VIP Borough – Unearthing Hounslow: Week 1June 25, 2012 Archaeology, Blogs, LAARC, LAARC VIP, Volunteers
The London Archaeological Archive & Research Centre’s award winning Volunteer Inclusion Programme is back…with a twist.
The LAARC has engaged hundreds of volunteers over the past three years, involving a huge array of people working directly with our archaeological collections. Most recently we took up residence at the Museum of London where we celebrated our 10th anniversary with 10 weeks of interactive gallery sessions.
Now, with funding from Arts Council England, we’ve expanded our remit even further to include folks from the outer boroughs of London directly in our volunteer projects. First up its Hounslow and for the next 5 weeks we’ll be based in the Docking Station at 108 Brentford High Street.
With inclusion as the focus of our projects, we’ve recruited a diverse, crack team of local volunteers from the borough. These include prospective students of aeronautical engineering, hardened students of (Egyptian) Archaeology, to former forensic detectives and retired curators of beetles, self-proclaimed nerdy biologists and long-time public servants of Hounslow’s libraries. Although a diverse bunch, what they all have in common – whether they’ve excavated in far corners of the earth, or have never seen an archaeological trowel – is that they all have a passion for learning about their borough’s hidden history.
At the heart of all the Archaeological Archive’s volunteer projects is the curatorial work that volunteers undertake on our collections: improving the storage and documentation of our artefacts to help us facilitate research and the promotion of London’s archaeology. The material we’re working on for this project was excavated in 1977 on Brentford High Street – BRE77 – and normally occupies our Archive’s shelves in a bit of a sorry state. Learning how to repackage and document these finds correctly, the state of this site archive will be vastly improved over the next 5 weeks by volunteers.
Before getting their hands on history this week, our volunteers first learnt about Brentford’s history above ground from former Museum of London curator and director of the West London Archaeological Field Group (WLAFG), Jon Cotton. Jon put our site in context of Brentford’s greater historical picture, especially focusing on Brentford’s importance as a Roman settlement. Brentford was a a major juncture before reaching Londinium, on the Silchester Road…little do the shoppers of Morrisons realise what lies beneath their feet!
Our volunteers have already packaged a large amount of Roman pottery from the road’s ditch and copious sherds of post-medieval pottery from the later levels – associated with the Three Feathers public house that used to exist on the site.
This coming week we’re moving onto the repackaging and recording of clay tobacco pipes from the C18th pipe kiln belonging to William Heath (excavated on the same site) with a specialist guide to identifying these ubiquitous artefacts.