The Dig Greater Manchester community archaeology project ran from 2011 to 2016. It was funded by the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities and Blackburn and Darwen Council in Lancashire, and was run by the Centre for Applied Archaeology in the School of Environment and Life Sciences at the University of Salford.
The project was designed to widen access to the archaeology of Greater Manchester to local groups and communities who would not normally take part in archaeological fieldwork. Thus, the project targeted primary schools, people with disabilities and individuals and groups in the more deprived parts of the city region. It used council-owned land in some of the poorer districts of the region as venue for eleven community archaeology digs. These digs were supported by a series of 110 training workshops, 55 community lectures, schools activity packs and classroom visits from the core professional team of three and two conferences.
This approach built on the methodology of two previous community projects, ‘I Dig Moston’ (2003 to 2004) and ‘Dig Manchester’ (2004 to 2009).
A pilot study in 2009 identified 33 potential sites, from which 11 were chosen. These ranged from workers’ housing and factory owners’ mansions to a farmstead and a cavalry barracks. None of these sites were threatened with redevelopment and therefore were unlikely to have been investigated in the near future. Each dig lasted two weeks with school children and adult volunteers taking part. There were two larger, flagship digs, which studied further the most promising archaeological sites over an additional six weeks. over 1600 adult volunteers and more than 3500 school children took part in the project.
DGM had specific research aims around (1) significance & practice of community archaeology (2) archaeology of industrialisation.
Central to the project was an assessment of its social value through traditional data gathering such as feedback forms, more recent social media and importantly structured interviews of 24 adult volunteers led by Salford University pyschologist Sharon Coen. The results are some very detailed data on the role of archaeology in identity forming and social linkages in an urban former industrial area of northern England. This detailed study found that volunteering encourages common goals; equal status; breads new contacts; promotes better wellbeing. This was supported by the data gathered from the feedback forms.
The response rate to the feedback forms was 20%. These showed a 62%-38% gender split in favour of women. The largest active age group was 61-80 year olds accounting for 38% of all adult volunteers.
Dig Greater Manchester was recognised nationally twice as a highly commended finalist in the British Archaeological Awards in both 2014 and 2016. Its legacy is, in part, the expansion of the Greater Manchester Archaeology Federation and the Greater Manchester Archaeology Day, but also the thousands of children and adults who have experienced the excitement and community activity of discovering their own past.