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We continue our, now long-running, ‘Inside the Mind‘ series with a peek into the head of author and historian Craig Weatherhill.

Brief Bio

Craig is an author, historian, novelist, artist, and an authority on the Cornish language. He worked for many years as a planning officer for West Penwith and has undertaken a number of surveys for the Cornwall Archaeology Unit amongst others. He lives near St Just and plays an active part in many activities celebrating the Celtic revival of Cornwall and its people.

Craig

The Ten Questions

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

When I was “discovering” prehistoric monuments on the West Penwith Moors at the age of eight, and finding that my school couldn’t tell me anything about them.  I was the sort of kid who had to know, so I set out to find out.  I never stopped!

How did you get started?

In 1971, the late Vivien Russell produced a catalogue list of known archaeological sites in the Land’s End peninsula (which is stuffed full of them).  I realised that few of these sites had ever been recorded by means of accurate measured and drawn surveys, so I tasked myself with doing that.  I surveyed over 300 sites, from large to small before professional archaeologists were ever appointed in Cornwall to do that.  And they were paid to do what I was doing for nothing.

Who has most influenced your career?

The late Vivien Russell that I’ve mentioned, and the late Peter (P.A.S.) Pool, both outstanding local archaeologists and historians and who became close friends.  I still feel very sad at losing them both in the 1990s.  Peter was also a champion of conservation in West Cornwall, using his legal training to take on the mighty and win.  Also, the work of Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, who I met for the first time recently.  What a thoroughly nice man he is, too!

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

My survey of all (then) known Late Iron Age courtyard house sites, which are confined to the Land’s End peninsula, with a single example on Scilly.  It had been called for in the 1930s and no one had done it.  This sort of work was a spare-time pursuit, so it took me 4 years.  Sadly, it was never published, but a copy can be found in the Cornish Studies Library in Redruth.  It would now need updating and adding to.

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

It sounds rather parochial of me, but it’s the courtyard house settlement of Bosullow Trehyllys, north-east of Chun Castle.  It’s an amazing site, with such an atmosphere of peace which is so hard to find in the modern world.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

Never having been able to make archaeology a professional career.  I couldn’t open doors: no letters after my name, you see.  And I’d upset “English” Heritage.  Several times.  I was the old Penwith Council’s Conservation Officer from 1988-98, in charge of listed buildings and conservation areas, but that wasn’t the same.

If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?

I’d abolish the national quango “English” Heritage which, in Cornwall, has been an ongoing disaster.  It cares only for the “honeypot” sites it manages and for nothing else.  It suspended all new scheduling in West Penwith in 1987, lied about that for years, and has never resumed to this day.  In any case, there’s no call for a financially irresponsible two-tiers of administration in the heritage field.  I would devolve all its responsibilities and funding to existing county and regional heritage agencies, on the grounds that you can’t do better than local knowledge and the deep love and respect for the sites and monuments that results.  I feel exactly the same about the natural environment quango, Natural “England” which, like EH, has caused great damage to local landscapes and habitats in recent years – and to archaeology too.  NE’s activities in West Penwith damaged the scheduled Tregeseal stone circle no less than 13 times in 5 years, with neither of the quangoes appearing to care.

If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?

Exactly the same as I’ve said in my previous answer.

If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?

I’ve gloriously retired a year early from freelance architecture, but I never really had an archaeology/heritage career.  So, I do what I’ve always done:  research and write.

Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?

My favourite relaxations include reading and playing music on a mellotron, that legendary, haunting keyboard instrument from the 60s and 70s, and made famous by bands like the Moody Blues. I finally managed to acquire one 3 years ago after decades of wanting one.  They’re quite rare and difficult to play effectively.  I’ve even played it on three songs recorded by others.  The most rewarding relaxation I have comes from my lifelong love of horses and riding them on the moors and cliffs of West Cornwall.  My current steed, Shogun, is a fabulous guy, a gentle giant who stands at 17.3 hands high and is truly amazing to ride and work with.

We’d like to express our thanks to Craig for being so forthright and passionate with his answers.

Previous articles in this series can be found here, or by using our Search Bar, and the term ‘Inside the Mind’.

If you work in community archaeology or heritage protection and would like to take part, or have a suggestion for a suitable willing subject, please contact us.

Our next ‘victim’ for our ‘Inside the Mind’ series comes courtesy of David Jacques, Senior Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Buckingham’s Humanities Research Institute and Project Director at Blick Mead, near Stonehenge, which is featured in the May/June 2015 issue of British Archaeology magazine..

Brief Bio

David was educated at Middlesex University and Wolfson College, Cambridge. He has been a 6th Form College teacher, and combined that role with working for the Open University between 2001-2013. Since then he has been a Senior Research fellow for the University of Buckingham.

David Jacquesitmp

David’s field of research explores the use of the Stonehenge landscape in the Mesolithic period (8500BC-4000BC). Since 2005 he has been the Project Director of Blick Mead, a nationally siignificant Mesolithic site, about 2 km from Stonehenge. His team has discovered the oldest settlement in the Stonehenge area, the longest continually used Mesolithic site in the United Kingdom, as well as the communities which built the first monuments at Stonehenge. These discoveries have started to contribute to a new understanding of the initial settlement patterns and practices in the Stonehenge landscape, and to a broader understanding of the sense of place, ritual and memory such hunter-gatherer societies had more generally.

As a Fulbright alumnus, David worked extensively to improve the education system of the Republic of Georgia, setting up and running a charity which stimulated an investment of $12 million into the Georgian education system between 2005-08. In 2011, he was chosen as one of two ‘Outstanding’ British Fulbright Teacher Program alumni of the past 60 years by the US Embassy in London.

The Ten Questions

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

I can’t remember when I wasn’t fascinated by objects by the past and their stories. I loved ‘Time team’ and the way they were brave enough to show there were lots of different interpretations. Over the years my interests have broadened and deepened and I feel really privileged to have been able to follow my enthusiasms through into a career in such a fascinating area. It has taken a long time, but it is all so worth it.

How did you get started?

Getting involved on a slave plantation site in America when I was on a teaching scholarship supposedly studying varieties of African American English! After I returned to the UK I applied to do an Archaeology Masters at Cambridge directly as a result and then started to get my hands dirty.

Who has most influenced your career?

Ian Hodder, for the way his ultra close engagement and care when thinking about artefacts from the past has helped establish more detailed ‘biographical’ social histories of individuals and communities. Tom Phillips and Tom Lyons; brilliant field archaeologists, project partners and friends.  Tony Legge’s interest in our bone assemblage at Blick Mead, plus his support of us and what we were trying to do as a team, really helped put the site on the map.

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

Blick Mead. Not only is it exciting to be involved in a potentially paradigm shifting excavation, but it has been great seeing the way the project has engaged people in the town of Amesbury in such a genuinely meaningful way. A museum/History Centre has come out of this interest, I’m told the Amesbury downtown has re-generated partly as a result, and people’s sense of themselves and their town has been lifted. This is most evident when large numbers of people from the town process to the site just before Christmas by torch light. It really shows what archaeology can do. Many of our most knowledgeable volunteers come from the town and long may it remain so!

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

Mule in the Isle of Man. This Neolithic chambered tomb was excavated just after the war by a German prisoner of war. It is located in an absolutely stunning position which overlooks Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. It is also the only point on Man where you can see right across it. This site, like the Isle of Man itself, is a sleeping archaeological giant in the Irish Sea. It was clearly an enormously important, but now largely ‘lost’ place in the British Neolithic.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

1) That archaeology barely took off as a subject at school and is now already on the decline. It could not be more of an important – it should be a national curriculum subject. There are huge benefits for people’s individual and collective sense of identity.

2) That sometimes new ideas can be given a rough time because people don’t like change. The new needs friends. There’s a need for outsiders in most walks of life.

If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?

That full assessments of sites and landscapes (including hydrogeology) always need be done before plans are drawn up. The Stonehenge tunnel policy is a case in point. It is based on a pretty limited assessment of a limited area in that landscape (only the WHS has been assessed) and would have benefited from broader assessment criteria and broader assessment full stop.

If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?

There are enormous public benefits which come from understanding the historic environment we all live and work in and I think the earlier we can get to excite people about it and get them involved the better. Speaking as someone who has been a teacher, I think that archaeology, including hands-on excavation, should be an integral part of the school curriculum. It really is a subject for all – we have disabled people, the young, the old, people from all different walks of life on site at Blick Mead. What we have found is that people find discovering things and being part of a non hierarchical team enabling and empowering (learning about team skills and the different ways that teams can be structured would be another learning opportunity). I am sure that archaeology in school would vitalise children’s enthusiasm for learning in a way that nothing else can match. It is the ultimate mixed ability subject and it suits and empowers different mentalities. We see it on site all the time. It can also connect well with other disciplines.

If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?

I would be working in teaching, or for a charity I should think. I am truly lucky to be working as an archaeological researcher and say that to myself most days!

Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?

I’ve got a lovely 7 year old, who’s stimulating in a way that is ultimately relaxing. I love reading a bit of fiction when I get the time. I can really recommend ‘” target=”_blank”>Skippy Dies’ by Paul Murray, If anyone is looking for something to read at the moment (it is better than it sounds!).

We’d like to express our thanks to David for taking part during what has been a busy few months for him.

Previous articles in this series can be found here, or by using our Search Bar, and the term ‘Inside the Mind’.

If you work in community archaeology or heritage protection and would like to take part, or have a suggestion for a suitable willing subject, please contact us.

After a short hiatus, we’re pleased to be able to continue our ‘Inside the Mind‘ series, with the co-operation of Professor David Breeze OBE, FSA, FRSE, Hon FSA Scot, Hon MIFA.

Brief Bio

David Breeze was educated at Blackpool Grammar School and University College, Durham. After graduating in modern history he carried out research on the junior officers of the Roman army, being awarded his doctorate in 1970. He was formerly Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Scotland and has written books on both the Antonine Wall and Hadrian’s Wall as well as Roman Scotland, Roman frontiers generally and the Roman army. David prepared the bid for World Heritage Site status for the Antonine Wall, which was successfully achieved in 2008. He retired in 2009 but continues to write about Roman frontiers and the Roman army. David is an honorary professor at the universities of Durham, Edinburgh and Newcastle, and is chairman of the International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies, on which subject he presented at the recent Current Archaeology Live! conference in London.

DavidBreeze

The Ten Questions

What sparked your interest in Archaeology/Heritage Protection?

I have always liked history. My longest running research project started when I was 10, which is studying my family tree. So I went to university to read history and happened to have Eric Birley as my first tutor. He sparked an interest in archaeology. After my PhD, I was appointed an inspector of ancient monuments in Scotland and therefore a cultural resource manager, which I found that I enjoyed!

How did you get started?

see above

Who has most influenced your career?

In Durham in the 1960s, each student had a tutor and Eric Birley, Professor of Archaeology and a specialist in the Roman army, was my first tutor. He encouraged me to attend the university excavation and I was hooked. Eric asked Brian Dobson to supervise my undergraduate dissertation and Brian went on to supervise my PhD. I learnt a lot from his approach to archaeology and teaching.

Which has been your most exciting project to date?

I would like to offer two. In 1971, I excavated a complete Roman fortlet, Barburgh Mill in Dumfriesshire, and this became a type site. Then, from 1973 until 1982 I investigated the fort at Bearsden on the Antonine Wall. This has been the largest excavation project on the Antonine Wall since before the second World War, and led to the developer gifting the land on which the bath-house sat to the State and I was able to completely excavate it and lay it out for public inspection. We found the sewage which had drained from the latrine into the fort ditch and this showed what the soldiers ate, and, most interestingly, that the diet was mainly plant based.

What is your favourite British archaeological site… and why?

Hadrian’s Wall! This is marvellous monument, sitting in a wonderful landscape, with centuries of study behind it but at the same time with many secrets to reveal. I have written 5 books and guide-books on the Wall yet I continue to learn more about it year on year.

What is your biggest archaeological/heritage regret?

Missing the opportunity to visit archaeological sites in those parts of the world which are now off limits. This is, of course, a personal regret, but there are wider issues. For a proper understanding of an archaeological site, it is important to visit and seek to appreciate it in its setting: this is now denied to a whole generation of students. Over and above that, we are witnessing the terrible destruction of elements of our world heritage: this is a catastrophe for us all and diminishes us all.

If you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation, what would it be?

One problem with our legislation is that it is still site-based and I should welcome an approach which focused more on the landscape in which these sites sat.

If you were able to address Parliament for 30 seconds on archaeology what would you say?

What is important to all of us is a sense of place. This permeates so much of our life, not only the streets we walk along and the buildings we admire, but our attitudes and prejudices. Our sense of place is deep seated and extends well into the past. There is a reason that the treaty establishing the EU was signed in Rome, but we also want to understand Stonehenge and the people who lived in Skara Brae. This desire to understand where we came from and how we have related to our neighbours in the past is so important to helping us understand our position in the world today.

If your career hadn’t worked out, what would you be doing now?

Teaching in a school (I have 10 teachers in my family).

Away from the ‘day job’, how do you relax?

I have 3 grandchildren who I am lucky enough to see regularly, and I have a project to take each of them abroad – so far my grandson has been to Rome twice and this year my elder granddaughter goes to Paris for the first time. I also have a garden, and I enjoy walking and reading.

We’d like to express our thanks to David for his thoughtful and thought-provoking responses.

Previous articles in this series can be found here, or by using our Search Bar, and the term ‘Inside the Mind’.

If you work in community archaeology or heritage protection and would like to take part, or have a suggestion for a suitable willing subject, please contact us.

conservation.

1. English Heritage (or whatever they’ll be calling themselves this year):
“At Stonehenge we’ll be more of a statutory heritage champion and less of a Tory election agent”.

2 and 3. National Trust:
“At Stonehenge, we’ll do what we say is our mission, not what someone in Whitehall says they’d like us to do”.
“We’ll finally admit that letting people brandalise or sloganise monuments is always a bad idea”.

4 and 5. Portable Antiquities Scheme:
“We’ll simply tell the truth to artefact hunters, farmers and the public”.
“We’ll lobby the Government to make this spiffing update the last.”

6 and 7. Landowners:
Like with sheep and spuds, we’ll let nothing off our farms without us seeing it (and knowing its value).
We’ll keep in mind every archaeological find needs reporting (whatever any non-archaeologist says).”

8. Academics and the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage:
“We’ll finally admit that not telling a landowner about a significant find (and therefore being unable to report it) DOES conform to our definition of “heritage crime” and is just as damaging as nighthawking”.

9. Shropshire Council:
At Oswestry, we’ll  listen to informed opinion and ask ourselves every morning “who benefits from ignoring it?”

10 and 11. Cadw:
1. “We will try to be consistent, unbiased and professional.”
2. “We will try much harder to protect archaeology.”

12. Archaeologists:
“We’ll fret less about community archaeology and more about the community’s archaeology”

Here are the details of the latest teacher training days for teaching prehistory in primary schools from the admirable “Big Heritage”:

big heritage

It’s been a while, but Sue Brooke has once again managed to get a response from one of the prinicpals on the Caerau dig. In a departure from our usual email response format, Sue actually managed to sit down with Niall Sharples for a chat at Caerau. Here’s her report…

Over the last 8 days I’ve been popping up to the CAER Heritage Project excavations. I’ve seen lots of exciting things in the ground, held some beautiful items, learned a lot and generally have thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’ve met Professor Niall Sharples quite a few times before and he has always stopped to chat. I emailed him to ask him to do a little ‘Inside the Mind of…’ article but really had got nowhere fast. Fair enough though, he has been quite busy during the digging season. However, having seen him a few times up on the hill I decided to ask if he would sit and answer my list of 10 questions. ‘Yes, of course, tomorrow’, he would say. Tomorrow would come and I would bump into him just as he was leaving and I was arriving or, just as I was leaving and he was arriving. Still, undeterred I kept my list of questions tightly tucked into my bag. On day 8 I arrived on site and yes, he was there. Unfortunately so were the BBC, following him around with their television cameras. In the distance I could see him being filmed on the edge of a trench, arms waving as he did his press relations thing. Ah well, I thought, not today.

Since this is a community dig that involves lots of visitors there were a group of local young people attending. Some were digging, some were sieving and others were helping to clean the finds. Some young people were making pots out of clay, learning how these were made and the skill that it took. I wandered around the site to see how things had progressed in the trenches and eventually sat to watch some pot making, keeping well out of the way of the telly cameras.

After a while Professor Sharples appeared and asked if I wanted to ask my 10 questions. Oh yes, right! We found a couple of chairs quite near and sat in the sun. I’m not sure how I thought this would work. I had questions, I had paper and a pen (well 3 – just in case) so I just asked the questions and made notes about the answers. We chatted about some things that came up, discussed things I hadn’t thought of and generally made our way through the questions. It was all rather laid back but, for me, very interesting.

NiallSharples

What sparked your interest in archaeology? was the first question on my little list of ten. Well, apparently it was women – ‘there was a better class of women involved in the archaeology course’. Although this was said, kind of tongue in cheek, I got an inkling that there may be just a little grain of truth in that comment! Niall did however go on to talk about how, when he was younger, he had an interest in what he described as the ‘weird mysteries’ to be found in books such as those written by Erich Von Daniken. Inside my head I could hear a nice little sigh of relief. Having spent quite a few days up at the dig I had chatted to the Cardiff University students who gave me the impression that Professor Sharples was ‘fierce’ and that he ‘knew everything.’ So here I am, sat with the fierce guy, in the corner of a Welsh hillfort, who ‘knows everything’. When he mentioned Von Daniken I was delighted as I had read him too. I knew what he was on about! That felt like a good start.

Niall described how he had initially started at Glasgow University studying archaeology, maths and Scottish history. He didn’t actually learn geography but had an interest in it. Niall described how archaeology was a really interesting subject and one that allowed him to combine history and the geography that he enjoyed. He dropped maths after a couple of months. Niall felt that history was something that ‘could actually be open to interpretation and although an academic subject is not actually based on anything scientific’. Archaeology, in his view however, “…has to have an evidential base. Links between research and the actual archaeological evidence is clearer and therefore provides a far better connection to the past”.

So, how did he get properly started as a ‘real’ archaeologist rather than just a class based student? It was after he had gained student experience on the Glasgow University digs led by Leslie Alcock. Niall worked and learned on digs such as that led by Alcock during the later part of the 1970’s at Dundurn in Perthshire. Niall described one of his own early but exciting finds. It became clear as we chatted that Leslie Alcock really stimulated Niall’s original interest in archaeology. We spoke briefly of the digs Alcock had directed locally to Caerau at Dinas Powys and of course, at Cadbury Castle. He also talked about working on digs alongside David Clarke, now of the National Museum of Scotland. Niall found David to be what he described as an ‘interesting guy’ and together they worked on such sites as that at the very well known Neolithic site at Skara Brae. Niall credited Leslie Alcock as ‘probably the person who has most influenced my career’.

Niall has been recently found working on Ham Hill in Somerset so, excluding that site I asked which other site had he thought of as his most interesting project. Niall talked about Bornish, in the Outer Hebrides, a Iron Age and Norse settlement. I was a little surprised at his very obvious enthusiasm for the Vikings but Niall explained that the site there ‘…integrated different categories of evidence. There were structures, ditches, stratification, all giving up lots of chronological evidence and providing a very complicated story’. It is this kind of complication that clearly holds Nialls attention. I got the impression that he would find absolutely no fun at all in going onto a site, digging it and finding archaeology that all fitted nicely into a neat story. A little bit like his ‘weird’ Von Daniken mysteries – there clearly has to be that little bit of an extra challenge, to stretch him just that little bit more.

We talked about what Niall felt was his favourite British site, at which point he threw up quite a few names. Maiden Castle, on which of course Niall famously worked, and Mousa an Iron Age coastal Broch in the Shetlands, which was a site not familiar to me at all. Finally, Avebury a placename recognizable to most. When I asked him to explain why he simply stated that they were ‘spectacular’.

My next question was about what Niall felt was his biggest archaeological or heritage regret. He described his feeling that archaeology had gone downhill. He spoke with passion about the lack of available resources, the way museums were no longer being valued and what he described as the ‘quality of the experts’ available. He accepted that everyone, with experience properly gained, can become an expert but stated that today’s archaeologists are valued more and more for their ‘ability as good administrators’. Archaeology had become privatized and ‘heritage is not now being looked after as it should be’. The opinion now tends to be more that private companies will pay. There is a real sense of over commercialism. Such emphasis was placed by Niall on this subject that I struggled to keep up with writing my notes.

Moving on I asked if you could change one thing about current heritage protection legislation then what would it be. He answered quite simply that “Archaeology should be returned to the care of the government and they should be investing more in their heritage”. My next question was if you could address Parliament for 30 seconds what would you say – referring to his answer from the previous question he stated, and I can quote, “It would be that!”

Grateful that my next question changed the subject I then asked Niall if he hadn’t made it in his archaeology career then what did he think he would be doing now. He gave it a little bit of thought and said he quite fancied being a film producer or director. I commented along the line of this being rather different to what he did now but he disagreed. He made the comparison with the dig up at Caerau saying there were lots of people there to organize and that, at the end of the dig, they were hoping to be able to tell a story. Just like making a film. He quickly pointed out that he had no ambition to be a film star, which I could understand since we were chatting immediately after he had been filmed over and over for a news item.

The questions were almost done. My last question was, away from his day job what did he do to relax. He talked about how he likes to simply watch TV and films. He still likes his mystery books only now preferring crime novels and murder mysteries by authors such as Ian Rankin and Denise Mina. He pointed out though that he does read ‘literature’ too, particularly admiring the work of Gabriel Marquez on South America.

Once the questions were out of the way we chatted a little bit more about the finds up at Caerau and I thanked him for answering the questions for me. As we got up to leave a young person who had been washing some finds came up with a wet pebble. Niall took it from her and said, “Ah yes, that could be a games piece. Although it’s a pebble it’s water worn and shouldn’t be up here. Where did it come from? Was it the river? Was it used to play games with?” The young lady took back her discovery and just stood looking at it. I just loved it!

Many thanks to Niall (and to Sue). Previous articles in this series can be found here or by using our Search Bar, and the term ‘Inside the Mind’.

If you work in community archaeology or heritage protection and would like to take part, or have a suggestion for a suitable willing subject, please contact us.

As July rolls on, it’s time look again at the ‘Festival of Archaeology‘, co-ordinated once again by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA)  running this year from 12th to 27th of July, and preceded by this year’s Day of Archaeology on Friday 11th, where archaeologists from all over the world blog about what they’ve been up to, showing the sheer diversity of activitities in the archaeological world – it’s not just about digging!

DayofArch14

The CBA has been organising an annual UK-wide celebration of archaeology and heritage since 1990. The ‘Festival for British Archaeology’ grew out of ‘National Archaeology Week’ (NAW). Before that, the event took place over one weekend and was called ‘National Archaeology Days’ (NADS).

FofArch14

The Festival includes hundreds of special events individually organised and held by museums, local societies, national and countryside parks, universities, and heritage organisations across the UK. The Festival presents everyone the opportunity to learn about their local heritage, to see archaeology in action, and to get involved, from formal lecture sessions to hands-on archaeology to family fun events.

To this end, the CBA have once again updated their website for the festival, allowing searching for events across the country. The headline suggests over 1000 events are available to chose from, but the actual number from the search results seems to be down on my recollections of previous years. Running an open search on a region by region basis shows a total a little shy of 600 events, so unless the total (‘over 1000′) includes multi-day events such as museum exhibits, there is something wrong once again with the search algorithm.

The region with the biggest number of events is the SouthWest with 109 – no surprise there as I suspect it’s the biggest region – followed by the East Midlands with 73. I could find no results for Northern Ireland or the Isle of Man.

Looking at our main focus here on the Heritage Journal – Prehistory, there are 152 events listed across the country, which is a good percentage compared to previous years!

Once again, the range of events is wide, from talks, walks and excavation visits, through re-enactments, demonstrations and exhibitions to hands-on activities and family fun. So there really is something for everyone to enjoy. Why not take a look at the website and see what’s on in your area?

flintknappinga

As we’ve banged on about before, we’re convinced that the more prehistory is taught in schools the less damage ancient sites are likely to suffer. So we were pleased to read about two initiatives this week:

First there’s this excellent initiative based in Cheshire: Schools History – providing school visits covering KS2 and 3 modules for the Neolithic, Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Medieval periods.

Then in Worcester, (following the The Practitioners forum on the teaching of prehistory which we covered recently, there’s an after school session for teachers  being run by Worcs Archive & Archaeology Museums service “To help support teachers who will be teaching Prehistory as part of the new national Curriculum.” They say :“We know from conversations that many teachers are not sure where to start as they are unfamiliar with the subject. On the 4th June we will be running a session to help, hosted by Worcester City Museum & Art Gallery who currently have an Iron Age exhibition running.”

worcs

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(As you can see, it contains one particular segment that’s absolutely invaluable – well it would be for us anyway …. a “Bluffer’s Guide to British prehistory”! )

recent article in the Oxford Mail about a new Heritage Trail based upon archaeological finds during development of a new housing estate caught our eye. With so much ‘developer-led rescue archaeology’ being undertaken, often with the ‘preservation by record’ caveat attached, it seems to us that such Heritage Trails could be a good idea going forward for many new housing estates across the country. Not only would such trails be educational, sparking the imagination of the people living in those communities, and connecting tehm to the area’s history, but they would be a constant nagging reminder of what has been lost forever (Oswestry, anyone?)

And of course, involvement with sites doesn’t just have to be about information boards. Although written from an Ireland perspective, the Bored of Boards‘ document available for free download from the Heritage Council of Ireland gives many alternative ways of providing interpretation for heritage sites, particularly in an urban environment. One of the alternatives listed in that document we’ve discussed here on the Heritage Journal in the past: the use of QR codes, such as that provided by the iBeaken system.

Many town centres and villages of course already have Heritage Trails set up. One town relatively local to me that has a trail (actually 7 of them!) is Wheathampstead, in Hertfordshire. There is a town centre trail, marked by mini-plaques on historical buildings, with a map and interpretation board outside the church, and a further six trails through the surrounding countryside detailed on their web site, ranging in length from 4-8 miles and covering the Iron Age, through Roman and Saxon times, to relatively recent historical sites. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area!

Wheathampstead Heritage Trail

Wheathampstead Heritage Trail

Further north, the University of York, in partnership with the grand sounding ‘Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP)’ has created a fine Roman Trail as well as other trails in the area (a Viking one is under development) but it would be wonderful from our point of view to see a similar trail somewhere that didn’t rely purely upon historical/preserved buildings but concentrated solely on sites from prehistory, i.e. discovered purely via excavated archaeology rather than above ground remains, which would otherwise be lost forever, and preserved only in a Heritage Environment Record somewhere.

If you know of any such trails, please let us know so that we can highlight them here and spread the word.

So, you’ve done the planning, taken your Go-Bag and had a wonderful time out and about exploring some ancient sites. If you’re anything like me, you take plenty of digital photos when visiting our ancient heritage sites. But what do you do with those images once you get home?

After a trip, a large majority of people will just hand around their camera, tablet or phone and let people view the pictures that way. Some selected pictures may get uploaded to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Most people will download the photos to their PC (often into the ‘My Pictures’ folder on Windows) and look through them that way. Many will take the camera card into a shop and print off selected pictures – the larger supermarkets offer this service these days.

But what if you want to review the pictures a month, six months or a year or more down the line? Could you easily find the relevant batch of photos? Could you identify a shot of e.g. a particular cairn, barrow, megalith or dolmen from all the others? With a little post-trip preparation you can organise the images from your visits, making them simple to identify and review.

Where was that? When did I go there?

Where was that? When did I go there?

First of all, a warning for the unwary: There are a plethora of applications available to organise a digital image library, for Windows, Mac and Linux systems at various pricing levels, which provide facilities for import, renaming, tagging, geotagging and other facilities, including full EXIF data editing. Some of these systems are aimed at the professional end of the market, with pricing and complexity to match. Others are free, but with a hidden ‘price’. I personally like Picasa from Google, but be aware that the licensing means that any images uploaded to their online web libraries will become available for Google’s use as they see fit. See section 11 of the Picasa EULA as an example. Other services such as Flickr have similar terms, so if control of your image content is commercially important to you, be aware of what you’re signing up for!

But assuming you have no immediate need of an online image library or cloud backup services, let’s go through what you can do to get minimally organised.

A portion of my images folder tree. Everything in it's place.

A portion of my images folder tree. Everything in it’s place.

Location – First of all, decide where to keep the photos on your system. If your default ‘My Pictures’ folder is not too untidy already, this is as good a place as any to get started, but be aware that an image library can grow large, particularly if you take lots of pictures over a long period (I personally have digital images going back to 1995, nearly 20 years worth!)

Folders – there are lots of ways to organise the folders for your photos. I tend to a ‘tree’ approach. A folder for each year, then sub folders for each trip I take. The sub folders are named by yymm and dd if necessary, followed by an indicator for the trip – in my case the main county. Multi-day trips may be split by further sub folders for each day, or each site if it’s an image-heavy trip!

Downloading – transfer the photos from your camera/tablet/phone to the PC as soon as you can. There are various ways of achieving this depending upon your device, but one rule of thumb: Once the photos have been transferred, clear them off the device! There’s nothing worse than after the next trip having to sort out which photos belong to which trip, or downloading duplicates. So drop them from the camera once you’re sure they’ve been copied safely.

Image Re-Naming – Most photos are downloaded from the camera with meaningless numeric names – DSCNnnnn, or IMGnnnn or similar nonsense. A handy trick is to multi-select the files you wish to rename (Tile view is useful for identifying simlar photos) and rename them en-masse. Doing this, the files will all have the same name, but with a sequential number appended. A word on naming conventions – I like at all times to have the date that the image was taken in the file name. So for instance, three pictures of Stonehenge taken at midsummer may be named ‘130621 Stonehenge (1)’, ‘130621 Stonehenge (2)’ and ‘130621 Stonehenge (3)’. If you’re working on older images, and aren’t sure where/when they were taken, the EXIF data held within each image will hold clues, and may even have the geotagging information to give you a precise location.

Tidying up – Finally, remove (read DELETE!) any photos that aren’t up to snuff. Out of focus, poor composition, or even just ‘uninteresting’ photos should be removed from your library unless there are *very* good reasons for retaining them. When showing your photos, or organising them into a photo-book as a permanent record to show people, you want them to think kindly of your photographic skills, so dump the rubbish shots!

Backup! – Now you’re organised, the final step is to make sure you have backups of your photos. Whilst cloud-based storage is currently flavour of the month, don’t forget to check the terms and conditions and make sure you’re not giving away any rights to your images that you’re not happy about. Also, be aware that online companies may withdraw services at any time, or change their conditions with very little warning, so make sure you have an offline back too if you go the online route. I like the Western Digital Passport USB drives. They’re small, draw power from the USB lead (so no mains lead needed), come in various capacities and are relatively inexpensive.

I hope this brief guide has been useful. If you have a different strategy for organising your own digital images, let us know in the comments.

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