Case Study 1: An Archaeological Research Framework for Bute

An Archaeological Research Framework for Bute

Paul RJ Duffy (Brandanii Archaeology and Heritage)

The Discover Bute Landscape Partnership Scheme (DBLPS) was a £2.8 million project which ran between 2008 and 2012. It was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and a partnership of nine other organisations. The project set out to inform and engage people about the landscapes of Bute and attracted over 10000 attendee/volunteer days. At its peak 18 full-time equivalent jobs were sustained locally and over 90% of the project funding was spent on Bute.

Bute has a distinguished history of archaeological exploration, and, from its earliest inception, developing this tradition was a central theme of the DBLPS. Central to this was a c £200,000 Archaeological Research Project (ARP), which sought to undertake three key tasks – to audit current knowledge about Bute; to enhance that audit through targeted project funding; and to excite people about the rich archaeology and history associated with the island.

In total over 130 separate opportunities were created for people (Figure 2 and 3) to get involved in the ARP which delivered several important outcomes including fully revised and enhanced records of known sites (Geddes and Hale 2010; ACFA 2011, 2012), museum holdings and documentary sources; a new place name study (Markus 2012); a new historic woodlands study (Quelch 2012); collections of wider academic research (Ritchie 2011); a new palaeoenvironmental chronology; interventions at over 25 archaeological sites; a new radiocarbon dating framework; an enhanced local and national profile; and an ever-increasing group of enthusiastic local volunteers.

Figure 2: DBLPS Participants © Paul RJ Duffy

One key output was a research framework to guide future archaeological work. In considering how best to achieve this it became clear that any hyperlocal consideration of Bute’s archaeology had to both embed the new national questions being posed by the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) and also capture the co-produced character of the knowledge generated under the DBLPS umbrella: by knowledgeable locals and visitors, salaried and volunteer archaeologists, national bodies and local societies, farmers, academics, land managers, school children and students alike.

Two publications were therefore produced. The monograph ‘One Island, Many Voices: Bute, Archaeology and the Discover Bute Landscape Partnership Scheme’ (Duffy 2012) offered a new chronological review of the island archaeology by leading academics engaged with ScARF, and incorporated new findings from the project. Importantly, these key chapters were interspersed with contributions from some of the many local enthusiasts, students and volunteers who had also been involved in the project.

The second was a booklet, ‘An Archaeological Research Framework for Bute’ (Duffy 2012), which aimed to create a co-produced research framework which offered directions for archaeological research on Bute at all levels of engagement. This work reordered the academic questions posed within the monograph into six key community themes, identified during a series of public events, consultative workshops, fieldwork and questionnaires over two years. It cross cut traditional period specialisms to consider some of the wider narratives identified as interesting and important by participants: Power and Prestige; Religion and Burial; Agriculture and Farming; Natural Resource Use; Landscapes and Living; and Being Brandane (Bute identity).

 

Figure 3: Just some of the DBLPS Participants © Paul RJ Duffy

The Archaeological Research Framework for Bute  continues to guide local community explorations, such as ongoing exploration of the farming heritage of the island and work on the Early Historic character of Bute. It underpins research and practical learning for University of Glasgow students though annual fieldtrips and has helped develop new links with other UK institutions through the AHRC Connected Communities Programme, most notably with the University of Leeds. Perhaps most importantly, it continues to reinforce interest in the island heritage, with a recent questionnaire revealing c 70% of local respondents remain directly engaged with heritage on Bute.