In reply to Jenny Vaughan
The majority of people taking part in the Big Dig were unlikely to find
anything of significance in their trench except possibly a few bits of
modern pottery and a few interestingly shaped (naturally) stones. If they
found anything else they had a number to ring.
Many of them are people whose contact with education since leaving school
has been minmal. They probably are not great readers and their main leisure
occupation is watching television. The only clubs or societies they will
ever have joined will be a football fan club or the local working mens club.
Their attitude to anything that calls itself a society or smacks of
requiring any education or learning is seen as belonging to world that they
do not belong in. However a lot of them watch Time Team, enjoy it and quite
fancy having a go but do not have the confidence to volunteer, even if they
knew how to. The Big Dig gave them a chance to have a go themselves in the
privacy of their own back garden, without what they would see as some
'expert' looking down on them (in every sense of the word). That is the
sense in which I used the word supercilious.
People like this need archaeology to come to them and not for archaeology to
wait to be approached, however warm the welcome when the approach is made.
Their are a number of community archaeology projects round the country that
are doing this very effectively - and nearly all, if not all, started when
the archaeologists made the first moves to engage the community.
We cannot assume that because we know what cuddly friendly open people
archaeologists are that that is how everybody else perceives us. If
changing other peoples perceptions of archaeology and its practioners means
coping with the local 'tunnel' enthusiasts, then we should do it.
Local Societies need to think whether the traditional way of working is the
best way. I repeat we need some kind of forum for societies and probably
community archaeology groups to get together and share experiences and to
learn from the successes. I have been asking for this for years. Nearly
every society belongs to the CBA, surely they have the capacity to organise
such a forum.
I certainly do not want to make anybody feel guilty about not taking part in
the Big Dig. My Society was not involved because it was not possible to
organise it within the time scale set by Time Team but I was concerned abou
the general negative attitude to it shown on the mailing list - it has led
to negative reporting in the national press (as she quotes) and has been
useful for Time Team to hide behind when their lack of forethought meant the
project was not all they said it would be.