Letters to a Young Archaeologist March 2023
This month Adah, Henry and Zaira, Young Archaeologists from Mersey and Dee responded to YAC Leader Vannessa Oakden's open letter.
Vanessa's open letter
Dear YAC, From the Mersey and Dee, we have travelled together from Prehistory to the modern day exploring the lives of people who lived before us, through different times we have learned about ordinary and the extraordinary lives. As an archaeologist those moments of connection are exciting and important. Being the first person to touch an object in hundreds of years, realising a link between stories when researching a collection or a site and connecting with others engaging with the past. Archaeology can shed light on some of the big questions, which others have written about in their letters, yet while tackling the big questions we need to also focus on the smaller connections. When I am busy risk assessing a community excavation, putting objects on display, or working on databases in the stores it can be easy to get distracted by daily pressures and forget about those connections. Planning our YAC sessions allows me to stop and think once more about the importance of the past. We have explored, crafted, learned about challenging histories and used lots and lots of clay! Your questions make me think more carefully about the objects, finding the links to our topic, the links to our place and the links that connect us all. Archaeologists don’t always have all the answers, I’ll often forget my dates, but keep asking those questions! YAC members are a link in the archaeological journey of the YAC leaders, and as leaders, we are a link in your journey. Whether you are working towards becoming an archaeologist or are just enjoying the journey, your enthusiasm for the past helps us to remember the importance of those connections. To the ones who love to connect through craft, the ones who sit quietly and take it all in, and the ones who jump up to volunteer. To the question askers and the question answerers, to the ones who go off on a tangent and the ones who bring us back to the room, and to the one who writes and sketches in her notebook documenting her YAC journey with us, thank you.
Vanessa is YAC Leader for Mersey and Dee and Curator of Regional and Community Archaeology, Museum of Liverpool
Responses from YAC members
Dear YAC leader,
It is wonderful to hear that our love for history helps you remember your love for it as well.
I have been passionate about history for a great portion of my life, from reading books on it when I was younger to going on excavations more recently. It (and archaeology more recently) has always fascinated me, and YAC has given me an output for such a fascination. It gives me a regular source of new information and things for me to research, and other people to talk about it with. I am highly considering going into a history-related field when I am older as well, so I believe that this is a good starting point for it.
I have helped put displays together and been closer to historical artefacts than I ever would have usually been. I have learnt so many interesting facts and skills. I have taken part in excavations. I have done so much amazing and interesting things with YAC, so thank you.
Dear YAC leader,
It is heart warming to know that being a YAC Leader inspires you and keeps your passion for archaeology alive. As a YAC member it’s good to hear that you enjoy being a leader and that it reminds you of the values of archaeology.
Since joining the club I have learned skills such as how to: properly excavate a site; clean artefacts; sort finds; research and study items to find out more about what they were truly meant for; and creating and building a museum display. These skills have made me appreciate the work and effort that goes into museum displays and everything behind the scenes.
Having been up close to historical sites, and working on excavating and studying the artefacts we have found, has brought a deeper meaning to me because the artefacts are items left behind by people who actually lived in those different periods of time. I have always been fascinated by historical buildings and sites but because of my experiences at YAC I have been able to feel even closer than ever to the people of the past.
I hope that my passion for history and archaeology is infectious and that, like you, I can inspire other children, and even adults, to get out and look at historical sites and museums, and to appreciate them as much as I do.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to organise our club and make each session an adventure through time.