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 firstname.lastname@example.org