The University of Manchester's Field Archaeology Centre is to continue its successful 'Dig Manchester' project, which gives local communities the opportunity to sample archaeology in their own area, after receiving £500,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
'Dig Manchester' began with an excavation of Moston Old Hall, and brought together the University, the city, the local community, schools and businesses in an exemplary partnership, as well as a local 'champion' in the form of Councillor Paul Murphy. Robina McNeil, director of the Greater Manchester Archaeology Unit commented: "The idea was to involve the local community from school children to senior citizens in a local dig, to not only uncover some history, but to bring about a sense of community and pride.
"The results were far more positive than we could have imagined. Businesses gave goods in kind, like lunches for people on the dig, tools and electronic equipment to download images. The whole community became involved in the dig and archaeological inquiry was seen to be particularly beneficial. Moreover a sense of community pride emerged that was perhaps not there before. In fact, the crime rate for the area dropped by 45% whilst the dig was underway! Membership of the Moston & District Archaeology & Social History Group soared, so we hope that what Manchester does today, the world will follow tomorrow".
The scheme has been so successful that the HLF has funded a three-year programme, which will involve similar projects in Northenden and Wythenshawe, as well as Moston, with all sites identified for their archaeological, education and regeneration potential. The HLF award will fund three new posts, all based at the University, which will enable the continuation of the project across Manchester. Their role will be to get as many local people and schools involved as possible and encourage them to learn about their local history via the digs.
Commenting on the award, HLF's regional manager Tony Jones said, "This is a fantastic project which will allow hundreds of people to try their hand at something new and unusual. We're committed to funding projects that every community can take pride in and learn about their local heritage. In this case, learning about history has never been such fun!"
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