Whilst such large-scale community-based archaeology projects can be challenging a number of precedents demonstrate their value. “Adopt-a-monument” is an account of a scheme in Finland providing a valuable example of an extremely successful large-scale community-lead programme, whilst frank accounts of her online projects based in the United States provide details of both their failures and successes and crucially a conclusion that such endeavours are ultimately worthwhile.
In the case of CoSMM earliest plans are simple and scalable. The initial pilot phase is being undertaken on Offa’s Dyke by the Trefonen Rural Protection Group (TRPG) and in the first instance focuses on the development of a fixed-point photography conservation programme; the methodology is proven and based on that deployed by Dave McGlade, the current Chair of the ODA, in his work as National Trails Officer for Hadrian’s Wall – Monitoring Trail World Heritage Site . The group’s work will be coordinated by TRPG Committee members, who will take responsibility for training and day-to-day management on the ground. Local volunteers will download pro-forma documentation and upload their photographic and tabular data to the project’s intranet site, again, coordinated by the TRPG Committee. Those who are less comfortable with web-based technologies will be able to work with paper forms.
Once the local framework is in place and tested the working practices will be reviewed to establish whether they are effective and sustainable, to identify ‘pinch-points’ and where improvements can be made before more ambitious fieldwork plans are put in place. At all points the archaeologists will be available to provide help, advice and support wherever needed, but the community will own the project. Subsets of the data will be made available on the accompanying public-facing website to promote the project and the monument itself. Following the pilot, as more communities join, the value of combining these local, scalable resources will become apparent for raising the profile of Offa’s and Wat’s Dykes, for contributing to our knowledge and understanding of the monuments and for their long-term preservation.
Crucially, and perhaps most importantly, the project also provides a voice for the local communities, individually and collectively, to create a sense of ownership of the monument and an opportunity to share their perceptions, experiences and resources.