Community Archaeology projects all over the world are giving more people than ever the opportunity to discover the past for themselves. But how do you create those opportunities, and what makes some projects stand out more than others?
Here’s five things every Community Archaeology project should consider before getting started…
1. Remember that Community Archaeology projects come in all shapes and sizes
Community Archaeology means different things to different people. To us, it is about enabling members of the public to get their hands on archaeology (archaeology in your hands!), online or in the field. And it’s not always just about digging – for smaller projects it’s not always practical and come the season of bad weather it might not even be popular. Identify where you have opportunities to involve members of the public. This could include help with background research, field walking, finds processing, recording data, collecting oral histories, or even the creation of spaces such as a pop-up museum to help show off the project’s findings.
2. Don’t expect it to be easy
The mantra for Community Archaeology is that it is “Archaeology by the people for the people” and the best projects have to put in a huge effort and make it wholeheartedly about their communities. Public participants usually get involved because they are interested in archaeology, so once you have identified suitable opportunities, you will need to make sure you create proper learning and participatory opportunities from them. For a project to be successful, a lot of hard work has to go in to help participants to develop their passion. A project won’t work if there isn’t enough energy going into working with the participants.
3. Communicate with your community
Your participants will be your project’s greatest advocates, and their support is crucial to its success, so they must be listened to and engaged with. Maintain a conversation with your community before, during and after the project, keeping them involved at every step of the journey helps to maintain their support. This can be done in many ways, whether through social media, newsletters or face-to-face meetings. Whatever methods you choose, make sure that your communication is regular and meaningful.
4. Share your work with the rest of the world
If you think you are doing something well, show people – get online, share your progress and keep talking with other projects. Community Archaeology is a practice that should always be looking to improve itself. The best way that this can be done is by sharing your work and experiences on what worked and what didn’t.
5. Have fun!
Don’t forget that Community Archaeology is a great way for people to actively explore archaeology in an exciting and interesting way. Your enthusiasm is infectious – enjoy sharing your work and see how it can change your perspective to your project and to archaeology as a discipline.
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