Volunteers’ engagement with carved stones is longstanding and frequently carried out by local community groups, although several individuals have also made significant contributions (e.g. Betty Willsher). Much of this engagement has typically been ‘bottom up’ in character (e.g. family history societies across Scotland; Buried tombstones: Case Study 35) but over the last 20 years heritage professionals have designed and co-ordinated projects either focussing on carved stones (e.g. Rock-art recording: Case Study 29, Carved Stones Advisor Project; Perthshire Historic Churchyards) or embracing them as part of a wider heritage remit (Scotland’s Rural Past). Increasingly such initiatives seek to foster engagement between local communities and professionals that leads to co-production and co-curation of resources (e.g. Archaeology Scotland’s Adopt-a-Monument project; ACCORD). Through such collaboration, there has been an increase in the reciprocities of knowledge exchange and understanding between local communities and professionals (e.g. Community co-production: Case Study 6). Volunteers have been involved in a variety of work including the discovery of stones, their recording, compilation of datasets (e.g. SAFHS Graveyard Inventory), stewardship, interpretation, presentation and research through conferences and publishing (PAS). Volunteer engagement has included the natural environment and citizen-science style projects as well as built-heritage projects.
Relatively little evaluation has been carried out to understand the issues involved and the potential legacy of volunteer engagement. There is a need to create a series of rich case studies to evidence social and cultural impacts and specific areas of engagement. For example, how does harnessing community values affect stewardship? Or how does volunteering shape perceptions of the different values of carved stones to modern communities? How do we replicate success in other areas (e.g. Orkney Heritage)? How might different beneficiaries perceive a particular project activity? Through research, we can help to improve learning from previous projects.