In 2018, Oxford Archaeology was appointed by the New Forest National Park Authority to identify and review guidance resources readily accessible to volunteers and community groups undertaking their own archaeological investigations.
In the UK, many volunteers and community groups undertake archaeological research and fieldwork. As part of the Our Past, Our Future Landscape Partnership Scheme supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund (formerly the Heritage Lottery Fund), the New Forest National Park Authority commissioned Oxford Archaeology to review the guidance that people refer to when undertaking supervised or self-guided community archaeology projects. These ‘how to’ guides might be about identifying, researching and recording archaeological sites and finds and may be in the form of textbooks, digital or printed media.
Focus groups and an online survey were undertaken in order to find out how community volunteer archaeologists access and use these existing guides and what they would like to see from future community resources. The report includes a number of recommendations for future community resource creation and maintenance, and a toolkit for consulting community volunteer archaeologists about guidance materials and support. This research has been undertaken as part of the Our Past, Our Future Landscape Partnership Scheme supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (now the National Lottery Heritage Fund).
The results demonstrate that there is a demand for simple ‘how-to’ guides with signposting to more detailed information produced by well-recognised and easily identifiable sources. The extent of knowledge exchange and local adaption of guidance resources has probably been underestimated, and indicates that the professional archaeological sector needs to do more to understand and aid the transfer of accurate, reliable and user-friendly information amongst community volunteer archaeologists.
Over three hundred and fifty archaeological guidance resources have been identified indicating that there is already a large amount of material readily available on a wide range of topics. However, there are some notable gaps in guidance materials, particularly on running projects and reporting and disseminating the results. There are also issues of knowing what has already been produced and searching for it.
Online, there is a tendency not to refer to specific sources of guidance but to use Internet search engines to find information, although it should not be presumed that use of social media platforms and other online services is universal. Many community volunteer archaeologists still like to have written notes to accompany electronic media such as videos, and want to refer to hard copies of information when collecting data or taking a break from using screens.
There has been limited evaluation of the extent, use and impact of these resources prior to this study. This review has not involved ranking or critiquing existing guidance but getting an understanding of what exists, what is accessible and what volunteers and community groups engage with. It is hoped that this review will be of interest to the wider archaeological sector and help to inform the creation of new resources in the future.
The full report, a summary report and supplementary documents can be downloaded from OA's online library here: https://library.thehumanjourney.net/4636/