From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Worcestershire YAC and their 'Childhood Tales ' project
Today's blog focuses on the project created by Worcestershire YAC who set out to explore the theme of childhood in the historical and archaeological record.
YAC Leader, Paul, tells us more......
Several times over the years our activities have highlighted that children and childhood are underrepresented within the archaeological record and within archives. These are for various reasons, including the difficulty of identifying specific items used by children, and that items will probably be more temporary. This has been something which the members found interesting, so when looking for a focus for From Ordinary to Extraordinary we thought this would make a good topic.
For our Christmas event we went to Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings. When going around different buildings and speaking to the volunteers inside we were asking members to look out for signs of Christmas decorations for the different periods, and evidence of children. The miller told us about children helping in the windmill when old enough, and a couple of houses had beds and simple toys for children.
Our January and February events have looked at children and childhood, with opportunity for members to then look into an area they find interesting. They are also encouraged to look things up at home.
Some of what we covered included:
Archaeology – we had a look at what items had been discovered linked to children, including on the PAS database. There are few. One area we looked at was games, although these may be played by adults too, and some of the elaborate gaming pieces are likely to be high status. We also looked at a child burial, as that can be a source of information about children in the past.
Toys and games – we brought along some games which have been around a while such as marbles, dominoes, tiddlywinks, Nine Mens Morris and cards, and had a go playing some of these. We also provided a random assortment of items and got them to think of what games could be played with them – toys and games over the years would mostly be whatever they had to hand so imagination and inventiveness was key.
Letters and Log Books – we got out items from the archives including school log books from WWI and letters written by children about market gardening in 1933. We found out what life may have been like in school during WWI. Shortages meant they didn’t have enough coke to heat schools in winter. Children were often working on the land and helping with harvests. They even arranged Blackberry picking as classes to help the war effort. Although most of our members thought they’d prefer this, we don’t think that would have lasted! The letters were written to help with a BBC programme. They are beautifully written and explain about market gardening and what their families do. Several mention that they and their siblings need to help with the work, especially at busy periods.
We look forward to sharing what the members produce, which we’ll then share on social media. Topics they are most interested in are Ancient Greece, medieval, toys/games and WWII.
Intro to the Author
Paul Hudson – Paul has been part of WYAC for 15 years. In his day job he is Learning and Outreach Manager for Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service.