The Digability project has wider implications than just developing or improving an individual’s archaeological or historical knowledge. We feel that archaeology/heritage is a fantastic vehicle for developing our students’ sense of self and improving their transferable skills, as well as their health and well-being. We have found many of our students have improved their communication skills and confidence as a result of participating in the project. Our students have particularly thrived in a learning environment where they are encouraged to voice their opinions. All our students feedback positively and very personally about the impact the project has had on them and their health and well-being, but it is hard to measure these apart from through quotes.
The capture of this data is becoming more and more important as we all seek to justify our funding to those outside the heritage industry.
At the recent WEA conference in Cambridge we learnt of projects working with refugees who use historical sites and museums as a way of introducing immigrants to Britain, promoting discussion and language development in addition to giving navigational landmarks around a large city such as Glasgow.
We would love to hear if anyone has managed to turn these quotes into quantifiable data or if you have found innovative ways of capturing health and well-being benefits. What questions should be asked? Often when presented with a questionnaire at the beginning of a course students are a bit baffled by what they should put down for questions such as ‘What is your health like?’, so it is hard to formulate a measure of development over the course as there is no starting point recorded. Can we capture data only at the end of the course with questions such as ‘Has your health improved?’
How does archaeology engage Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in the UK?
Although archaeology often tackles the question of ethnicity in e.g. slave trade studies (http://www.assemblage.group.shef.ac.uk/5/hicks.html), the University of Durham’s ‘Archaeology of Race’ (challenging schools to look at immigration through time) and recent investigations of important ‘Black’ sites in America e.g. ‘The Hill’ , how often are the communities about whom the story is being told involved in their interpretation? It may be telling that the Society of Black Archaeologists was formed last year in the USA to encourage more people of African descent to enter the field of archaeology and argue for the proper treatment of African material culture .
How do we encourage BAME groups to get involved in archaeology? A recent good example was the University of Brighton Inclusive Archaeology Project while in Sheffield Hindu Samaj , whilst not looking directly at archaeology, are investigating links between the present Hindu community and the Derbyshire textile industry, preparing walks around the surviving buildings in Carver.
One of our target groups for the Digability project was the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in Yorkshire and the Humber. To date we have been unsuccessful in either recruiting or sustaining a viable student cohort from these communities. This we believe is probably for a number of different reasons: a lack of awareness of the transferability of the archaeological subject to communities with seemingly no ‘origin’ roots in the UK; a paucity of active involvement of BAME adults in heritage activity in the region as a whole; or a difficulty (on our behalf) in liaising with, and responding to the interests and needs of the potential student groups that we have been in contact with.
We would love to hear of other projects where BAME groups are getting involved in local history and archaeology and the inspirations behind each project.