Children from a local Hackney school joined professional archaeologists in digging up an east London park. © 24 Hour Museum.
Lords, MPs and schoolchildren were on their knees digging in hot pursuit of the not so distant past at one of east London’s parks on July 5 2005.
A community archaeological dig organised by the Museum of London is taking place at Shoreditch Park in Hackney until July 24 and anyone who wants to get involved, can.
Keen diggers can help a team of archaeologists expose the buried stories of a terrace of Georgian houses bombed during the Second World War, covered in pre-fab housing and flattened again when the park was built in the 1980s.
As well as coinciding with National Archaeology Week (July 16-24), the excavation is also timed to help build interest in the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII.
Among the finds already coming out of the ground are bottles and pigeon bones. © 24 Hour Museum.
Project Manager Faye Simpson told the 24 Hour Museum that the idea behind the dig was "to get the community involved in their local heritage," and help those who take part to "understand the Second World War on a more practical level, not just through the history books."
Children from Woodbury Down Community Primary School, Hackney were joined at the dig by Lord Redesdale, secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group, and local MP Meg Hiller.
For Lord Redesdale, this kind of community excavation very much represents the future of archaeology: "What is actually important in archaeology today is access," he told the 24 Hour Museum.
"For it to be put forward and funded and to have a future, it’s got to meet the commitments of the government by allowing everybody to get involved," he added.
Lord Redesdale, himself an archaeologists, gave the children some tips. © 24 Hour Museum.
The dig is being run with the support of the London Archaeological Archive and Resource Centre (LAARC) just across the road from the park where finds coming out of the ground are washed and processed.
Among the items already found are pigeon bones, bottles, nails and, much to the pleasure of one enthusiastic young archaeologist, a very old looking electrical plug socket. If you touch it, it will shoot out electricity from the Second World War, he reliably informed the 24 Hour Museum.
All of the finds will be recorded, conserved and then archived for use later in the planning of forthcoming new galleries at the Museum of London.
While some are expected to date as far back as the medieval period, most artefacts will be from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Finds processing at the London Archaeological Archive and Resource Centre. © 24 Hour Museum.
Faye Simpson explained that a focus on the more recent past makes the project is particularly unusual as 19th and 20th century archaeology, she said, is a layer of the past "we tend to go straight through."
The project has been funded by the Big Lottery Fund and supported by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, Shoreditch Trust and Hackney Council.