Critical Mass was a joint conference hosted by CIfA and CBA on 15th October 2015 in York and aimed to bring together practitioners, volunteers and organisations to think about how we can all work together. The day was about understanding issues, finding solutions and planning actions which could have a real impact on how archaeology can develop for the benefit of everyone. The programme included speakers to inspire and stimulate a number of themed discussions to get us all talking about archaeology, accessibility and impact. Some of the sessions were recorded and there are links below.
Kate Geary, CIfA’s Standards Development Manager, introduced the theme of the Critical Mass Conference - Community Archaeology & the rise of Public Archaeology
Session 1, ‘Communities as Practitioners: building capacity across the UK’ was Chaired by Mike Heyworth, MBE, Council for British Archaeology who introduced the session and talked about partnership working, collaboration and “Archaeology for All”
Session 1 comprised two short presentations. In the first - ‘Community Collaboration at eroding Coastal Sites: a view from Scotland’ Ellie Graham Allsop of SCAPE (Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion) talked about SCHARP (Scotland’s Coastal Heritage at Risk Project) which used community led groups to update a Historic Scotland funded survey in which a professional team collected data on 12,500 archaeological sites along the coastal zone.
This was followed by Andrew Marvell of the Glamorgan-Gweat Archaeological Trust who talked about ‘Arfordir, Cymuned, Cynefin’ (Coastland, Community, Habitat) This project saw three archaeological trusts, with support from CADW, suppooert and train volunteers to monitor and record the archaeology of the coastline at a time when sites are potentially threatened by climate change.
Facilitated round table discussions followed the presentations.
Session 2, ‘Bridging Development and Community’ was Chaired by Kate Geary. The aim of the session was to explore the interface between commercial and community archaeology and to think about the benefits and pitfalls. Also to explore the feasibility and mechanics of community engagement and whether it could be included as standard practice. How would it be monitored and by who – what might be the role of CIfA?
‘On The Banks Of The Foss: Connecting Development - Led Archaeology and Community Engagement at Hungate, York’ was presented by Peter Conolly, Project Officer with Northlight Heritage. This rare five year project was a very successful collaboration with 25,000 visitors to the site. The presentation focused on the challenges that had to be overcome in order to make the site accessible to members of the public whilst maintaining high standards of practice, meeting project timescales and working to a budget. Peter talks about the things that worked – and those that were less successful, and about the diverse group of people who were engaged with archaeology along the way.
The second presentation was by Norman Redhead of the Greater Manchester Archaeological Advisory Service. ‘Community engagement in commercial archaeology: the Greater Manchester experience’ outlined the structure of the Greater Manchester Archaeology Federation, an umbrella organisation for many of the local archaeology societies. He talked about how useful the local groups were in redressing the balance of archaeological investigation in an area where the professional focus is very much on developer sites.
Facilitated round table discussions followed.
Introduction to Session 3: ‘Knowledge creation, contribution and access’ The session was chaired by Cara Jones from Archaeology Scotland. The session was designed to look at how the industry can best utilise the results produced by the increased volume of community projects that people can get involved in. There are two key questions – how can we maintain standards, and how can community archaeology projects be integrated into wider research frameworks?
‘Assessing the Contribution of Community Generated Heritage Research’ Dan Miles from Historic England volunteers with Wiltshire Archaeology Field group at the weekends. In his job with Historic England he helps to develop research frameworks. He discusses how community projects can contribute to the bigger picture and asks if, as an industry, we really know how much research is being undertaken by community groups and what happens to that information after it has been collected?
Helen Johnston, a volunteer with The Thames Discovery Programme presented ‘Volunteer-led participatory research on the foreshore at Greenwich’
This is a community archaeology programme monitoring the foreshore on the tidal Thames in London. There are several ‘FROGS’ (Foreshore Recording & Observation Groups) each covering a specific area. Helen talked about the way the group ran and changes she had implemented to try and make the decision-making more group-centric.
Facilitated round table discussions followed.
CBA and CIfA Summing up and Next Steps
Mike Heyworth and Kate Geary gave concluding remarks about the day. Mike stressed that as archaeologists we are in a very fortunate position in that there is huge public interest in what we do and a real enthusiasm to get involved. Working together involves many challenges, particularly around funding and sustainability but there is huge opportunity for adding value to communities. Kate said that there was a need for a vehicle to take things forward. She talked about re-invigorating the CIfA Voluntary & Community special interest group as a way to continue the discussion and as a platform for getting the community involved with large public projects such as HS2.
Videos by Doug Rocks-Macqueen, Landward Research Ltd.