Know Your Place? Evaluating the Therapeutic Benefits of Engagement with Historic Landscapes

Cath Neal

Increasing importance has been ascribed to the role of landscape in public health research and to the environmental factors, which contribute to enhanced quality of life. In reviewing the ways that community archaeology projects are evaluated, and in summarising current practice, we observe that the evidence produced is often anecdotal. However, it is possible to increase robust therapeutic evaluation in ways that might be expected from other disciplinary perspectives and to draw on recent work in the role of the arts in health. This paper highlights that many of those currently engaged in community archaeology are self-selecting, and represent only a small subset of society. The narrow scope of engagement is borne out by Heritage Lottery Fund-commissioned research which found that, whilst volunteering has a significant positive impact on participants, they tend to be white, well-educated and live in the most affluent areas. If historic environment practitioners are to claim therapeutic benefits from their work, then the issue of inequity of access to health benefits is a significant concern for the profession. It is not just a matter of social justice but a concern for the arts and humanities sector, which is currently required to justify its public value [Bate, J. (2011). Public value of the humanities. London: Bloomsbury Academic].

Source: Abstract