Thursday, 18 October 2012

Community archaeologist has gone – long live community archaeology!?

It is somewhat ironic that the surge in job placements in archaeology in community archaeology is a simultaneous development with the disappearance of the dedicated community archaeologist post in Leicestershire. Throughout the eighties, nineties and noughties Leicestershire county council gave support to local groups so that local communities could come together and study the past of their villages. Community archaeologist gave training to volunteers, paid visits to different groups in order to check the finds and teach the members to recognize different materials and provided materials in order to record and storage the finds. These were deposited to the local museum for safekeeping.

Community archaeology has not completely disappeared from Leicestershire but the remit has been joined with the other duties of the county council’s museum service archaeologist. With the new round of savings coming and such measures discussed as the ‘temporary’ closure of the Market Harborough Museum, it is questionable how the new archaeology officer has time apart from an occasional visit to see one of the larger and more active excavating groups in action or help with the deposition of the most important finds together with some general communication duties. After all, the new officer is also responsible for all the collections that are presented in different museums from Snipston to Charnwood and Market Harborough to Melton Mowbray. One person cannot do all – and there is the Festival of Archaeology coming up every year, too!

Nevertheless, the local community archaeology and fieldworking groups have a first class asset in Leicestershire Fieldworkers. Nor has Peter Liddle left archaeology, but he works as a freelancer. The severance of the permanent link with the county council and the financial benefit it brought means that the ways of communication between fieldworkers are changing towards e-mail and internet-based interaction, whereas previously the newsletter was posted to every member. This new situation also means that the groups have to take greater responsibility over their activities and probably also deal with the cost. The Fieldworkers as an organisation guarantees – at least as long the current chairman and Peter Liddle are active – the support the groups need and a way to provide professional assistance to the groups in order to guarantee that the high-quality work continues.

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