26 May 2023

Letter to a Young Archaeologist May 2023

This month, Historic Environment Scotland Youth Forum member Charlotte responded to Josie Ayers, Co-design Officer from the YSHive team at Young Scot's letter, discussing her time working with  Historic Environment Scotland to help improve youth engagement.  







Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and 25 Young Scot volunteers worked together for a year to explore how the heritage sector could be more reflective of young people’s needs. The 11 to 25-year-olds from across Scotland took part in workshops and volunteering opportunities to spark ideas on how youth engagement and accessibility can be improved across sites and online whilst providing more opportunities for young people to be involved in the work HES do.  


The key recommendations include goals for HES to implement, such as: 

  • ensure more stories from under-represented communities are highlighted at individual sites 

  • ensure sites are disability friendly 

  • acknowledge the colonial connections at HES sites and the historical erasing of under-represented youth voices 

  • create more opportunities that focus on climate change and the historic environment 

  • invest in a youth friendly website that's accessible as well as create a compelling social media presence  

  • provide more opportunities for young people to be involved in HES's work 

Josie's letter

Hello young archaeologists, 

It’s been a year since you completed all your hard work on the #HistoricScot Youth Forum, how does it feel to have been part of that project now the dust has settled? 

Speaking of dust, did you know archaeology is the study of the buildings, graves, tools, and other objects that belonged to people who lived in the past? Archaeologists study these materials in order to learn about their culture and society. 

At Young Scot, we wouldn’t ever say we were experts in archaeology, history or even old stuff to be honest because we’re all about young stuff – young people to be specific! But we learnt so much about the heritage sector when we worked alongside you and the rest of the team. Is there anything you learnt during your time on the forum that you think an aspiring archaeologist should know about? Did any of the issues or discussions make you think about archaeology, and past cultures and societies?  

We had so much fun with you during your time on the #HistoricScot Youth Forum and it was a pleasure to help you produce such an influential report. It spoke passionately about making the historic environment and the heritage sector more engaging, accessible, inclusive, diverse, equitable, decolonising and climate aware – including a whopping 34 actions in your final Youth Action Plan. I’m interested to know which of these actions you felt most passionate about?  

HES are incredibly enthusiastic about the action plan - so much so it inspired them to integrate your ideas and suggestions into their new strategy! You and the rest of the panel will also be receiving updates from HES to let you know how your recommendations are being implemented. This is a massive achievement for you and your team, what do you think about what you and the team have achieved? Did you the project spark an interest in history and culture?8 

Look forward to seeing you take part in future Young Scot opportunities. 

Speak soon, 

Josie Ayers, Co-design Officer  
YSHive team at Young Scot 

Charlotte's reply


I can’t believe it’s been a year since we finished working on the HistoricScot Youth Forum! I feel lucky to have been a part of such an amazing project. It’s an incredible feeling to have been able to make a difference in a huge organisation like HES.  

This project has really changed the way I think about the past. Since starting, I began my degree in Archaeology and History at the University of Aberdeen and have become an active part of the heritage sector. The skills I learned in this project have served me well, as well as sparking confidence in my ideas and ability to communicate them.  

One of the best parts of working with HES was how they listened to our ideas. When navigating the world as a young person, it's easy to feel that your ideas won’t be taken seriously; but even though HES are the experts in heritage they listened to us and were enthusiastic to hear our opinions! My thanks go out to everyone at Young Scot for all the behind the scenes work you did to make it happen. I hope that our collaboration can go forward to show other organisations the value of youth engagement and serve as an example of how to give young people a seat at the table.  

Being involved in the development of the Youth Action Plan was a huge achievement for me. The end result was a plan for creating a heritage sector that meets the needs and fits the values of young people. I would say that I feel very strongly about the inclusion of minority stories within HES sites and accessibility; they are both important to the diverse needs of young people, and somewhere where the training of archaeologists would be vital. Presenting complicated ideas about the past to the public is a huge part of the job description! 

To me, the past isn’t static anymore; it’s an ongoing story that needs passionate people to tell it. Thanks so much for listening to us! 

All the best,  

Charlotte, 23, Edinburgh