The practice of community archaeology in the UK : a model for best practice based upon case studies from Dorset and Cambridgeshire

Author/s: Hayley Roberts, PhD
Availability: Open Access
Type: Thesis
Year: 2016
Category: Archaeology
Institution: Bournemouth University

Abstract: Archaeology undertook a process of definition and exclusivity in order to develop as a discipline. It justified its increasing control and management of the archaeological resource as being on behalf of the public. This has been challenged by the concept of community archaeology, which was originally defined as a collaborative process, where non-archaeologists are considered equal partners in the research process. In the UK local archaeology societies have been interpreted as community archaeology. They developed in parallel to the profession and are traditionally managed by and for volunteers, some of whom have considerable archaeological experience. The term community archaeology has also been used to describe a much wider range of projects, many of which have been stimulated by professional organisations wishing to demonstrate impact. These usually, but not always, aim to engage the community through participation. There has been some theoretical discussion about community archaeology. This has predominantly revolved around definition but little research has taken place into the practice occurring within the UK. This has resulted in a lack of published guidance. This PhD thesis will start to fill this gap. It considers the concept of community archaeology and its relationship with professional archaeology. In particular it focuses upon the concept of the volunteer and the local archaeology society. The research used a qualitative approach to understand current practice. Interviews with volunteers from local archaeology societies identified that they conduct archaeological research for a range of reasons. Primarily these are site accessibility and personal interest however volunteers are also motivated by a sense of wider purpose and they desire to conduct their research to professional standards. The thesis compares this to interviews with professional archaeologists, who value these societies for the support that they provide to the archaeological profession. Case study projects were used as a second methodology to explore the practice of community archaeology in the UK upon theoretical guidance, and in particular the concept of collaboration in. Volunteers in archaeology look towards professional archaeologists to provide guidance, identifying them as experts. They also require a range of different archaeological experiences. Relationships between the public, experienced volunteers and professional archaeologists were demonstrated to be complex and these categories are not exclusive. The research concludes that community archaeology has previously been described as a bottom up or collaborative practice, this research demonstrates that the practice has evolved and that now many examples conform to the Authorised Heritage Discourse. This has created a lack of guidance; in response this PhD presents a model of best practice for professional and volunteer archaeologists. This will ensure that community archaeology is practiced to the maximum benefit of all involved.

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