with archaeological heritage in a wide variety
of ways. This represents approximately 215,000 individuals with an
active interest in archaeological heritage.

* Relationships between voluntary archaeologists and the c 7500
professional archaeologists in the UK are mostly good, but some problems
can be identified. Thus there is a case for more training for
professional archaeologists to equip them better to work with and
support volunteers.

* Group activities, even levels of expertise, are significantly
influenced by local conditions, such as relationships with professional
archaeologists, legislation, and availability of grants.

* The dramatic decline in continuing education departments and the
closure/down-sizing of many archaeological organisations continues to
have an impact.

* Sustainability is a key issue that emerged throughout the
research phases, and more research is needed into the means by which
bottom-up, community-led archaeology projects may work to ensure

* There is a need for training, but this varies from area to area,
and from group to group. Hence any training programmes must be tailored
to specific regions or groups, and must have an emphasis on practical
rather than passive sessions. Increased use of online learning models
will enable learners to choose material appropriate to their needs.
However, online provision cannot substitute for face-to-face
interaction, which is still considered to be of most value.

* Some community archaeology groups are very good at broadcasting
and publishing their work, others less so. 11% of groups that responded
to the survey claimed not to publish or broadcast their work at all.

The Council for British Archaeology will be acting on these conclusions
with ambitious plans to train a new generation of professional community
archaeology facilitators to help groups make the most of their
activities. The CBA will also be expanding its suite of advice and
guidance facilities, and focusing on raising the standard of work
carried out by volunteers.

Full report, and further details on our community archaeology work

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