The Young Archaeologists' Club (YAC) is a UK-wide organisation for young people up to the age of seventeen who have, or want to develop, an interest in archaeology and the heritage sector at large. YAC is part of the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) who administer and support the network of local YAC Branches run by volunteer leaders from all walks of life. The Belfast YAC Branch is one of two Branches of the Young Archaeologists' Club in Northern Ireland- the other is run by staff at Down County Museum, Downpatrick, Co. Down.
The Belfast branch is currently run by a group of staff and post-graduate students from the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen's University. The venue for the branch meetings is the state-of-the art Archaeology and Palaeoecology building, where resources and varied expertise can be drawn upon. The branch has flourished since it was set up in June 2006 by archaeologists from Queen’s and a wide range of activities have been enjoyed in the five years of the club's existence. With over 60 members on the books the club meets monthly with an average turnout of 30 children per meeting. Children from eight years of age and up to the age of seventeen regularly attend and many interested parents also choose to stay for the sessions. There is also the opportunity for those over the age of 16 years to become official club Helpers and then go on to become Young Leaders.
The hands-on sessions have covered subjects such as pottery making, flint knapping, comets and myths, and the study of animal bones from archaeological sites. We have also been out and about the country and had fieldtrips to the Giant’s Ring, Co. Antrim, Friar’s Bush Graveyard in Belfast, Navan Fort, Co. Armagh, and Carrickfergus and Dunluce Castles, Co. Antrim. The club has an action-packed schedule lined up for 2012. Click here for more details.
Volunteering with YAC
The growing interest in the Young Archaeologists' Club and the fact that people are prepared to travel long distances to attend further highlights the strong desire for young people to learn about their past. We are very proud of the fact that two of the Belfast Branch members have won prizes for their archaeological endeavours. Alan Ferguson was Highly Commended for the Blair Mayne Trail that he devised as part of the 2007 UK-wide Young Archaeologist of the Year competition. Jack Kelly won a prize for his drawing of Carrickfergus Castle as part of the European Heritage Open Days Initiative coordinated by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. These successes are a real testament to the genuine interest that many young people in Northern Ireland have for archaeology and their heritage. It would be fantastic if others working within the heritage sector, or simpy with an enthusiasm for the past, within the province were willing to step forward as new YAC leaders. Volunteering with YAC is great fun and brings many benefits, it is an opportunity for archaeologists, historians and others with an interest in the past to share their knowledge and to help local communities discover their heritage. We would be interested to hear from other groups throughout Ireland carrying out similar activities for children and young people. If you would be interested in volunteering with YAC please do get in touch and we can explain more about our branch and the YAC volunteer application process. Alternatively you can visit the main YAC website for more details (see www.yac-uk.org/leaders/apply). All volunteers are asked to complete an Access Northern Ireland Disclosure check for which there is no charge. If you would be interested in establishing a new YAC Branch please contact YAC HQ in York via firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss possibilities.