As an island nation, England's coastal heritage is central to its history. We’re working with an award-winning initiative, the Coastal and InterTidal Zone Archaeological Network (CITiZAN), to help record evidence of once-crucial coastal industries such as fishing, oyster farming or sea-salt production, practices that date back to the first inhabitants of Britain.
Our grant to CITiZAN is helping enrich its award-winning public engagement programme with the rich resources of our Heritage and Education Centre (HEC), to reach and inform new audiences about the UK’s precious coastal environment. This is also helping to widen the reach of the HEC and bring it to new audiences.
“This project allows CITiZAN to reach thousands of people in the UK and beyond who really care about our unique coastal historic environment. The grant from the Foundation has strengthened our ability to inform and engage people with the coast that surrounds us and empower coastal communities to talk about coastal and climate changes,” said Caroline Barrie-Smith, Head of Audience Engagement at the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA).
CITiZAN is a MOLA project. It’s using ‘citizen science’ (using public participation and collaboration in scientific research to increase scientific knowledge) and public outreach to increase knowledge of and harness public interest in the recording and monitoring of coastal environments.
CITiZAN brings people together to become informed advocates for the coastline, under threat from the damaging impacts of coastal change, climate change, rising sea levels, extreme storms and relentless erosion. Since it began in 2015, it has created strong, collaborative networks of local communities and professionals around England and implemented a national standard for recording England’s threatened coastal heritage.
It’s one of the largest citizen science archaeology projects in the UK with a huge volunteer and supporter network across England. The work of CITiZAN has enabled hundreds of people across England to increase their skills, take part in recording and monitoring their coastal local heritage, and forge lasting friendships with like-minded individuals.
CITiZAN focuses on the many significant archaeological sites exposed around England’s sinuous coast, foreshores and tidal estuaries. Our grant means CITiZAN is now using its exciting range of public engagement activities to promote the rich resources available in the HEC.
These include ‘Low Tide Trails’, a project that guides thousands of walkers along sections of the England Coastal Path via ArchGIS StoryMaps and the CITiZAN app, that has now been enriched by its team of volunteer ‘Armchair Archaeologists’ using the HEC collections as a knowledge-base.
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, CITiZAN has adapted this programme to firstly be delivered online, in a series of virtual Twitter trails accessible via social media and then as a self-guided walk on StoryMaps via its website.
“In spite of the restrictions to our work in relation to Covid-19 containment, we have adapted to develop a busy programme, including the Low Tide Trails and other public engagement activities, although in a more digital format to than initially envisaged,” says Caroline.
CITiZAN provides a rich library of resources which equips people to become coastal archaeologists, adding to the bank of knowledge about the coast, its history, and environment and its coastal changes. These include ‘how to guides’ giving step by step guidance on how to add to CITiZAN’s interactive coastal map, register as a surveyor and add updates. Also freely available to amateur archaeologists and explorers are:
- Recording forms which enable the user to record specific sites or features in more detail. These include timber and non-timber vessels as well as prehistoric footprints
- Research frameworks - including regional and thematic archaeological research frameworks, shoreline management plans and Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Surveys
- Research and Planning Links - links to online resources for researching and planning. Users are also invited to publish their own research on CITiZAN’s Coastal Map.
To date (June 2021) CITiZAN has had 3,315 people sign up to their app to be citizen science surveyors and CITiZAN sees newly identified sites or monitored site information coming through from these volunteers on an almost weekly basis. CITiZAN is bringing the HEC’s resources to audiences we’ve never reached before, including the voluntary sector, coastal landholders and managers, environmentalists, universities, statutory bodies and diverse local communities around the English coast and further afield.
Within these groups, CITiZAN is raising awareness of maritime heritage threatened by coastal erosion, and encouraging new avenues of research into the results of our fieldwork using HEC resources.