Building a community heritage project from scratch
By Megan Olney
The Caerau and Ely Rediscovering Heritage Project (or CAER Heritage project) was introduced during this workshop by giving us a chance to do some archaeological discovery and analysis for ourselves, albeit only with replicas. The exercise split us into groups with a list of categories which would help us try to identify the object, its possible use and the historical period it may have come from, and included items such as axe heads and shaving utensils. This introductory group activity showcased some of the skills the project is trying to encourage, such as team work and problem solving, and how getting involved in a real life archaeological dig of the Caerau Iron Age Hill fort could bring so much more to the surrounding community than the interest of archaeological and heritage societies.
The CAER Heritage project has envisioned how the community of an area which has become stigmatised with labels of antisocial behaviour can challenge these perceptions through discovering their local history and creating for themselves a positive sense of place. Possibilities of intergenerational contact and the sharing of oral histories of change in the area could all contribute to creating and sustaining strong social relationships in the wider community. The project is also hoping to challenge perceptions of the Ely area by creating educational opportunities and promoting skills development with the help of their project partners, which include local schools and community groups, as well as heritage organisations and the St Fagans Museum.
The effectiveness of the initial activity is what stood out most for me at this workshop. Adult working professionals grappling with foreign objects and imagining what they may have once been used for hundreds or even thousands of years ago. The CAER Heritage project can stimulate and engage people through learning and discovery, and discovering the history of one’s own local area will prove even more fruitful.