Can archaeology make you happy?
Two streams of measurement exist to the value of our work. One is the personal development side, how people grow as a result of participating in one of our projects. The other is 'well-being', which, amongst many factors, is affected by one's happiness. We are planning, when we can afford it, to invite an independent academic organisation to evaluate our work. In the meantime, we have to believe in what we see first-hand, what is reported to us both in terms of emotion but also life-changes by participants, and research that has been collected within similar areas.
One of our ambassadors, Dr Faye Sayer, has kindly sent us a copy of an article that was published in Arts and Health, An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice. The article comprises detailed research carried out by Faye which allows us to better understand what role archaeology projects have in enhancing well-being. The article is a clickable PDF which can be opened via our website.
Without ruining your reading experience, the evidence is mounting that it is too simplistic to say, "Archaeology projects increase well-being and happiness", major contributing factors to community archaeology's ability to positively support happiness include participant input and project design.
Again, by incorporating personal development activities within a heritage setting, our aim is to offer participants a springboard into lives that are happier and more productive, but essentially any change is down to them.
Nicholas Harrison (Founder of Soldier On!) adds, "What we do reminds me of a childhood television programme, Mr Benn. An archaeology project is like the shop, full of promise, potential, and choices. The shopkeeper provides the suggestion that profound change can occur, (The personal development intervention), and he leads Mr Benn into the changing room. It is here that the real magic occurs. Armed with the tools and techniques, provided by the shopkeeper, it is Mr Benn who independently and consciously engages in putting on the costume, one that reflects an altered persona with new morals, values and abilities, and from this catalyst for change, Mr Benn steps out into a new world."