With newly awarded funding from Arts Council England, the Museums’ Archaeological Archive has stormed ahead with its programme of ‘opening-up’ our collections of London’s archaeology. So far this year the Archive team have engaged over 21,500 people directly with our artefacts, either in the Archive, at the Museum, or outs and abouts in the London metropolis. After a manic summer of archaeological events, we thought it was time for a quick catch up!
Collections Manager Glynn updates us on our first ‘outer borough’ project:
Our first new project, made possible with ACE funding, allowed us to transport our highly successful volunteer project from the Archive and take up residence in a London borough, taking local archaeology back to its source of excavation. Our first lucky borough was Hounslow. Over 5 weeks a diverse team of volunteers were trained in handling, sorting, documenting, identifying and repacking archaeological collections, excavated from the local area (Brentford High Street), albeit it some time ago (1977).
The culmination of this project was for our volunteer team to share what they had learnt with the greater community. In partnership with Gunnersbury Park Museum, our volunteers engaged with over 450 people as part of the Festival of British Archaeology!
Our team performed amazingly, and the museum staff were mightily impressed at the their ability to engage the public and their level of knowledge.
Collections Manager Lucy updates us on our new VIP ‘mini’ projects, designed to engage the Archive with new audiences:
The first of our ‘mini’ Volunteer Inclusion Projects launched this summer at the archaeological archive. They build on the success of our ten week VIP projects but allow us to work with groups of people from organisations for whom the format of our current programme is a potential barrier.
The three groups we’ve had the pleasure of working with have all contributed to the design of the project content too.
For some, the aim was to get through as much material as possible. Our volunteers from the National Autistic Society re-packed a phenomenal number of boxes of pottery and building material from a major site called GPO75.
For others, it was all about seeing as wide a range of objects as possible. They really got into exploring assemblages of animal bone, including comparing and contrasting with our human skeleton model.
Our final group from St Mungo’s is still in progress. They’re considering making creative responses to the archaeology using digital photographs – pictures of the results to follow…
Working with these groups has made for a varied and exciting summer. The response from volunteers has been great and we’re looking forward to further developing different ‘miniature’ projects that ‘open up’ our collections in new ways.
Archive Learning Manager Kath blasts us with figures about this year’s community excavation at Syon Park in west London:
After meeting over 300 children, almost 240 adults, finding 90 bags of finds, recording over 60 new archaeological contexts…
… recruiting 23 volunteers, 11 members of staff, after 10 months of planning, on-site for 6 weeks, with 4 portaloos and 3 portakabins and one final open day…
… we found Sir Richard Wynn’s house just in time!*
*The cellar floor and wall of the post medieval house was, in true archaeological fashion, found in the last few days of the excavation!
But the work doesn’t end there. Bob, our expert MOLA archaeologist is busy checking all of the paper records to write the archaeological report. We have sorted, bagged, labelled and boxed the majority of the finds, which have now made their way back to the LAARC for storage and access.
The group of finds we are most excited about is the building material (from the cellar and from the rubble layers); we are waiting for a specialist to look through the collection of brick, plaster, mortar and tile to confirm the connection between the material and that lovely image of Little Syon.
So hopefully more news to follow later this year – keep your eyes peeled! But until then, a huge thank you to everyone that has been part of the project so far, from the staff at Syon Park to all those who participated or who visited us!
So what’s next for LAARC?
Lastly, Collections Manager Adam gives us a tantalising taster of what’s in store for the Archive:
Well, for starters we’ll be returning to the Archive for a 10 week project that will revert to our classic format of involving volunteers, working on collections to improve the way they’re stored and accessed. Our projects always let us rediscover forgotten beauties that lie within our boxes and we’ll be highlighting the best of these each week on the blog.
We’re also thoroughly pleased to announce we’ll be working once more with volunteers from the University of the 3rd Age.
This will be the sixth consecutive year that they’ll be joining us for a shared learning project and the focus this time will be to train the guys up with both collections care knowledge and skills in public engagement. Come November, our septet will be based in the galleries at the Museum of London sharing archaeology with visitors!
Looking forward to 2013, we’ll be on the road again heading to two more outer boroughs of London. Similar to the excellent work that took place in Hounslow this summer, we’re intending to once again inspire communities to engage with their local heritage.
In the meantime, from August onwards, you and your family can become archaeological detectives at the Archive yourselves.
Keep track with all our activities, here on the blog or via Twitter #LAARC