This video was created by University of Bristol students.
Plus, thanks to BAJR for gifting us with a cake fund to thank the community participants!
This video was created by University of Bristol students.
Plus, thanks to BAJR for gifting us with a cake fund to thank the community participants!
Over two weeks, the town of Berkeley was transformed into a museum where the community became temporary curators of their own past. The Town Museum project proved to be an effective way to bring archaeology into community life at Berkeley. The community were pleased to be so actively included within our research efforts and applauded the project vocally. Local businesses also saw the project and associated media coverage as a means to promote their business and support the local economy. The community also improved their knowledge of history, archaeology of their local area, and artefact analysis.
All stakeholders benefited from the project. Berkeley Castle were delighted to be able to share their history within the community, so as to enhance community relations, which is a priority for them. They also welcomed the possibility of increased publicity of their heritage site.The research efforts of the Department were showcased to great effect in a public venue.
Students developed an extensive range of transferable engagement-related skills, from communication to time management, and also enjoyed the experience. They valued the trust placed in them to lead the project and invested much personal time. Likewise, the community valued the trust given to them to become temporary curators of the artefacts.
The project outcomes and impacts are sustainable as they directly relate to the ongoing engagement efforts tied to the BCP. The BCP will continue for years to come, and students have a three year track record of electing to volunteer their own time to the Engagement Team efforts that sit alongside this, setting a precedent that is likely to continue. Talks are in place to identify funding streams to support her coordinator post for future years.Outcomes and impacts were publically shared via the BCP social media channels the University even covered the story in a press release: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2015/may/town-museum-project.html. Interest poured in from multiple directions online, and the Museums Association and Culture 24 also got in contact to cover the project.
The project serves as an adaptable example of good engagement practice that can be shared widely across the University and the wider HE sector, including subject areas beyond archaeology (e.g. Engineering, Geography).
Contact: Aisling Tierney email@example.com
On the first day of the season, Bristol students went door to door around the town of Berkeley to post dig-related information through letterboxes, including information to email regarding the Town Museum project. We received some responses, but it was only when our students went door-to-door around the community and chatted with people that we achieved a larger response. After just one day, twenty locals signed up formally to the project. The community responded enthusiastically to the opportunity and were eager to get involved. They loved the idea of becoming temporary curators of their own past, hosting artefacts and archaeological information in their windows. And it’s not just private residences that are getting into the project – a range of businesses have signed up too!
For me, it is also about trust. The community trusting that we have the best intentions to work with them and that we actively want to include them. The University trusting our students to work with our principle heritage stakeholder, Berkeley Castle. The academics trusting the students to produce a good exhibition. And us trusting the community to take care of the artefacts. Community is built on trust and we want to foster a sense of community and genuine collaboration. As an academic institution, we have an obligation to share and communicate our research with the public – what better way to than to place them at the centre of it, physically!
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” ― Stephen R. Covey
In preparation for the project, students on the engagement team have individually number labelled each find that will go on display, over 250 finds in total!The labelling process is time consuming but ensures that finds won’t get lost or incorrectly re-catalogued. Students are placing finds in small collections on coloured pieces of paper in normal finds trays (essentially garden supply seed trays). The collections showcase the variation within the archaeological assemblage over multiple periods of occupation at Berkeley. Students are also designing information sheets that will be displayed alongside the finds.
Second-year student Alice says:
“The project is a good idea. If we are trying to get the actual community involved then introducing them to artefacts is the best way to do it. For me, it’s been an interesting look into the artefacts that we’ve taken from Berkeley and having to categorise bones and such, I get to practice my identification skills. Putting them together in a way that can be displayed in an aesthetically pleasing way is a little challenging. Plus, getting the experience of co-designing an exhibition gives me really useful museum skills.”
Another second- year, Rebecca, is the mini-project student leader for this work and says:
“It’s showing me how much variety there is in archaeology and how much archaeology and anthropology intersect. In terms of skills, I feel way more confident handling artefacts and a lot more comfortable with archaeology as a process. Also organisation skills, having a goal and sticking to it no matter what!”
All stakeholders take something positive away from the experience. In a teaching respect, this type of skills building and improved confidence is crucial for our students. Berkeley Castle facilitate better community relations and share their history. And the University gets to take its research knowledge into a public and highly accessible setting. The community who host the displays get the chance to be keepers of history and share artefact handling sessions, while those not directly involved get to walk around the town and benefit from the displays. An ambiance of archaeology is created alongside the excavation at the castle.
As I write, the project is underway and we plan to bring the completed trays to the community next week. We’ll photograph and number the trays for our records before they go to each house. The participants will also sign a short agreement with us to take care of the objects.
This project could be a really great model for other University excavations, or even longer term commercial work – so keep checking back for more updates as we go!
Contact: Aisling Tierney firstname.lastname@example.org
The Berkeley Castle Project (BCP) began in 2005 and set out to excavate and explore the archaeology of Berkeley Town, Gloucestershire.The annual excavations are tied to the formal curriculum. Within the BCP sits the “Engagement Team”, which students can elect to join, and which I manage in parallel to excavations. Engagement is fundamentally embedded within research, and teaching and learning efforts of the Department. Over the past three years, engagement efforts have placed students at the heart of community and public engagement, through free tours, artefact handling sessions, social media, etc.Students take their knowledge of archaeological research and hands-on fieldwork experience at Berkeley Castle, combined with their classroom learning, and transform it into a tangible engagement output. This is an excellent example of research-led teaching taken into engagement activity. The Town Museum Project is one of the many ‘mini projects’ co-run by students.
The Town Museum project
The aims of the project were:
The objectives were:
Regarding the stakeholders:
Students are drawn from all levels, including first, second, and third year, and masters students. This provides an excellent opportunity for students to learn from each others, regardless of academic level. Of great importance is the chance for students at all levels to develop practical real-world skills.
Contact: Aisling Tierney email@example.com
One of our students used specialist skills to develop a 3D model of one of the excavated buildings!
Engagement embedded within teaching
The main aim of my visit to Bristol Wood Recycling Project was to talk to people about archaeology. Specifically, what I wanted to do was to find out why people were making use of the BWRP and what they were doing with the materials they left with. I’ve always found that these simple conversations lead into discussion of wider issues. Archaeology is good at working on different scales at the same time, looking both at objects and at the wider-world systems they are part of. So are regular people.
The person I spoke to most was Kaleb, in charge on the day I visited. I’ll come back to my conversation with him on Friday.
What I noticed really clearly about the place is that a very large proportion of the custom came from young couples. BWRP is obviously playing a part in people kitting out their first homes, itself a really important thing. I didn’t talk to any of them though, I focussed on the people who looked like they knew what they were doing, I wouldn’t want to put off anyone unsure of their DIY needs and skills!
The first person I chatted to was with Kaleb when I arrived. He was doing something fairly straightforward, taking a piece of plywood to turn into a tool shelf for the back of his van. A small job, for sure, but a small example of the interdependence of projects of this kind and independent businesses. One of the main attractions is that it’s cheaper of course, but the person in question was also keen to support the BWRP and its wider aims (see yesterday).
The next person I chatted to was Ben, who I found taking wooden pallets apart.
Ben is a long-term customer of BWRP and used local reclamation yards as well before they closed. I chatted to Ben about the kinds of things he has made with wood from the BWRP (see below), of which there are quite a lot. He told me that he has always worked from a philosophy of fixing rather than replacing things, more for practical reasons than because of any green philosophy. In one sense, what we can see in these regular, very practically-minded regular customers is one of the ways in which people work hard to inhabit individually the world as constrained by politics, economics and more. Yet Ben was also clearly aware of the environmental and social issues at the heart of the BWRPs aims – and the fact that people can do something about them – so he is certainly an important part of enacting that wider network. Here are some of the things he’s made (thanks for the photos and permission to post them, Ben).
Shortly before I left, I talked with Sarah, who I overheard saying she was looking for wood for an art project. It turned out that a friend was being very productive in some DIY that day so she had decided to join in and make a table. She had come to the BWRP having seen it when walking past walking dogs. Her plan was to get an old cupboard door and fill the recessed centre with pebbles and resin. Discussing the archaeological take on BWRP, we moved onto a discussion about precarity in the city, Sarah being a post-doc researcher in a university department where she works in a room full of other researchers all on two-month contracts. I wonder whether the BWRP is also useful as a kind of therapy for people who need to do something practical to take their minds off wider issues.
So, these are some of the people of the BWRP, people who took time out of their DIY Saturdays to let me stand and talk about archaeology with them for a bit. I’m grateful to all of them for letting me disturb them.
I’ll draw out a bit more of what this all means for public archaeology (and urban archaeology in general) on Friday.
Each of these Public Archaeology 2015 projects includes some kind of engagement away from the blog site. Being interested in material networks and what they can tell you about the city, I wanted to go and talk about archaeology with some of the people making one of these networks happen. As you might have seen from yesterday’s post, there are lots of examples of the ends of these networks, bits of street furniture appearing in different contexts for instance. It’s actually quite hard to get at what happens in between. With the street furniture examples, many councils have central depots holding benches, lampposts, flag stones and so on that have been taken from one place for whatever reason and are waiting to be relocated (or sold…). It’s really hard to find these places! It’s understandable that they’re a bit hush-hush, their contents are really valuable. So, with street furniture, I only have ends and no middle. Then I read about Bristol Wood Recycling Project.
BWRP has been around since 2003 in premises given by the council for peppercorn rent. Click here for the full story. In one sense, what they do is very simple; salvage wood and recycle it for secondary use. It is more complicated than that in reality. Like any of the many similar projects around the country (and the world), they have a number of core aims. These, as listed on their website, are:
What makes this a site of public archaeology? Bristol Wood Recycling Project facilitates the movement of a particular material, not just in local re-use contexts, but in relation to national networks of waste disposal, so it’s invaluable for learning about how that particular material moves around. It’s also consciously socially-engaged, working with volunteers, providing a service for local people, and doing so while remaining not-for-profit.
It’s not quite a site for working with people to learn about the past, but it is a site for working with them using archaeological methodology to understand the present and the future. To be honest, in these contexts, it’s me doing most of the learning, but it’s always a conversation. I’ve done enough work in this area now to be able to provide the ‘big picture’ and to be able to explain how a project like BWRP fits into the wider world. However, I need to talk to people to understand the details of how individuals fit in and what the impact is of this kind of project on people’s lives.
The Bristol Wood Recycling Project is important in itself, but also an incredibly important kind of thing. It is a kind of thing that shows us more clearly than elsewhere, a particular intersection of people, the environment, the city and politics, and understanding its rhythms is, I argue, key to understanding Bristol.
I spent five hours with them earlier in the month, having a long conversation with Kaleb, the man who was in charge on the day I visited. It was quite a punctuated conversation as it was a very busy day. In the gaps, I had a good look around the yard myself and chatted to a few customers, generally the ones who looked like they knew what they were doing. Over the next three days, I want to develop the public archaeology of projects like Bristol Wood Recycling Project. Firstly, I’ll tell you about the people I met and what they were doing with wood. Then, I’ll throw a bit of my own archaeology in with a post on what I could tell about the place from going and looking at it. Lastly, I’ll come back to my chat with Kaleb and conclude with some thoughts on how my time with BWRP helped me develop some ideas around the ‘public archaeology of the future’.
Hope you find it interesting. As we go, please do chip in with any similar projects you know, or have used, or volunteered for.
As I have said in previous posts, when I have mentioned to people that I’m doing a project on eBay – however small and experimental – the usual response has been a smirk and a shake of the head. It’s clear to me that eBay is seen as a problem, or at least as something not worth engaging with, but I have struggled to pin people down on exactly what kind of problem it is and why. Two main potential problems spring to mind.
The ethical minefield
Perhaps the obvious problem, the one that turns archaeologists off straight away, is that eBay contains a lot of metal-detecting finds. It also, potentially, contains objects acquired in even more problematic circumstances than that. There is much written on this and I don’t need to go into details myself here. Paul Barford for instance has written extensively on the subject on his blog Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues and has even written specifically on eBay. Also of interest is Kurt Montgomery’s work on the influence of the internet on militaria collecting, which highlights many of the same issues, among much more.
It is a real problem. It is a problem that means valuable information is lost to analysis and to databases like the PAS. It is also a problem that created and now sustains the particular monetary values attached to archaeological material and therefore needs to be addressed.
As my unsuccessful attempt to speak to eBay sellers shows, there’s also a problem with the forum itself. It is, of course, understandable that people using eBay to quickly and easily sell a few things don’t want to talk about what they’re doing. It becomes even more likely when those people are selling metal-detecting finds and it’s an archaeologist asking them about it. Understandable, but a bit of a shame. It’s partly the silence from eBay sellers and from eBay itself that makes it look like the problem it does.
Is thinking eBay is a problem a barrier?
There are real problems with eBay, but what is the difference between the forum being problematic and those problems becoming a barrier to engagement? My admittedly small sample data scrape of six artefact types suggests that when it comes to the objects that would usually be considered to have higher monetary values and to hold more ‘archaeological data’, eBay contains only minuscule amounts compared to, in this instance, the PAS. Is it then more the idea that eBay sellers are disregarding others’ desire for the information their objects would provide or the notion of monetizing historic artefacts that is the problem? That must be part of it, but how many sellers are aware of these problems? We don’t know because it’s really hard to talk to them. It’s almost a Catch-22.
My proposed solution to this issue is to stop approaching eBay as an insurmountable problem. When we take a start point that eBay is bad and that its sellers are bad and that its defining characteristic is the loss of archaeological material, we create a barrier that it is really hard to see past. I know that is a real problem. I know that eBay don’t help themselves by refusing to engage. However, if we take a different start point – of eBay as a group of people interested in historic objects who we don’t currently talk to, but who we could learn new things from if we could engage them in some way – the onus would then be on us to try harder, to move past or lay aside our reasons for negativity and to keep trying.
EBay and eBay sellers are just another hard-to-reach group. There is huge scope for the aims and methods of public and community archaeology to change the relationship between them and the wider discipline.
So… I’m interested in the potential for eBay to be of use to public archaeology research as a database of objects that can give some level of access to information about how people relate to objects. There are also the sellers themselves. What I wanted to do with this mini-project, after a bit of a play with the data I collected, was speak to eBay sellers about their use of eBay. I’m not directly interested in the issue of ‘illicit antiquities’ this month, largely because it is a well-covered topic and also partly because I think that debate can be a bit of a barrier. I’ll post on the subject this week. What I am more interested in for PA2015 is how much people know about where the things they are selling came from, whether they’re interested in knowing more about where they go and how active they are.
It was my first intention to send a survey link out to all of the sellers whose data I had collected back in November, but I decided against sending about 750 unsolicited emails through eBay. Instead, I wrote to two sellers for each of my artefact types asking if I could send them a survey link. I had four replies. Three of them said no. One said yes, but didn’t go on to complete the survey. So, precisely zero public engagement.
I was not hoping to collect statistics with this exercise, at least not after I gave up on the mass mailing. What I hoped to do was engage a couple of regular eBay sellers who I could work with to understand better how people relate to objects within the eBay context and to become (eventually)’ eBay archaeologists’, using their normal eBay interactions to develop and spread knowledge about the people-object networks created and enacted by the forum.
Although this failed for PA2015, it is not an end. I’m hopeful of still being able to speak to some eBay sellers at some point and I think the idea of eBay archaeologists is interesting and useful. Also, the kind of archaeology going into the idea is, as far as I am aware, quite unusual for public archaeology contexts.
What I would like in response to this post is to hear other stories of public archaeology ‘failures’. It’s not something we hear about enough and a few other people I have been chatting too have been very interested in the subject. Please add comments below and gather them together into a post at some point this month.
After a month of collaborative mapping a new map of Orkney has been created. By thinking big, Map Orkney Month seems to have captured people’s imagination. Our map looks like Orkney, however it is far removed from the Ordnance Survey and the tourist trail of Neolithic World Heritage Sites, brochs and bird watching. Our map is an unfamiliar Orkney, revealed through the experience and creativity of its inhabitants.
Mapping was undertaken on all the main permanently inhabited islands in the archipelago, and on most days during March, often with multiple contributions per day. All the main modes of transport were included: plane, ferry, rowing boat, bus, car, push bike and walking. The imaginary and psycho-archaeological contributions from within Orkney following the journeys of photographer Gunnie Moberg, and Elsewhere including East London, Bergen – Norway, and Wei Ha Wei – China, added another level, blurring the distinctions between past and present, real and imaginary.
Despite what many initially thought, however, it was not necessarily about covering ground, charting large areas or recording what we already know. The emphasis (from my point of view at any rate) was on everyday journeys, less familiar places, stories and creating heritage sites through enacting or choreographing the project. The only loose instructions were to record journeys for a single day within March using a handheld GPS or smart phone, and record one site of significance.
Participants took this how they wished (I did not ask them what they were planning nor dictate the outcome), with some recording part of the day or a short walk, some recording numerous sites, and others keen to show the highlights of and map their island. Some took recording everyday journeys literally and stuck to their normal routine, others chose a day that they knew something different was happening, and some undertook choreographed mini-projects. Media included GPS, smart phones, tablets, text, photos, sound and video. The diversity of contributions is bound by a collective creativity and thoughtfulness which has naturally gravitated towards what could be termed Creative Archaeology. In terms of archaeological theory, MoM is about exploring an archaeology of surface survey (as opposed to the usual trope of excavation and the depth metaphor), archaeologies in and of the present (Harrison 2010) and the idea that Contemporary Archaeology has the potential to find new forms of practice (Dixon 2009). Moreover, it exposes the idea that, ultimately, archaeology is about the telling of stories (Sarah May pers comm). In the context of Public Archaeology 2015, this was achieved through collaboration and multi-vocal mapping – a county wide archaeological walkover survey – with the ‘public’ taking the lead (a public that also includes archaeologists).
For me, the most powerful experience of the project was giving away the control; posting out the technical equipment and basic know-how, not asking what participants were planning, and waiting for the results to be posted back and emailed. The results from this brand of public archaeology were experimental and unexpected. Many thanks to all of the participants, without whom there would have been no project, to the Pier Arts Centre and Grooves Records for hosting the two weekend workshops and to James Dixon for creating Public Archaeology 2015.
The intention is still to produce an A3 leaflet with the new map detailing journeys, sites and photographs. These could be coded and the sites listed with coordinates on the back. Although slightly abstract, the leaflet will provide the potential, and perhaps inspiration, for people to go and find some of these places. Originally, I wanted to complete this within the month, but this was not possible as MoM became rather epic. I plan to work on this in the next few weeks. I’m also going to get feedback from participants about their experience, how they found the idea of mapping with a GPS, what they learnt and why they mapped where they did. One participant has already said ‘you are changing the way people think about space, which is really hard to do, and really good’. Much to reflect upon.
Lastly, I did make a small contribution on the first day, but thought I’d leave it until last…
Dan Lee: Stromness – Kirkwall 01/03/15
In the spirit of Public Archaeology 2015, which encompasses 12 month long projects throughout the UK, I wanted my contribution to somehow connect Orkney with other places and reflect this wider collaboration and engagement. As such, after travelling by car from Stromness to Kirkwall, a journey which I do every day, and going swimming with my daughter, we drove to the top of Wideford Hill. This very windy 225m summit hosts numerous telecommunication masts and dishes which connect Orkney with the wider world.
Also, I knew there was a topograph – a metal plate showing the relative distances to other places – erected there by the Kirkwall Rotary Club in 1968. A juxtaposition of places compressed into a single monument:
Duncansby Head 24m
In recording this site, I wanted to link together these places (and people) across the UK and Orkney physically and electronically, using satellites circulating in Mid Earth Orbit via my small GPS receiver. Later in the evening, I went for a walk up Brinkie’s Brae, a small granite hill behind Stromness with clear views to the north, to try and see the aurora (nearly 50% probability according to SpaceWeather.com), and caught a faint glimpse of green in the northern sky, linking MoM (spatially and materially) with other northern latitudes and electromagnetic storms from the sun catching the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
The Land of the Summer People (2014- ongoing) is an art-science research collaboration between the artist Seila Fernández Arconada and Prof Thorsten Wagener of the Water and Environmental Engineering Research group at the University of Bristol, UK
Project blog for Dan Lee and Antonia Thomas
The Archaeological Eye
Our collaboration wishes to construct an active approach to ruins in non-urban environments. Over the winter, spring, summer and fall 2015, we will focus our attention on a serie of wartime architectural remains in the surroundings of London, in the Thames estuary and along the East coast of Britain. Access, function and the traces of human activity, are central to our project. Lia Wei is an art historian and archaeologist, focusing on epigraphy and rock-cut architecture. She was brought to academic research through the practice of calligraphy, landscape painting and seal carving in China. Rupert Griffiths is a cultural geographer whose work focuses upon marginal urban landscapes. He came to geography through a background in architecture and as a practicing artist, creating trajectories between built form, materiality, landscape and identity.
Public Archaeology and Heritage
Posts about theatre for young children and outdoor creativity for all ages
News on the best uses of Heritage for social and organisational change
illicit antiquities trading in economic crisis, organised crime and political violence