Queen’s & Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership launch “Community Archaeology Toolkit”
The Centre for Community Archaeology (CCA) at Queen’s University Belfast and Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership (LNLP) have launched a free online learning resource – the Community Archaeology Toolkit – for people interested in discovering more about how to research their local archaeological heritage.
Archaeological projects that involve community groups and local volunteers have been growing in popularity throughout the UK and Ireland over the past decade. In any normal summer the archaeologists at Queen’s would be assisting local communities across Northern Ireland to reveal their buried past through fieldwork projects. This year, however, has been very different because of the COVID-19 crisis, with social distancing measures removing opportunities for the public to be involved in fieldwork. With the support of the Queen’s Engaged Research Fund and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, however, the new toolkit now offers the potential for local communities to research and develop their own local projects.
Speaking of the project Dr Liam Campbell, Built and Cultural Heritage Officer with the LNLP said, “This is a great example of a partnership working in action and also a positive response to the COVID-19 situation when so many heritage events have not been able to take place. Lockdown, however, has meant that people have stayed close to their homes and consequently many have become more interested in the heritage on their own doorsteps. This new online resource will enable them to study that heritage. There is no better way to engage with our heritage than through community archaeology. It is using our heads, our hands and our hearts in getting to know our own local landscape a better”.
The archaeologists at Queen’s have an established reputation in supporting local communities to engage directly with their heritage and have delivered a wide range of exciting excavations with partner organisations in recent years, such as the discovery of a “lost” 17th-century fortification at Brockagh, Co. Tyrone, with the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership in 2018, and their investigations at the medieval ecclesiastical site at Cathedral Hill in Downpatrick, Co. Down, with Down Museum in 2018 and 2019. The Community Archaeology Toolkit is a distillation of the knowledge and experience that they have gained over the past decade.
Delivered over six weeks in bite-sized weekly sessions, participants will learn about how to develop a community archaeology project in Northern Ireland. The course examines the background to running a project and is packed full of resources, techniques and information to help participants research their local heritage. They can use the toolkit to learn about using historic maps, reading the landscape, health & safety issues, and the fieldwork techniques used by archaeologists.
Paul Mullan, Director, Northern Ireland of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, endorses this approach. “The National Lottery Heritage Fund recognises just how useful archaeology is in connecting communities with their landscapes. The work of the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership exemplifies this. The creation of this new learning resource is to be commended and is a great output of their work with the archaeologists at Queen’s, a partnership which we fully endorse. We are grateful to National Lottery players for enabling us to support important projects like this.”
The learning resource has been designed and developed by Dr Siobhán McDermott, the CCA’s Digital Archaeologist. Commenting on the launch Siobhán said: “We’re delighted to be able to offer this resource to people across Northern Ireland. Having worked closely with local communities over the years we know that there is so much important local knowledge out there and we’d love to see this toolkit help empower people to research their heritage. It is free and online which makes it all very accessible.”
If you have ever thought of researching the heritage in your locality, organising a local archaeological project, or are just curious as to the work that archaeologists undertake then the Community Archaeology Toolkit is for you. You do not need any specialist knowledge or prior training to join in.
Enrolment is now open and if you are interested in signing up please contact Siobhán at firstname.lastname@example.org before Monday 28th September 2020.