Adopt-a-Monument at Canal College

Like last year, my 2014 Day of Archaeology was meant to be spent out and about, on location, working at the coal face (err) etc. I had planned to look at some archival material for a new outreach project I am developing as part of Archaeology Scotland’s Adopt-a-Monument Scheme, but instead I am office bound tying up loose ends before I go on annual leave.

I have decided that this year’s Day of Archaeology post will be on Canal College – a project I am working on today, but which has also seen the Adopt-a-Monument team out on fieldwork earlier this week. Canal College has been created by the Scottish Waterways Trust to help tackle youth unemployment in Falkirk and Edinburgh. In their own words;

“Through the pioneering initiative, young people between 16 and 25 years of age, who have not been able to secure a job or place in further education or training, have the opportunity to gain heritage and environment skills through a wide range of practical projects outdoors on the Forth & Clyde and Union canals”

Canal College Press Release October 2013

Adopt-a-Monument at Canal College

Lunch time at Canal College

Adopt-a-Monument has guided the vegetation clearance and excavation of the Falkirk Lock Flight which was in-filled in the first half of the 20th Century (function now replaced by the Falkirk Wheel). The Lock Flights are designated as Scheduled Monument but as of yet, the Lock Flight is relatively unknown to the outside world, and are currently obscured by small woodland and dense vegetation. The work of Canal College hopes to change that. Our time with participants has allowed them to get actively involved in all aspects of an archaeology project – from photography to context sheet writing, from excavation to plane table survey, from elevation drawing to (the far less glamorous but someone has to do it) backfilling.

Why have I decided to talk about Canal College? Well this project has really invigorated me this week (the week before my much needed summer holiday!). It is truly amazing to work alongside individuals who are not only working hard to develop new opportunities for themselves, but who are taking their first steps into heritage and archaeology. Working on a project like this can perhaps remind us in the (in amongst the emailing, phonecalls, meetings – see last year’s post) why we as archaeologists do outreach and engagement.

On a much more selfish note, Canal College gave me the opportunity to do some actual digging this week…for two whole days! I have not had the chance to do much excavation in the last couple of years, and as an ex-commercial archaeologist – I miss it!

You can see more photos and keep up to date on our progress on the project by looking at our Archaeology Scotland Facebook page.

Cara Jones – A rare but busy day in the Archaeology Scotland office

Me and my desk - we actually rarely interact

I work for Archaeology Scotland’s Adopt-a-Monument Scheme, a five year initiative which supports and facilitates local community archaeology groups who wish to conserve and promote their local heritage. We work throughout Scotland – from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway and aim to work with 55 groups over the five-year scheme. In addition to our more traditional projects, we are also funded to do outreach projects – taking archaeology to non-traditional heritage audiences. I would call myself a ‘community archaeologist’ – a job title which can be open to interpretation and can encompass many different activities and tasks.

My Day of Archaeology is a little less active than last year’s post, and lot less active than the day I originally had scheduled. I had planned to travel over to the West Coast, visit one AaM group near Oban to give advice about how to start reporting on their results (from formal dissemination through reporting and archival submission, to wider dissemination through a Wikipedia page) and then go on to another group to help them with an open day they have planned for this weekend.

Instead, I have a rare but busy day in the office which usually starts by checking emails. This is actually only my second day back after a two week holiday and yesterday my email box was bursting with around 140 emails. Ok some of those were things like Google Alerts, blog posts etc, which can be quickly scanned and then filed away, but many of the emails were from my groups, colleagues, other heritage professionals, many of which contained requests for help, advice, project updates and questions about upcoming fieldwork, workshops or new projects. I am still getting through the backlog…

After email checks, I usually start to go through the dreaded ‘to do’ list, which usually seems to get longer not shorter. Today’s tasks include edits to one of my group’s interpretation leaflets (which, in addition to paper copies, will be available digitally on their website); source an image and gain permission for it to be reproduced on a groups interpretation panel; edit the text for an interpretation panel; check that the welfare facilities are in place for fieldwork starting in two weeks’ time; ring one landowner to arrange a site meeting; ring another landowner about submitting required paperwork; commission elevations for an interpretation panel to accompany a planning application; arrange space (with a computer suite) for an upcoming digital recording workshop; progress a Listed Building Consent application; arrange a facilitator for an upcoming interpretation workshop; have a meeting with a colleague about an education resource we are co-producing….and if I have time, start to review a copy of a WW2 diary for one of our outreach projects (this might be my ‘treat’ task at the end of the day!)

Today must seem like a very dull day to anyone reading this post, but this is the reality of a full time job within community archaeology. In order to go out and do the fun stuff, we have to work hard to make sure everything is in place. Our groups have the passion and belief and put in so many hours to make the project successful, but not all of them have the skills to make it happen, which is where we help!