Social History

With Social History projects we aim to enhance understanding of the lived experiences of all members of both past and present societies.

Using archaeological investigation in combination with community engagement, oral histories as well as a range of research methods, York Archaeology’s activities have generated a considerable resource for social history research. Below you can find information on;

Waterproof Memories

Coppergate Memories

Finding the Future

The People’s Museum

Landscapes of Remembrance

Dig York Stadium

Waterproof Memories

On the 8th April 2017, the JORVIK Viking Centre reopened its doors after 15 months of closure. Like many homes and businesses in York, the Centre had been badly hit by the floods of December 2015, some of the worst in living memory. Waterproof Memories is an oral history project from 2017 that grew out of our experience. We recorded our own memories of flooding, plus the stories of our local community.

Funding from Two Ridings Community Foundation allowed us to create a tool kit, Protecting Precious Memories, to help you prepare for possible future flooding events and reduce the risk of losing your precious objects. The tool kit uses the knowledge we use in our museums and Conservation Lab to care for precious objects from the past and ensure they survive into the future.

Coppergate Memories

Coppergate Memories is an oral history project carried out in 2017-18 to record the stories of people involved in the Coppergate Dig of 1976-81. The dig was visited by more than 500,000 people, changing public perceptions of archaeology and leading to the creation of the JORVIK Viking Centre. Coppergate Memories captured the recollections of many of the leading figures involved. 

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Alan Stockdale

Amateur excavator of Coppergate 1976-79

Dave Start

Digger at Coppergate in the 1980's

Margret Nieke

Digger at Coppergate 1977 and 1980.

Ebor Probus

A 'reminiscence session' recorded with some members of the group.

Roger White

Digger at Coppergate 1979

Chris Mason

Editorial Executive for Borodin Communications 1977-1980

Peter Addyman Part 1

Coppergate Memories with Peter Addyman

Peter Addyman Part 2

Coppergate Memories with Peter Addyman

Finding the Future

Between 2015 and 2017, grants from Arts Council England’s Museums Resilience programme funded two years of projects to develop York Archaeology’s access and research strategy for its collections. Finding the Future produced original research on a range of topics, from prehistory to the present

The People's Museum

In 1000 years from now; what items from our own lives will be in the museums of the future?

The People’s Museum is an exciting new joint project between York Archaeological Trust and The University of York exploring the story of York through the objects of its residents past and present. 

The individual items in our museum collections often tell us a fascinating story of the people who used them and the lives they lived. What then are the objects from our own lives today that may be in a museum of the future and what might they tell its visitors about our lives 1000 years from now?

Following our 2022 summer roadshow, The People’s Museum will open online later this year. Showcasing objects from our own collections alongside those from residents’ lives today, it will also offer an opportunity for individuals to submit their own digitally captured collections.  

To find out more or sign-up to our Volunteer and Placement mailing list to be the first to hear about how you can get involved. 

‘More information coming soon’

Landscapes of Remembrance

This project gave us a chance to discover how we commemorate the casualties of World War One in our landscapes. We are all aware of memorials found in churches and other public spaces such as schools, squares or cemeteries. Once a year we remember the fallen in November and sometimes stop for a moment to look at their names.

As they have become part of our history and the landscape, some people have carefully recorded those commemorated and where to find them. We set out to record our memorials of those who died in World War One from the perspective of archaeologists.

Archaeologists look at where buildings or monuments are placed in the landscape around us. They also look at finds, large and small, reading meanings from the style and decoration on something. We wanted to look at:

  • Where is the monument located? Is it in a church or a cemetery? Is it near the road? Which way is it looking? Where can it be viewed from? Or even has it been moved over the years?
  • What decoration can we see on the monument? Is it a cross? Does it have interesting things carved into it? Is it in a particular style (e.g. Celtic Cross or Art Nouveau)?

We also tried find out how people decided on the memorial location and style. To do this we looked for documents in the local archives. For example, any monument in a church will have had to have special permission; we could look up the minutes of the committees that granted permission.

This gave us a chance to tell the story of our memorials. During this process we made a film revealing the discoveries that our project made. It also got to the heart of what these memorials mean to us today.

Dig York Stadium

In 2002, aerial photographs taken by English Heritage as they flew over Huntington Moor suggested that there laid the remains of two ancient camps. Following this discovery, an excavation carried out by York Archaeological Trust in 2003 unveiled the location of one of these camps close to the site of where the Monks Cross shopping area is now located. The discovery confirmed English Heritage’s aerial photography.

In November 2014 before work on York’s new Community Stadium commenced there was an opportunity to see what else could be discovered.