Official launch by Fiona Hyslop, The Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop visited whithorn on Tuesday to officially launch the Machars Archaeology Project at the Whithorn Story exhibition.
Representatives of the Whithorn Trust, AOC Archaeology and Heritage Lottery Fund were present to watch the Miniter cut the tape on an exciting project that will give local people the chance to train up to discover the past beneath their feet.
A team of professionals from AOC Archaeology will lead training workshops and then work with volunteers to survey sites. An education pack for local schools will be developed and introduced at in-school sessions. The “Whithorn Big Dig” will give everyone opportunities to dig metre square test-pits and to seive the topsoil to recover pottery and other objects.
In the first phase of the project local people will be encouraged to work alongside a team of professional archaeologists; to participate in training workshops and then to survey sites in the Machars using a wide range of techniques and equipment. The information gathered will be used in the future to produce heritage trails and add to knowledge about the areas wealth of remains dotted in the landscape.
During the second phase volunteers will get the chance to get their hands dirty by digging meter square test pits and then sieving the topsoil to reveal pottery and other objects. This will be an activity for all ages and a chance, in particular, for families to get involved.
There will also be a series of school workshops using a specially devised education pack which uses some of the results from the surveys. This activity alongside the successful Historic Scotland Junior Guide Programme which is running will give local children a much deeper understanding of their local area and also the work of archaeologists.
The project is funded mainly by Heritage Lottery Fund and the Dumfries and Galloway LEADER Programme 2007 – 2013 and will take place from August 2011 to May 2012.
Fiona Hyslop said: “The Machars Archaeology Project is a great example of showing how people can get stuck in and learn all about their local history and heritage. In addition it will be a valuable educational resource for all ages and who knows what wonderful artefacts may be discovered as a result?”
Whithorn Trust Project Manager Janet Butterworth said: “We were delighted that the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop agreed to launch the Machars Archaeology Project on Tuesday. Heritage Lottery Fund case worker, Eleanor Dickson also attended the launch and confirmed that the project had permission to start. Following the launch a meeting agreed the first event should be a public launch on the 14th September. The whole of the visitor centre and grounds in Whithorn will be used with lots of activities and a chance for people to find out more about the opportunities and to meet the experts.”