Community Archaeology in a time of Covid-19 - the Heritage Council Community Archaeology Fund 2020

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Team of local volunteers in Ballyhea, Co. Cork. Photo taken in July before more stringent restrictions came into effect and masks are now worn by participants.

For the first time in two years the Heritage Council have a Community Heritage Grant Scheme ( to support community groups in a range of heritage projects. Deadline for grant applications is Tuesday next, 15th September; grant decisions are due by the end of September and all works have to be complete but the 23rd of November 2020. The big difference in this grant is that it is a Covid-19 Stimulus Fund aimed at supporting community groups & professional archaeologists to get good quality, interesting work done in this exceptional year.
When we first developed the Historic Graves Project in 2010 we intended that it would involve training local archaeologists who would then be funded to work within their own county in collaboration with local historical and archaeological  groups. However, we’ve never magic’ed up sufficient funding to achieve this goal. We have managed to survey approximately one graveyard a week since then with community partners, local authorities and Heritage officers. Some partners bring permission, others funding and most importantly, the project leaders ie. the local community bring their time.
Given the exceptional circumstances of the last 6 months and the opportunity we see in the 2020 Community Heritage Fund we are now proposing a variation on our usual collaboration. Our core team are already busy working on community-led graveyard surveys in the Ballyhoura foothills so we don’t have a huge capacity to make grant applications ourselves. But new challenges require new ways of thinking. We reckon this current fund is in danger of being undersubscribed and the thought of the full fund not being used this year is vexing especially when we know how hard it is to get funding for community groups and how precarious the life of a field archaeologist can be.
Therefore we are asking if there are any experienced field archaeologists out there who are interested in 
1. connecting with their local heritage/historical societies/Tidy Towns groups and see are they willing to make the funding application. The application process is straight forward as is the proposal. The main constraint is that the local group must have their own group bank accounts already set up. If interested we’d suggest you start contacting local groups immediately.
2.  learning the Historic Graves survey system across a 2 day training workshop at the end of September/start of October. We’ll provide the training free of charge. (The project submission will then cover approx 5 days work for the field archaeologist.)
3. doing the surveys to a good standard and on time. It’s all fieldwork and online data entry and a minimum of reporting is required.
We propose that participating archaeologists will issue quotations and invoices to the community group in their own name. Participating archaeologists will need to be tax complliant and have their own insurance in place. The Historic Graves Project will have to cover the costs of  supervision, data curation and long term archiving and will issue a costing and invoices for same.
Maybe there is little interest in this proposal? Maybe we’ve read this wrong and the grant fund will be oversubscribed with realistic projects? If so then great. But if there are community groups out there wishing they could come up with interesting, enjoyable realistic projects for a small budget (total submitted budget is likely to be around 4k including matching funding with community voluntary labour); or if there are field archaeologists out there wishing the same then feel free to get in touch. To be clear, the grant will cover 80% of the costs but the communities will not need to make up the remaining 20% in money but can do so with voluntary labour & this voluntary labour component is built into the overall project cost as part of the application process.
We’re in the field these days with community groups in Cork so we are not on the phone very much. But if you are a field archaeologist or a community group looking to participate then email or text 0872312107 and we can arrange a chat. 
The key questions for local community groups are 1. are they interested 2. have they a bank account in the name of the organisation 3. can they provide 6-8 volunteers across two consecutive days training survey in the Autumn? This is a good opportunity for community groups to get their local historic graveyard surveyed and published.
The Heritage Council online grant system is very straight forward and a couple of hours will see good quality applications being submitted, ideally over next weekend.
Covid-19 restrictions will apply. We are currently working in the field with groups of less than 15 people, wearing masks and providing gloves and masking and hand sanitiser. Associated costs are not onerous and will be built into the costings. It may seem daunting to do field projects in these conditions but experience has shown us this is doable & also that local communities are out and about anyway. The weather will be a factor too but it rarely affects our own schedules & locally based personnel are more adaptable than archaeologists parachuting in from other counties. This latter point may also be a factor as Covid-19 restrictions become even more likely to expand during the Autumn/Winter.
Graveyard surveys are challenging and enjoyable. Done at the invite of a local community they build equal heritage partnerships which can develop into new project & we believe are a good match for the present grant scheme. We believe experienced archaeologists will learn our survey system quickly and we will provide supervision to overcome whatever inevitable blunders are made. Slow and steady is our motto during the surveys and fix the mistakes when you spot them. We're making this proposal in the spirit of the age - to support the super groups and field archaeologists we know are out there & also to maximise the impact of this heritage stimulus fund. 
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