Over 200 people attended a public lecture last night by Dr Carenza Lewis, ACA’s Director, in which she recounted highlights from the last ten years of outreach work and shared her considerable achievements in engaging schools and communities.
Dr Lewis began her outreach work leading classroom-based activities on the theme of archaeology in schools in the autumn of 2004 and ran the first Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) in collaboration with the former government’s widening participation scheme, Aimhigher, in summer 2005. Since then, over 4000 school students have participated in HEFA and Carenza has expanded Access Cambridge Archaeology’s (ACA) outreach programme to encompass a wide range of different community-based projects including archaeological excavation, field-walking, test pit excavation, local history, oral history and history trails.
Last night’s lecture brought together people who have been involved in ACA’s activities from all across the eastern region including school staff, local coordinators, members of local history and archaeology societies, archaeological specialists, volunteers and participants. As well as Carenza’s presentation of the specific aims and outcomes of ACA’s outreach, the event provided a chance to publicly discuss the different ways in which archaeology in general can not only uniquely engage people in the research of a world-renowned university such as Cambridge but also give them the opportunity to enhance their educational, economic and social well-being.
Following on from Jody’s talk about the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology opening the doors of the University of Cambridge to members of the public, Carenza outlined her rationale for the importance of also going out into local communities to give people the opportunity for hands-on participation in making archaeological discoveries. She began with an outline of her career and spoke about her involvement in the Channel 4 series Time Team which confirmed for her the popular appeal and empowering potential of hands-on learning about the past. When Carenza left the series and began working for the University of Cambridge, she was invited to set up a new outreach and widening participation programme at the Division of Archaeology. She talked about the development and expansion of HEFA and later, a wide range of dedicated community projects. One example she gave was ACA’s involvement in running and supervising archaeological activities as part of the Hertiage Lottery Funded Managing a Masterpiece project on the Essex-Suffolk border in 2011-2013. A nine day excavation at Clare Castle in Suffolk in May 2013 involved 112 volunteers, several of whom went on to found Stour Valley Community Archaeology to continue offering community archaeology fieldwork opportunities in the area.
Since 2005, a staggering 1891 archaeological test pits have been dug by school students and community volunteers with ACA in 64 settlements in 11 different counties. Carenza showed distribution maps and graphs of the test pit excavation results using pottery as a proxy for population levels which demonstrate the catastrophic and spatially variable impact of the Black Death in East Anglia. She concluded her lecture with a reflection on not only the tangible outcomes of archaeological outreach such as artefacts, maps and publications but also the intangible legacies of raising young peoples’ aspirations for the future and strengthening communities through shared experiences and connections.
After their talks, Jody and Carenza were asked to the stage again to take questions. Audience members were interested in the data produced by Carenza’s test pit excavations and she assured them that she has written an article ready to publish and as soon as it is ready, a copy would be available to download from ACA’s website. Others wanted to know about her future plans for the outreach unit and Carenza said that she would like to hear people’s suggestions for how she could help communities to sustain interest in their local heritage and find opportunities to continue collaboration with the university. The University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for relationships with the local community and public engagement, Professor Jeremy Sanders, chaired the event and finished by thanking both Carenza and Jody for their work making the research of the university relevant and accessible to members of the general public.
After the lecture, the Festival of Ideas generously hosted a reception at the Pitt Building attended by close friends and colleagues. Sandy Yatteau, former Manager of Aimhigher Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, thanked Carenza for an immensely successful and inspirational decade at the helm of ACA and presented her with a bunch of flowers. ACA’s administrator, Clem Cooper, baked and decorated a cake based on the ACA logo which was cut by Carenza who spoke about the emerging importance of tea and cake at community archaeological events over the years. Many more photos of the lecture and of the reception, taken by ACA’s archaeological supervisor, Catherine Ranson, can be viewed on the ACA Facebook group here.
In an e-mail after the event, a couple of the attendees got in touch to say “thank you for the invitation to Carenza’s talk and the reception after – we really enjoyed ourselves. We have been so busy this month and that was definitely the best thing we’ve done” (LB).
Carenza would like to say thank you to everyone who has taken part or helped in any way, at any time, to the work of Access Cambridge Archaeology over the last 10 years. She would like to recognise the support of Aimhigher, the Higher Education Funding Coucil for England (HEFCE), the University of Cambridge, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Arts and Humanities Research Council, English Heritage, the BBC, the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research and all of the staff and volunteers who have given so generously of their time, energy, property, tea and cakes!
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