A project to improve the health and wellbeing of local York residents through archaeology has found continued success following its win at the 2022 Museums + Heritage Awards.

Earlier this year, York Archaeology, the commercial archaeological services arm of the York Archaeological Trust, took home the Community Engagement Programme of the Year award for its ongoing project, ‘Archaeology on Prescription’.

The project sees participants work alongside archaeologists, with a bid to improve health and well-being while learning new archaeological skills.

Local residents, particularly those who live or have lived in York’s city centre area, are encouraged to get involved with the creation of a detailed picture of life in the city from the mediaeval period to the modern day.

York Archaeology works with clients to offer archaeological services to the commercial sector, including support with pre-planning consultancy, full site investigations, reporting and conservation.
The project is run from Willow House, a former care home owned by City of York Council.

Future use of the site is under review as part of a wider redevelopment plan. While this takes place, York Archaeology has been offered the site for the Archaeology on Prescription project to excavate this site just a few metres away from the city walls.

The first pilot of the programme was run for nine weeks in Autumn 2021.

Dr. Ashley Fisher, Communications and Marketing Assistant at York Archaeology, said since the award win in May 2022, the project has had a very successful year.

“Following on from our win at the Museums + Heritage awards, we’ve been able to engage 60 individuals with a range of low to moderate mental health conditions, many of whom have additional access and support needs, including learning difficulties and mobility requirements.

“Ten participants have been directly referred to our project from NHS link workers, with the rest coming from our local project partners, plus a small number who have self-referred through the Walmgate community. It’s been particularly pleasing to have several people return as self-referred participants once their attendance through the partner organisations has come to an end.

Dr. Fisher continues: “Most excitingly, we were able to provide full bursaries for eleven AoP participants to further their experience by joining our training excavation during the Autumn programme!”

The project is set to continue with the launch of its Winter Programme of post-excavation and creative workshops. Next spring, the project will return to Willow House to welcome a new cohort of participants to continue their exploration of the mediaeval and post-medieval landscape of the local Walmgate area.

Judges at the 2022 Museums + Heritage Awards said they were “impressed by this simple, strong, confident concept, one which is not limited in ambition or scope. Intelligent thinking lies behind the long-term, strategic approach to the design of this impressive programme. It is both impactful and scalable and is actively changing lives.”

The 2023 Museums + Heritage Awards are now open! For full details on how to apply, visit the Museums + Heritage Awards website.

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