Happy Second Birthday DGM

Surveying at Etherstone Hall, Wigan, the first DGM site in March 2012.

Surveying at Etherstone Hall, Wigan, the first DGM site in March 2012.

October marks the second birthday of the Dig Greater Manchester project. To recap, DGM is a five year community archaeology project designed to provide places for than 6000 school children and more than 1000 adult volunteers over that time, through the investigation of eleven sites in the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester, plus Blackburn and Darwen. It is thus one of the largest community archaeology projects currently running in Britain. So far several thousand school children and more than 600 adult volunteers have been involved in the project across seven digs.

Although professionally led the overall aim of DGM is to involve the highest number of people from local communities in the investigation of their own heritage under the theme of ‘Accessing, Exploring and Celebrating Your Heritage’. DGM builds upon the methodologies and strategies established during the Dig Moston and Dig Manchester community projects, which ran from 2003 to 2008,1 and the community projects developed by the Centre for Applied Archaeology since 2009. It also draws upon the experience of museum professionals as captured in the guidance documents of the now defunct Museums and Libraries Association (MLA). What has emerged is a methodology that combines both guided archaeological work and the empowerment of local communities through:

  • Encouraging participation by local communities and individuals that have never taken part in archaeological activities before.
  • Accessing as wide a range of local groups and individuals as possible.
  • Work on local authority land so as to minimise health and safety risks.
  • The investigation of urban archaeological sites not threatened by redevelopment.  
  • Providing the local community with the skills to continue independent research into their own archaeology and heritage.
  • A structured research framework.

The project is also looking at three broad research themes: the significance of community archaeology; the practice of community archaeology; and the archaeology of industrialisation in the Manchester City Region. The results of the project will then be disseminated through conferences papers, training seminars, academic articles and books, as well as popular publications and an open access on-line archive. Which is why we are about to publish the Archaeology for All monograph which contains examples of community archaeology practice from around Britain and elsewhere on the globe. In the meantime the eighth Dig Greater Manchester community excavation begins on the 30th September at Buile Hill Park in Salford.

 1) Nevell M, 2013, ‘Archaeology for All: Managing Expectations and Learning from the Past for the Future – the Dig Manchester Community Archaeology Experience’, in Dalglesh C, (ed.), Archaeology, the Public and the Recent Past. Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology, London.