Sunday, 14 June 2015

Examples of Archaeology Society outreach projects- get volunteering!!

Having just returned from the 3rd Annual Student Archaeology Conference (ASA) at Edinburgh, it was amazing to see so many enthusiastic undergraduate and postgraduate students presenting on the subjects they are doing out of love. A number of papers presented at ASA were based on student projects. As a former president of a student archaeology society (Arch Soc) I am keen for students to show their enthusiasm for the subject by channeling their passion into community projects, run by the societies, that can help disadvantaged communities and empower them with their archaeology and heritage. Anything is possible with your time at university, so at least some of it should be spent constructively! It may surprise a number of students, but there are often disadvantaged and deprived communities right on the doorsteps of Universities across the country. In these communities, they have no knowledge of how to empower themselves, but often have willing volunteers who simply don't know about how to research archaeology, or even have access to these resources.

Therefore, as a follow up to the ASA3 conference, I am collating as many projects as I can get my hands on to inspire future student archaeologists to deicate their time and enthusiasm to these worthwhile projects! I know there are individual students who have done amazing outreach projects in their dissertations. Other projects are also run within other Universities which fall under this category and some volunteer projects that aren't necessarily archaeological in their scope (for example, see my article in the Post Hole Journal). However, a number of these aren't advertised either. If you want to suggest some project for me to include here, leave a message below!

Edinburgh Archaeology Outreach Project (thanks to Katie Roper for presenting this at ASA3!)

The Edinburgh Achaeology Outreach Project (or EAOP) began in 2013 and has the unique distinction of being the only project to have been presented at the ASA more than once! Any Edinburgh Arch Soc student can join up for free. The project aims to "provide children in the Edinburgh and wider communities with a free experience and insight into a subject that before may have been closed to them. We hope that through the Project an interest in their local heritage, history and archaeology will be ignited". This involves giving training sessions to student archaeologists so they can go into primary schools in some of the most deprived areas of the Edinburgh and Lothian areas, giving practical sessions using archaeological themes, including digging for artefacts using real archaeologists tools, aerial photography and even mummifying pieces of fruit to demonstrate the basic idea of mummification! One of the more unexpected boons of the project has been the realisation that many teachers are not confident in teaching archaeology to their pupils, even though there is a wealth of information about it in their local area (although sadly it doesn't include dinosaurs!). The project has been perfomring consistently with 20 volunteers over the 2014/2015 academic year, established links with Edinburgh City Council and at least a dozen schools, local museums and the DigIt!2015 project. They have also obtained funding from Edinburgh city council and Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) to assist with travel and so far they have won 2 awards from EUSA for their work.

Liverpool School and College Liaison

The major difference between EAOP and this project is that this is run by Liverpool University. This has a more broad approach to community outreach, giving students from many subjects (from politics to archaeology) the opportunity to give pupils of all ages the chance to experience archaeology in the classroom. With access to the Garstang Museum of Archaeology and experimental archaeology labs at the University of Liverpool, it gives pupils an idea of the variety of things that archaeologists do, from practical reconstructions in the classroom to seeing how artefacts are preserved. There are also summer schools and the Liverpool Schools Classics Project, which allows schools the opportunity to learn ancient languages like Greek and Latin (useful for understanding ancient texts and plays like Homer's the Illiad).

But it's not just about going into schools and labs! Many Universities allow schools and groups to visit their sites, but this one has been chosen as it came up first in a Google search and personal interviews with friends about the opportunity (although never having worked on it myself).

Operation Nightingale

Operation nightingale is an initiative that allows ex-servicemen with war injuries (particularly Afghan veterans) to go to excavations across the country. Many organisations, including Wessex Archaeology (of Time Team fame) and some Universities have contributed access, money and resources to the project, including Barrow Clump in Salisbury Plain. Students were also allowed onto a number of the excavations to help out, although I'm not sure if that's still the case.

There are loads more student projects out there, but I hope this provides students the inspiration to go out there and show their enthusiasm by setting up an exciting archaeology project that not only benefits them, but those not so fortunate as themselves!

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