The Berkeley Castle Project (BCP) is a annual project which began in 2005 with students studying Archaeology at the University of Bristol setting out to excavate and explore the archaeology of Berkeley Town, Gloucestershire. Over the past three years, the department have placed students at the heart of the community where they have delivered free tours and artefact handling sessions.

For example, one of the many ‘mini projects’ co-run by students working on the BCP is the Berkeley Town Museum Project where the town was transformed into a museum with the community curating their memories and local histories. Residents were offered the opportunity to display artifacts excavated in the areas surrounding their homes in their front windows for passers-by to enjoy, effectively turning them into curators. This approach gave the community the opportunity to improve their knowledge of the history and archaeology of their local area in an accessible, hands on manner.

The Town Museum project proved to be an effective way to bring archaeology into community life at Berkeley, with all stakeholders benefiting greatly from the project. Berkeley Castle were delighted to be able to share their history within the community, so as to enhance community relations, which is a priority for them. They also welcomed the possibility of increased publicity of their heritage site. The research efforts of the department were showcased to great effect in a public venue and the community were pleased to be so actively included within research efforts and applauded the project. Local businesses also saw the project and associated media coverage as a means to promote their business and support the local economy.

“We are delighted that the University of Bristol has engaged with the residents of Berkeley to set up the Town Museum Project this year. It’s wonderful that the students have had such a good response from those living in the town of Berkeley and it’s very reassuring that so many locals were keen to get involved.”
Statement from Berkeley Castle

The Berkeley Castle Project offers students the chance to develop an extensive range of transferable engagement-related skills, from communication to time management. Students are drawn from all levels, including first, second, and third year, and masters students; this provides an excellent opportunity for students to learn from each other, regardless of academic level, and develop practical skills while working in the wider community.

“It has been so inspiring for me as a student to see this project from its first days to where we are now. It really gives me hope for what I can achieve once I’ve graduated. I’m really passionate about people engaging with archaeology, especially here, because residents are curious about what we’re finding.”
Second-year student, and mini-project manager, Rebecca Saunders

The BCP will continue for years to come, and students have a three year track record of electing to volunteer their own time to the Engagement Team efforts that sit alongside this, setting a precedent that is likely to continue. In February 2016, the project won a national award.

To find out more about getting involved, please contact Aisling Tierney at A.Tierney@bristol.ac.uk

Second year student Alice setting up window display

Second year student Alice setting up window display