Unfortunately, I think Janet Davis' experience may be only too true.
With many Societies, and my own is no exception, men do dominate the
committees, while the women dominate the 'working' groups. Again,
with many of the County soceties, while the membership may reflect a
range of age groups, the 'management' is often in the hands of the
retired (and often not even recently) who seems to be the ones who
have time to commit to running such organisations. Whether we like
it or not, young and middle aged people do not have the time to give
to such societies - they are too busy working, running families and
the myriad other things that demand our attention these days.
I am constantly being told about what happened in the 1950's and 60's
and how Miss X and Mrs Y did everything, but life was very different
then and there were a lot more women who either did not have to work,
or were able not to and had time to give to all sorts of societies,
not just archaeological ones. Look around at almost any charity
stall/shop and they are nearly all being run by retired people,
because they have the time and the expertise required. These retired
members are extremely valuable in all organisations, but occasionally
can be off-putting to younger people (in their 20's & 30's) who feel
that they would be intruding.
Additionally, the idea that many of these Societies are run by
academics, whether it is true or not, can be off-putting to those who
left education early, for whatever reason. There are thousands of
people out there who have an interest in the past and who sit at home
and watch TT or whatever other history/archaeology programme is on
the box and do nothing further, but who we should be stimulated into
doing something further about it, even if it is just joining a local
society. If the television is getting them interested, it is down to
the Societies to pick up that interest and encourage ordinary people
to join in and get involved - easier to say than to do.
In my Society, 'ordinary' people may join through an interest in
family history (again, looked down on by the more academic members).
However, they will often turn eventually to demographic studies to
give them background to their family, and this can then link into
other aspects of history and archaeology.
We need to be spreading our net wider to draw in new blood - not
necessarily so that they will be looking for archaeological jobs in
the future (most of them won't) but so that we have a wide base of
interest and committment that will support the archaeological
community when it needs support, and will help to protect the
archaeological record in its own area in the meantime.
Honorary General Secretary
Yorkshire Archaeological Society
23 Clarendon Road
Leeds LS2 9NZ
Tele: 0113 245 7910; Fax: 0113 244 1979
email: [log in to unmask]