Communication between the public and the academic community is a fundamental area of archaeology that has rusted to a near halt. It appears that the field of archaeology has became an almost inaccessible one to most of the public for various reasons. This doesn’t mean there isn’t interest of course. In particular children, the most enthusiastic of all, are not often given opportunities to engage in archaeology.
The Young Archaeologists Club, Archaeology Scotland and National Museum of Scotland are just a few of those offering outreach programs. These however are unfortunately not always viable for schools to take advantage of due to health and safety, time, finances and location. It is due to this that in the past year I have been working with Dr Laszlo Bartosiewicz of the University of Edinburgh’s Archaeology department on ways to engage the public in archaeology. One of these ways has been to actively go into primary schools, talking to children, taking along practical tasks and games and answering their many inquisitive, imaginative questions.
It was from this that I have been able to get in contact with many organisations and institutions who have helped tremendously. In January 2013 I was invited to the British Museum by their education officer to meet and discuss with them their educational tools and sit in on their school visit and discuss with the children and teachers how they best learnt about archaeology.
The response this past year has been incredibly positive. The teachers valued the experience it gave their class, one I know I would have appreciated at their age, and the pupils enjoyed getting to be hands on and becoming an archaeologists for a morning. It is because of this, with affiliation with The University of Edinburgh Archaeology Society, that in the coming year we are going to expand this to cover more schools, more frequently to engage and encourage more children into taking an interest in their local and national heritage, archaeology and history.
As it stands we have twenty students enthusiastically creating their own individual boxes of practical tasks to take into schools; focusing on their own individual interests. If you’re excited and interested, they will be too. These are students ranging from first year undergraduate to PhD, eighteen years old to forty-eight years old. Not only is this a project that benefits the children and brings the subject to a wider audience, it benefits those partaking in it. Often the varying levels of degrees do not have the opportunity to interact, this is a way for them to work together, meet each other and forge new friends and networks within the field.
This is just the beginning of the Edinburgh Archaeology Outreach Project. It will grow and expand, lose volunteers when graduation nears and gain ones when they start. Hopefully as community archaeology flourishes and expands Edinburgh Archaeology Outreach Project will too, enabling children in the Lothians to access an exciting and fulfilling subject.