Saturday, 7 July 2012

Get them while they’re young! Part 1: Open Archaeology Day for kids.

"Gluteus Maximus" 

On the archaeological site where I’m currently working they have the pleasant tradition to once a year hold an Open Archaeology Day for children of a nearby school. This year we were visited by circa 40 children from year five (± 9 years old) who expected to take part in a range of archaeological activities such as: digging (in a sandpit outside, but with real finds), a tour around the site, metal detecting, a finds handling workshop and a finds washing workshop (Always a success. The dirtier the finds, the better!). 

True to the spirit of the excavation, the children were greeted by a real Roman soldier (Brian) named “Gluteus Maximus” (Don’t Google that. Just don’t!).

However, since the weather has been so very very miserable these past few weeks, all the outside activities had to be cancelled and the day before Archaeology Day we quickly had to come up with a few new activities. The activities we came up with were: finds handling workshop, finds washing workshop, finds identification and drawing workshop, drawing the site (by standing in the nearest building that had a good view of the site, and then looking out through the window. It happened to be the library, and yes, you can guess that that didn’t make us very popular), and for the first time, a conservation workshop!

As the finds assistant I was originally supposed to have led the finds workshop and taught the children something about the finds on our site and how archaeological finds are processed. However, since my colleague (Samantha Gordon) who would help out with the visits that day suddenly turned ill, our finds supervisor (Zoe Tomlinson) had to step in and take over her tasks. This meant that I had to take over Zoe’s tasks (keeping an eye on the finds processing done by the volunteers and the students) and wasn’t able to do the finds workshop or see for myself whether the conservation workshop was a success or not.

Fortunately, and to the surprise of some of the archaeology and heritage students, the workshop appears to have been a great success! The children really enjoyed it and learnt some interesting facts about conservation in the process, such as basic knowledge about corrosion (copper turns green, like the statue of liberty. Iron turns orange) and the cleaning and identification of objects under the microscope. Naturally, what they appear to have enjoyed most was the fact that they were all allowed to try out the white lab coat so they could have a go at looking at an object under the microscope like a real conservator.

Austin, one of our Canadian students participating in the field
school was kind enough to take a picture for me of two of the
children trying to identify an object through the microscope.
The workshop was led by Rachel, a conservation student from the University of Lincoln. She told me that not just the children, but also the students who helped out with the children’s activities, learnt something about conservation that day. Since Rachel has her “lab” (basically a table with a microscope and conservation tools) set up in the archaeology finds room, the students were not entirely unfamiliar with conservation (they frequently see her placing objects under the microscope and “picking” at them), but since they are not actually allowed to aid in the conservation of the finds they enjoyed learning more about this normally “hidden” aspect of taking care of heritage.

In the end nearly all the children left with the idea that they wanted to do something with heritage in the future. Whether they will stick with that idea or not, we will have to see. All in all, it was a very good day! 

Link to the Lincoln Archaeological Field School where the Open Day took place. 

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