June 2015: Town Museum Evaluation and Feedback

Students, Berkeley Castle and community participants provided feedback that demonstrate a measurable effect on their archaeological learning and level of engagement. All feedback was reviewed and reflected on by the Engagement Team and its coordinator (me!). Key lessons learned included:

  • Placing trust in both students and community develops better relationships between stakeholders
  • Within a supervised and supportive framework, students can take creative charge of managing a project effectively to produce impressive and professional results
  • Inviting community participation in both private and commercial venues leads to better engagement

It has also been importance to us to respond to what the community wants. The project emerged from community comments that they can’t always attend our public talks and free tours. By bringing the archaeology to them, we creatively deliver engagement that suits them, in a way that is feasible for us.

Second-year student, and mini-project manager, Rebecca Saunders writes:

… it’s been a lot of work but really rewarding. It’s been great to put into action some of the things that I’ve learned in the lecture hall about public engagement. I was given space to be creative in designing how the trays and the posters looked. I really appreciated the fact that my vision came to light and it has been so inspiring for me as a student to see this project from its first days to where we are now. It really gives me hope for what I can achieve once I’ve graduated. I’m really passionate about people engaging with archaeology, especially here, because residents can be curious about what we’re finding. One of the most common questions I got asked by locals was ‘are you finding anything good?’ This is why I think the Town Museum project is a fantastic idea not just in terms of engagement with the community but also as a project that is student led.

Local resident Chris Stokes says:

Previously … you’d be there for a few weeks and then you’d go away, job done and we didn’t know much more than that. [Now I feel] absolutely more connected. One of the main reasons [to be involved is that] I live locally to where you’ve been digging and it’s just interesting to know what you guys are up to up there. And to be part of displaying some of the artefacts that you’ve been finding I think is good for the local people to know about it, and to be involved as a local person in supporting what you’re doing up there.

Local business owner, Rose, from La Lune Art Gallery and Shop says:

It’s nice to bring something different to Berkeley, with the history of Berkeley and the castle, it’s definitely good…This is nice because it involves everybody, different businesses, all together.

Statement from our heritage stakeholder, Berkeley Castle:

We are delighted that the University of Bristol has engaged with the residents of Berkeley to set up the Town Museum Project this year. It’s wonderful that the students have had such a good response from those living in the town of Berkeley and it’s very reassuring that so many locals were keen to get involved.

We always look forward to welcoming the team back from the University each year and to seeing a new group of students, they are always a pleasure to have around. It’s very exciting when the students excavate new areas, their discoveries tell us more and more about the history of Berkeley and of course, the Castle itself!

It’s also a great added attraction for our visitors, we really appreciate that the University team are happy to provide guided tours of the excavation area and its associated finds, to those who are interested in finding out more about the site.

Formal feedback forms were provided to the twenty local participants. Of the 18 collected responses, 100% said they enjoyed it, 100% said they would do it again, 100% would recommend it to others, and 100% said they learned more about archaeology because of it. Likewise, the positive response from our students was overwhelming and they really loved getting involved. They also identified a wide range of skills developed just on this aspect of engagement at Berkeley (based on 6 responses from those most involved in the Town Museum project):

  • Critical Thinking  50%
  • Teamworking  100%
  • Career Networking  66.7%
  • Public Engagement  100%
  • Adaptability  83.3%
  • Project Management  33.3%
  • Independence  66.7%
  • Creativity  83.3%
  • Marketing & Social Media Expertise  50%
  • Improved Confidence  100%
  • Improved Professionalism  66.7%
  • Transferable Skills  83.3%


The students responded 100% positively (yes) to the following questions too:

  • Do you think the skills encountered on this project will help your future career prospects?
  • Do you plan to include this experience on your CV and in interviews?
  • Did you enjoy engaging with the local community?
  • If you had the opportunity, would you partake in a similar engagement effort again?
  • Would you recommend this experience to other students?

Further evaluation of the responses is underway and there are lots of plans to further develop engagement at Berkeley in the 2016 season!

Contact: Aisling Tierney a.tierney@bristol.ac.uk

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Archaeology will tell you how cities work

This week, I’m moving away from eBay to look more into how objects move around cities and what that tells you about how those cities work and how people negotiate them. My work in this area bring together two different ideas of public archaeology; using archaeology to understand the lives of people in the present day and working with people to understand contemporary material. These two overlap and are best done together! I mentioned a bit of this project late last year in another post. I explained it well enough that time so I’ve reproduced bits of the text below (sorry).

Reading Sarah May’s great blog Heritage for Transformation I really enjoyed a story about a piece of gravestone found in a neighbour’s garden and how it came to be there after the bombing of a nearby graveyard. This story appealed to me greatly because I have always believed that urban regeneration – by which I simply mean urban areas changing over time – happens as much in the small scale as in the larger scales of planned re-development that we more commonly associate with the term. So, the building of a new shopping centre is urban regeneration, but so is you choosing where in the city to live or by what route you walk home from work. The building of a mass transit system is connected to that ‘top down’ urban regeneration, but so is a piece of grave from a bombed graveyard being reused as paving.

The role of things in this is subtle. New things can be made or built and things can be moved around to become part of new ‘statements’ on daily life. Things also move on their own or in unintended ways like the fragment of gravestone. I give you two examples:


Back in 2008, David Cemlyn in Bristol chained himself to a lamppost to protest against its removal and relocation to enhance a conservation area on the other side of town. Article here. A fascinating act in itself, but when I ‘followed the money’ to the conservation area that would be receiving this piece of active street furniture, I found out that it was not removed to order at all, but that a local amenity group (I interviewed their lamppost afficionado Maggie Shapland) had saved money to buy it from Bristol City Council to replace one that had been damaged.

So, just crossed wires? I think we have to take it more seriously. A lamppost WAS moved and that movement of material caused a protest (reported internationally). At the other end, a local amenity group raised money to physically change the place in which they live. In the middle is a council goods yard (location???) full of street furniture removed from its original contexts and waiting to become part of other ones.


As part of my PhD research, I did a photographic survey of Bristol’s Broadmead shopping centre shortly before it was repaved as part of the Cabot Circus development. In the centre, and dating to 1998, was a paved area with benches and flowerpots each bearing a large ‘B’ for Broadmead.

These were duly removed and replaced with new paving and a large sculpture called Tree Rings by Wolfgang Buttress. Imagine my surprise when I encountered them again, quite by accident while on a train through Bristol, reused in the Stapleton Road Community Garden.

Here a similar story of removal from one context and insertion into another, this time with a little more knowledge of the ‘chain’ from all involved. A late 20th century attempt to relaunch Broadmead and counter the threat of an out-of-town retail park now repurposed as a series of permaculture spirals (Disclosure: I also have two of the paving bricks as seen in the top photo which sit on my desk and occasionally travel to conferences with me).

Understanding how material like in these examples moves around has the potential to make a difference to people’s daily lives. Away from the large-scale regeneration tropes of decline, gentrification, cultural aspiration, population movement and so on, they present a more subtle urban regeneration that works at the level of the individual and allows people the autonomy to ‘do’ urban regeneration themselves.

So, here, public archaeology has a purpose in both uncovering these material networks and disseminating knowledge of them and their role in the contemporary city so that people can make use of them in their own lives. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about my day with the Bristol Wood Recycling Project.

Recycling and re-use

In the remainder of this month I want to turn to a particular kind of recycling. What I’m interested in is the ways in which relatively mundane material moves around, what examining that movement tells you about people and how people can use that research themselves. It’s a kind of public archaeology that tries to find ways for people to appropriate archaeological methods or perspectives to aid their own interventions, whether in shaping cities by deciding where to live, opposing planning proposals or even voting in local and national elections.

What I’m planning over the next fortnight is to start, on Monday, by introducing these ideas and their public archaeology potential in a bit more detail, before moving on to talk about my recent work with the staff and customers of the Bristol Wood Recycling Project. After that, I’ll conclude the whole month with some thoughts on material networks and public archaeology and how the two coming together can change the world (maybe).

In the meantime, I wonder whether anyone out there has come across any existing links between archaeology and recycling/re-use or has worked with community groups like the Bristol Wood Recycling Project. Comment below and let me know!

Here are a few pics until Monday…

photo 1


photo 2

photo 3