The project is run by the communities along the dykes and supported by the archaeologists. CoSMM is a community-based project concerned with monitoring, recording and curating information about the monuments.
CoSMM is apolitical, it simply wishes to evaluate the historical affect on communities around monuments and the impact of borders.
Now is a really exciting time to be starting a community-based project on Offa’s and Wat’s Dykes. The publication of Keith Ray and Ian Bapty’s (2016) long-anticipated book on the monument, the creation of the Collaboratory (ODC – Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory) itself and new initiatives from a revitalised Offa’s Dyke Association (Offa’s Dyke Association) are all combining to raise the profile of the monument.
Public engagement with Offa’s Dyke is diverse and comes from a range of stakeholders. Those charged with legal responsibility for the monument’s conservation and protection, academics, landowners and local businesses, those who use it as a recreational resource all have a vested interest and a voice. In many cases these voices can be heard through statutory channels, local business initiatives or through well-established lobby groups at regional and national levels. The channels for the thoughts and opinions of those who live alongside the dyke, of those community groups who are concerned with its preservation and recording, are less readily obvious. The Community Stewardship of Mercian Monuments (CoSMM) project explores how an online community-lead archaeology project developed under the auspices of the Offa’s Dyke Association (ODA) can provide such a resource, not just for Offa’s Dyke, but also for Wat’s Dyke and other examples of Early Medieval archaeology along the Anglo-Welsh border.
Such an initiative is important for a number of reasons. The latest digital technologies provide heritage professionals with the opportunity to more effectively record, research and conserve landscapes than ever before e.g. The “Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project,” . Nevertheless, the sheer scale of Offa’s Dyke as it runs through two countries, multiple local authority areas and innumerable settlements along its route continues to render a long-term, comprehensive, top-down approach a logistical challenge. In contrast, scalable, local programmes of recording and conservation by committed groups working to a standard framework and coming together within a single online portal promise to be both achievable and sustainable over the long-term.
In collaboration with the ODA (Offa’s Dyke Association) and working within The Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory CoSMM is a crowd-sourced community initiative based on a scaleable model that can be applied along the length of Offa’s and Wat’s Dykes using volunteer coordinators each responsible for a stretch of either monument within their settlement.
The Offa’s Dyke Association is the natural home for CoSMM which is only the latest addition to its programmes dedicated to preserving and promoting the monument since its inception by the late Frank Noble in 1969. That the Association is hosting, facilitating and supporting this effort is a measure of the scale of its ambitions in promoting both Offa’s and Wat’s Dykes to locals and visitors alike and we’re very grateful for their support.
Work is only just beginning, but the early signs are encouraging. Of course, we’ll be reporting on progress through the Collaboratory website, the ODA Newsletter and the website when it launches. We’re very much looking forward to seeing where the future takes us.
Please see the TAG 2017 talk by Melanie via the ODC (Theoretical Archaeology Group – a prestigious academic conference).
CoSMM has been inspired by The CORS Project , “After Offa” and “Your Place or Mine?” in the same way Mick Aston promoted in his work with communities.