Carenza Lewis, Anna Scott, Anna Cruse, Raf Nicholson, and Dominic Symonds
Review Penelope Foreman
Based on the ‘Our Lincolnshire’ project, this book details the project’s aim of connecting the people of Lincolnshire with the rural heritage of their region, and the challenges this presented. Given that one of the core issues with public archaeology is the lack of data on its effects and effectiveness, this volume represents an important starting point for community evaluation and engagement. Crucially, the volume is available as an open-access PDF, making it an accessible resource when planning measurable public engagement outcomes.
Presenting the five strands of the ‘Our Lincolnshire’ project in concise details, the book guides the reader through the process of planning and delivering the Lincolnshire-wide initiative. Perhaps the most important component of this body of research is the ambitious ‘Our Lincolnshire’ heritage survey, which offers insights into the motivations and desires of visitors from many different demographics.
Refreshingly, less successful aspects of the project are examined and carefully reflected upon. Notably, the project’s approach to digital engagement highlights the shortcomings public archaeology currently faces in this field. Its ‘My Lincolnshire Collection’ app saw lower than expected uptake – theorised as demonstrating the friction between traditional heritage and new technology, meaning that both younger and older participants were not engaged.
The strengths of this book lie in the details of each stage of the engagement plan, with aims, methods, and results laid out in clear and coherent style, and concisely written. The book can act as a manual for similar work – including key ways the project tackled common issues in public engagement, such as effective communication with the 11-17 age bracket and building a connection with rural communities. It also means that the report is data-heavy and can get weighed down in tables and graphs, though the inclusion of public responses as an appendix was both fascinating and eye-opening.
Overall, the book is both an insight into attitudes in Lincolnshire specifically and a manual for entwining people and heritage generally. It will prove useful for anyone wanting to genuinely work with communities in archaeology to the benefit of all.