C o m m o n w e a l t h
A s s o c i a t i o n o f
M u s e u m s
CAM Bulletin Number 5 - Dec. 1998
Junior Archaeology: An Approach to Museum Education
JUNIOR ARCHAEOLOGY was initiated in 1986 with the designation of September as Education Month by the Ministry of Education. The Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, felt that an effort could be made to disseminate knowledge of ancient Guyana that had been accumulating through its work since it had been founded in 1979 under that Ministry. This knowledge now covered a period of 11,000 years.
A brochure on the earliest sedentary populations of around 7000 years ago was designed for primary schools: Can You Imagine Guyana 7000 Years Ago? There are more than 400 Primary Schools in Guyana, and a strategy was required for effective distribution of this brochure as it seemed desirable to avoid injecting it unsolicited into the school curriculum. A selective experiment in outreach was undertaken in January 1987.
The heads of nine city schools were invited to each select 10 eight-year-olds with the potential to benefit from such a program. Three schools responded. In each case, the children were brought to the museum by the respective class teacher. This introduction ended the formal relationship with the school. The strategy then shifted to the home. Parents were notified by letter of the child's selection as a member of JUNIOR ARCHAEOLOGY, and their cooperation was sought in the matter of maintaining the child's interest by conversation, care of the educational materials in the home, and encouraging museum visits out of school hours. Each member of JUNIOR ARCHAEOLOGY was then sent an attractively designed colour pouch Ancient Peoples and Places for storing printed materials on the subject over the years.
Five additional brochures were subsequently published - Early Settlers in Savanna and Forest, Guyanese Hunters and Gatherers, Hosororo and the First Farmers, Joanna and the Mound Builders of the Corentyne, and Agriculturists in Ancient Guyana. Members were invited to the Museum by personal letter as each brochure became available. A slide show, discussions and a relevant museum display accompanied each new brochure. Newsletters covering museum activities and new discoveries in the field were sent annually. In 1990, members visited their first village of native Americans, St Cuthberts on the Mahaica River, where they interacted with the local children.
Museum records monitored the child's activities. These records were an index of the child's spontaneous behaviours in respect of the subject, for example, visits to the museum, introduction of parents and friends, letters, telephone calls, et cetera. At the same time, these records provide a data base for forward planning. As the uniqueness of the program lay in its purely voluntary basis, re-registration each year proved informative since it automatically selected out individuals of waning enthusiasm. Emphasis on the scientific nature of the group is maintained in the name JUNIOR ARCHAEOLOGY, and students and their parents are discouraged from referring to it as a club, and from viewing field trips as outings.
In 1991, surviving members of the original group, now over 11 years old, had entered secondary school and were therefore designated senior members of JUNIOR ARCHAEOLOGY. Their program was modified accordingly that year and they were taken on a three-day archaeological exercise to Yamora Village, a ceramic site on the Mahaica River. In 1992 they did a comparative study of the Arawak language on three rivers - The Pomeroon, Mahaica and Demarara, and in 1993 they traveled to the Pomeroon River to meet the Arawak Lexicographer, John Peter Bennett, compiler of An Arawak - English Dictionary and to experience the heritage month celebrations there. The group also served as docents in the national exhibition of Native American historic artifacts held at the Walter Roth Museum for Heritage month. Each member submits a report on these activities. These reports are circulated to parents and the Department of Culture. Senior members are responsible for induction of Freshman Juniors. Each senior chooses the subject of a particular brochure for presentation to juniors. On their own initiative, the seniors together design and set up a display of museum artifacts and a pictorial panel for the instruction of juniors.
In 1994, in collaboration with the work study unit of the Ministry of Education, seniors participated in cataloguing museum collections, answering correspondence from regional members and conducting research on the evolution of man for an essay on the topic. This included viewing films, reading the relevant literature, and a visit to the new Museum of African Art and Ethnology. An anthropological cadetship at the University of Guyana has been approved for one of these seniors.
With the visit to the museum of 21 regional teachers, the program was extended to the regions in 1988. There are now over 100 Regional Members of JUNIOR ARCHAEOLOGY in regions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9. These corresponding members send artifacts that they happen upon in their village or on their farms according to standard guidelines. Published specifically for the regional members, The Prehistoric Warao of Guyana and The Prehistoric Arawak of Guyana are the first in a series of publications designed to create a sense of pride amongst our indigenous children in the contribution made by their ancestors to Guyanese Society and to enhance their now militant sense of their unique identity.
The National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) in 1997 requested that copies of the above publications be made available to all schools through the Book Distribution Unit of the Ministry of Education. NCERD felt that these publications were of "immense educational value to our children".
In 1996, a workshop was held at the Rupununi Weavers Society Museum, Lethem, for members from Massara Village who spent three days at Lethem participating in activities relating to the science of anthropology with particular emphasis on archaeology and museology. This workshop culminated with a village project in which the children did research, wrote about, and illustrated their village Massara. This material is to be published by the Walter Roth Museum.
Gerard Pereira, who has just completed the CAM Distance Learning Course, is the Curator, Rupununi Weavers Society Museum, and now responsible for the expansion of JUNIOR ARCHAEOLOGY in regions 7, 8 and 9. Pereira has already held similar workshops with other villages and membership increased during 1998 by fifty per cent. Jennifer Wishart, Anthropological Officer, Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology. (Jenny is Director of the Junior Archaeology Programme)