This blog has come about because of the work of the Workers’ Educational Association Inclusive Archaeology Education Project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Over the past two years we have been seeking to create a sustainable project that allows those from disadvantaged backgrounds to get involved in archaeology. We have presented our work at several conferences and have received positive feedback. On this page we would like to create a monthly discussion about current issues, sustainability, successes and difficulties around inclusive archaeology.

Please add your comments and share your ideas with us.

This month the topic is:  How to make visits to historic sites accessible – and meaningful – to those with disabilities.

The Digability sessions are now in their field visit phase after our introductory classroom sessions. We have visited some fantastic sites over the past few weeks and seen some great examples of adapting access to suit the learners we have taken. The National Coal Mining Museum for example, having been advised of mobility problems, adapted their underground tour so the route was shorter and more accessible. At Barnsley and Doncaster Museums, handling sessions have been tailored to learners needs and interests. Cannon Hall prepared a fantastic day allowing us to excavate in the kitchen gardens and at Heeley City Farm the staff were very supportive, encouraging students to have a go at helping to repair the round house. We have of course taken full advantage of the free access for education groups provided by English Heritage and visited sites at Bolsover Castle, Brodsworth Hall and Conisbrough Castle. We have also made links with East Peak Industrial Partnership and Elmet Archaeology to provide fieldwork opportunities; both have been incredibly supportive of our students and helped to provide worthwhile and memorable access to our local archaeology.

In terms of access and support, then, we have found our partners very willing to work with us to develop opportunities for students with additional needs.  Access, of course, is only part of the picture.  As educational practitioners, we also face issues relating to the impact of field activities – particularly for students with learning difficulties. How much do our students learn? Can we measure what they have learnt from field visits? For some of our students it is an almost overwhelming experience to visit a castle for the first time or to see what it was like for family members to work underground. For others the experience of being outside for long periods ( usually 4-5 hours) is challenging and the benefits of these experiences is hard to measure, except from the  large smiles and excited chatter. There are learning goals: identifying parts of a building; learning new words; working together as a group to measure and record a site or building; trying something new (such as handling mud in building the round house); but it is hard to capture these at times in a way that can be fully recorded.

We would really welcome any views on this and examples of how other people measure learning in the field – as well as your experiences in accessing/providing access to heritage sites.


9 responses to “Welcome

  1. This is a really great and useful project. I am disabled myself but due to working with my local archaeological society and pottery & clay tobacco pipe finds work, I was able to gain Associate accreditation with the IfA. Are there any plans to extend the project to the London region? I would love to be involved. Well done with what has been achieved so far!

    • That sounds great Stephen and a really good example of how inclusive archaeology can be. Have you produced any ways of interpreting the finds you work with (pottery and pipes) for different disabilities? Both pipes and pottery are really important artefacts on sites and we have found several clay pipes when we have done test pits with our learners. On our Leeds dig we even found a stem with a waxed end.
      At the moment there are no plans to extend the current project to London as it was designed and funded for the Yorkshire and Humber Region but it would be great to see similar projects across the UK.

  2. My work on pottery and pipes has been aimed at the community and voluntary archaeological level and not tailored specifically at people with disabilities. I contribute to a blog and a short piece on clay pipes can be found here at http://www.hadasfindsgroup.blogspot.co.uk. It would be great to see site reports produced in difference formats for partially-sighted people.

    • Submitted on 2013/07/01 at 10:50 pm | In reply to Stephen Brunning AIfA.
      Thanks Stephen for the link. It is interesting to see the many different types of clay pipes that exist even within London let alone across the country.
      Site reports in different formats would be fantastic and perhaps considering how they could be made accessible for partially-sighted people is a good place to start. I wonder if anyone working in the archaeological world has tried this. One of our learners from Grimsby had very limited eyesight but his sense of touch was amazing and he was very good at describing and working out what artefacts were. He was especially good at recognising roman coins.
      Another partially-sighted learner in Bradford appeared to use a sense of smell as well as touch.

      • Money seem to be the bane of many professions, including archaeology. I suspect that it is not cost-effective to provide site reports in different formats. The beauty with voluntary archaeology is that we are not tied down to financial and time constraints. The finds group I am involved with just work at our own pace.

  3. Fantastic blog. Well done to those who have got this going. Have you had any links with the WEA in London Stephen? May well be worth an initial discussion to explore the possibilities. Nothing ventured etc.

  4. Raises an important point-access to historical and archaeological sites for people with learning disabilities. More power to your elbow. North Duffield Conservation and Local History Society working with Selby Time Team of people with learning disabilities.

  5. Dario Scarpati | August 21, 2013 at 7:41 am | Reply If I see the experiences I made working, as archaeologist, with disabled people, I prefer to say that archaeology must be inclusive.

    I think it’s right consider that our “first employer” is the public, all the public; between them, there are all kind of persons, including disabled ones. And archaeology is a good tool to improve their potentialities.

    The archaeology is a science; so we can use it to improve the following areas:

    • Cognitive area
    • Manual area
    • Relationship area
    • Emotional area

    With this idea in our minds, we built laboratories with (and not for) persons with cognitive-behavioral disabilities.

    We worked together, as archaeologists: we dug, washed potteries, cataloged fragments, inventoried and took photos of them … we learnt (we all learnt!) to tell stories about our archaeological objects.

    I cannot say if we included them or they included us. I know this experience is useful for both!!!

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