Museum professional and lapsed buildings archaeologist (York University alumni). Blogger and Social Media enthusiast, currently working in tourism industry (for a well known Oxford destination). Advocate and campaigner of equality in the wider heritage industry, committed Feminist and promoter of understanding the diversity of our profession and our past.

Lover of whisky, player of music, reader of books. Still fascinated by medieval archaeology and architecture.

Twitter: @CathPoucher

Activism, Equality, and Social Media…

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Equality and Diversity Group banner

 

I’m struggling to believe that Day of Archaeology has come around again. This time around I have a confession; I no longer work in Archaeology professionally. I can’t even claim a tangible link as I used to. The closest link I can claim is that I work within the museum/tourism industry – I work in tourism at a heritage site (very loosely). I was really struggling to think of what I could discuss for this year’s Day of Archaeology; certainly nothing in my day job.

Thankfully, I didn’t fully leave archaeology – I’ve “kept a toe” in the industry. In particular I’ve become involved in promoting equality in archaeology and advocating wider diversity within the profession. The CIfA’s 2012-13’s Profiling the Profession showed archaeology was a predominantly white, male orientated discipline. Just over half are male (and most of these hold the more senior positions), 99% are white, and 98% do not consider themselves to have a disability. I’ve always personally viewed archaeology as a traditionally, “left wing, accepting” discipline however recent realisations have shattered my rose-tinted spectacles. I’m committed to making a change; to improve the industry I originally worked in and still love.

 

Archaeology and Twitter…

One method of making a difference is communication; raising awareness that there is a problem and discussing ways we can bring about positive change. Whether you like it or loathe it, social media is seemingly here to stay, and it appears as though isn’t going away. It’s a great way of reaching thousands of people very quickly though regular updates, blogs, and specific social media events using specific hashtags (such as #dayofarch). I’m directly involved with two projects/organisations: the Every DIG Sexism project (based on the Everyday Sexism Project), which aims to highlight sexism in archaeology but also champion good practice. Secondly I’m one of the communications officers for the CIfA’s Equality and Diversity Group. We aim to continually assess barriers to equality and diversity within the profession by researching, supporting, and developing best practice strategies for challenging inequality (particularly areas relating to gender, ethnicity, sexuality and disability).

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Equality and Diversity Group Logo

I don’t know if whoever is reading this has ever had the displeasure of using multiple twitter accounts simultaneously. If you haven’t, it’s really tricky.

SERIOUSLY. TRICKY.

But sometimes a twitter event arrises, you send a couple of tweets, and before you know it, it’s 7pm and you’ve spent the entire day tweeting so much you’ve lost all concept of time, and which account you’re currently using! A recent example of this was #queermuseum Day – which discussed representation of LGBT+ communities in museum collections. After a few minutes into the day, my work station looked something like this:

 

My computer during a Twitter campaign....

My computer during a Twitter campaign….

I’ve never been more thrilled to have multiple screens – you need it when you’re tweeting from so many accounts…!

 

Surely this isn’t archaeology…? 

People still scoff when you say you mainly do archaeology on social media nowadays. After all, archaeology is about the stuff you can see, stuff you touch, stuff that has been dug out of the ground. To me, archaeology is simply; the study of the human past through what is left of material remains. This can come in the form of ceramics, ditches, burials and things traditionally dug out of the ground. It can come in the form of objects that are thousands of years old, that have been newly discovered, that haven’t been touched for centuries. This can also mean things that happened a few moments ago; the sweet wrapper on the floor, the remnants and litter of a protest; the stratigraphy of graffiti on a wall, or the tweets and discussions on social media.

Anything that has been used, touched, or changed by humans, regardless of when this happened, is archaeology. The other, perhaps less abstract idea of social media is that it’s a great communication tool. It’s a great way of reaching people – the #queermuseum hashtag was one of the top trends in the UK, which involved and reached a wide ranging group of people.

So my day in archaeology? This year it was spent on twitter, talking about #QueerMuseums, trying to diversify the heritage industry. It was spent educating people on how diverse our heritage actually is. It was spent trying to improve archaeology as profession. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re on the right path….


For more information on the Equality and Diversity Group:

Visit our website: https://equalityanddiversitygroup.wordpress.com

Visit our Twitter: @CIfA_Equality


For more information on the Every DIG Sexism Project:

Visit our website: https://everydigsexism.wordpress.com

Visit our Twitter: @everyDIGsexism

What archaeologists do when they aren’t at work (AKA more archaeology…)

I have been taking part in the Day of Archaeology for the past two years, since I managed to bag my first full time job in the heritage sector. I remember a few years ago, before this momentous occasion, watching enviously from the side lines wishing that I could join in and be a part of something that combines both my love of archaeology, blogging, and communicating my passion for archaeology to a wider audience. At this tender, naive age however, I did not feel able to join in:  while I was certainly an archaeology graduate I didn’t have an archaeology job yet (despite being heavily involved in numerous volunteer projects, as most recent graduates are). Fast forward a few years, and both my previous #DayOfArch posts have been about my current job – working in a fairly big heritage organisation in their archives, undertaking archival research, processing orders, and delving into vast archive stores on behalf of various clients. Despite being a few years in, despite how busy it can get, and despite how stressful working with the public can sometimes be, I do still enjoy my job.

For the first time on the Day of Archaeology itself, I’m not just doing my ‘paid’ work. I’m actually doing some of the ‘extra-curricular work’, too. And I thought – why not talk about that instead? I desperately wish I had been confident enough to blog on the first Day of Archaeology I saw all those years ago about the volunteer work I was doing prior to finally getting a paid job in heritage. For me, archaeology/heritage is one of those industries where we rely on volunteers. They are an integral and vital part of our community, and even those among us who are “proper” archaeologists still admittedly volunteer much of our spare time away (to the amazement of some friends in more “sensible” jobs who are amazed at how much time and expertise us archaeologists, on average, give away for free). Without volunteers we would not be able to function; many museums and heritage sites would close and many projects, like the Day of Archaeology itself, would not exist without both professional archaeologists and keen amateurs alike investing spare time to keep this (in my opinion, vital) industry afloat. So I guess my Day of Archaeology blog is a plea to all the volunteers – You may not be getting paid, but you are just as important, if not more so, and therefore have just as much right to post on this blog as anyone else! So get writing….

Okay, so what have I being doing today? Well this morning started off relatively normal – I spent the morning working at my paid job in the archive – wrapping up research enquiries, completing orders for customers, and finishing off any outstanding paperwork because I’m heading to Yorkshire tonight for my week off. The last few months have been a bit stressful, and have put even my fairly organised mind to the test, so a week of lying in, seeing the family, and having a spa day is just what the doctor ordered. There is something really nice about clearing a desk and setting an out of office on your emails for a week, isn’t there?! No matter how much you love your job!

 

Cath in archive

Me in the archive (cold store) at work…

 

The afternoon and evening (excluding manic packing and catching buses and trains) involves the other side of my archaeology life – the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA). I attended the CIfA conference in Cardiff in April (I wrote a blog about the session on my website) and while I was panicking about a session I was chairing in my capacity/involvement as secretary of the Buildings Archeology Group, I also decided to attend the Glass Ceilings session ran by Paul Belford and Hilary Orange. This session promised from the outset to get my feelings all in a frenzy, as feminism and equality and diversity in archaeology is something I’m deeply passionate about. Needless to say I wasn’t disappointed, and on the back of this session two new projects arose – the hopeful CIfA Equality and Diversity Special Interest Group (E & D SIG), and the Twitter project based on Everyday Sexism (by Laura Bates), ‘#EveryDIGSexism’. This is a Twitter feed and eventual website. Needless to say, I threw myself in and offered to be involved with them both.

At the time of writing, the hopeful E & D SIG had submitted its proposal for ratification so we could (fingers crossed) be a proper, functioning, affiliated group and start really making a difference. Until confirmation of our official group status was received, we were temporarily calling ourselves the ‘E & D network’ and were already planning big things; working out short term and long term aims, writing to other societies and organisations/societies to discuss gender inequality and planning conference sessions and AGM’s. So my afternoon is being spent compiling together a wide range of comments, to create one amazing conference session. The session itself is currently in the “submission for approval” stage, and is already looking really exciting and may be something we can take forward and use for other events we are planning, regardless of whether the session is accepted or not.

The rest of my time is, unsurprisingly for those who know me, being spent juggling multiple social media platforms for multiple organisations I’m involved with – all in a voluntary capacity (of course), and all archaeology based (except my personal account). One Twitter feed that was really hectic only the other evening was the other project I’ve mentioned – the Every DIG Sexism project. This project is still in its infancy, and has yet to take off in the way the founder and others such as myself who are also involved envisage, purely due to how busy we all are. The main use at the moment is Twitter, where we call out sexism in archaeology and heritage using the #EveryDIGSexism hashtag. This has already become one of those hashtags where you get far too many emotive feelings for all the wrong reasons, get despondent and angry at some comments and examples that are sent in, but it also inspires you to do even more to try and change the industry you care about. A quick trawl of the submissions we have received in the infancy of the project, before we have even scratched the surface of what we could do is heartbreaking and eye opening. We are also trying to also focus on the positives, by raising awareness of, and championing good practice in archaeology through the hashtag #ArchSwan, based on the Athena Swan Scheme. This brings a warm, fuzzy glow to an otherwise bleak and depressive Twitter feed. A perfect example of this was Wednesday evening, where the EveryDIGSexism account tweeted this:

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What followed for an entire evening (and into the next day) was a heartwarming, and truly amazing display of camaraderie, respect, and appreciation between the archaeology women of Twitter:

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So many tweets came in, so many suggestions were made that I struggled to keep up with tweeting from the two accounts (my personal account and the @EveryDIGSexism account). Eventually I had to turn my notifications off, purely so I could get to sleep! I genuinely wasn’t expecting such great feedback – and the tweets are still going on as I’m tying this on Friday! I think this has definitely inspired me to get cracking with the website, and kicking the project off big style. So all I can say is;

’watch this space, folks. Times are a changing…’

 

 

 

NOTE: 

All comments and opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author and do not represent any organisations (either professional roles or voluntary roles) mentioned in this post. 

Probing, Plans, and Palaces – Archaeology in Archival Research

Last year was the first time I took part in Day of Archaeology. I was three weeks into my new position at English Heritage. Although I hadn’t fully learned the ins and outs of what I was going to be doing, I was so excited to have managed to not only to bag a job within the historic environment sector, but with English Heritage! Fast-forward a year and my enthusiasm still hasn’t waived – I still love doing research, learning new things about the history of England, and vastly improving my knowledge of the Geography of Great Britain. Furthermore, I still feel immensely pleased with myself for managing to not only get a job in the field I studied, but a one I enjoy doing.

I still however, get told that it “must be a shame not to do a job in what you studied – but at least you got such a good job…” much to my annoyance. So here I am, one year on, doing Day of Archaeology to tell everyone what I do, and convince them that while I may not get muddy, survey buildings, or go out in the field, my role is just as relevant in archaeology.

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Figure 1: In the archival holdings (© English Heritage)

I work in the archive, and undertake research for the public and am the first point of contact. Our archive holds information on historic buildings and archaeological sites throughout England. We have over 12 million items in our special archival facility in Swindon, ranging from architectural, aerial and archaeological photographic collections to our historic plans and measured drawings.

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Figure 2: One of the many aerial photographs in the archive – Wharram Percy (© English Heritage)

My day starts like any other day in an office – checking and responding to emails, turning on the phones for the morning (as we deal with members of the public), and getting our public search room ready for visitors. A big part of my day is undertaking research of our archival holdings for a range of clients, ranging members of the public or heritage professionals to people from the media. Whether searching for someone’s house, searching for plans of a particular English Heritage property, or searching for vast cathedrals or public buildings, one day is always different from another.

Today for example, I am looking for photographs of the Palace of Westminster. These are the type of enquiries I enjoy, as we tend to have quite a lot of material and as a result is something I can get my teeth into. I also love looking at sites like this because of the large collection of 19th century photographs we hold in the archive. I love looking at old photographs, as they are like snapshots frozen in time. So much history has been lost, and to have so much of it captured in a single picture never ceases to amaze me. As we continue to make a photographic record of the historic environment, I enjoy looking at the record of the past as well as capturing new ones because we can learn so much.

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Figure 3: One of the reasons I love historical photographs – Palace of Westminster c.1885 (Reproduced by Permission of English Heritage).

My day in archaeology does not end at simply researching in my position at English Heritage – I am also Secretary for the Institute for Archaeology’s Buildings Archaeology Group, which I volunteered for to keep up my knowledge of Buildings Archaeology (which is what I studied for my postgraduate). During my tea and lunch breaks, and on my daily commute I spend my time tweeting from the BAG twitter feed and organising the committee. Usually I am organising the meetings by typing minutes or agendas, but today I am helping to coordinate training events and our session for the next IfA conference. I am also trawling the internet for buildings archaeology in the news, ready for our upcoming newsletter.

So this is my day in archaeology; probably not as muddy as others, but equally fascinating and I’m looking forward to many more to come…

 

(Note: the words, thoughts, and opinions expressed here are entirely my own and do not represent any organizations mentioned in this post.)

Research in Archaeology – A Day in the Archives

This time last year I was finishing writing up my postgraduate degree thesis whilst panicking amongst books, AutoCAD and copious amounts of tea. As I procrastinated on twitter (after doing lots of work, of course) I avidly followed last years Day of Archaeology, wondering to myself if I’d be in a position to post anything for the next event.

Fast forward a year and here I am telling you all my day in archaeology. I’m Cath Poucher and I’ve just started my new job as Archives Services Officer for English Heritage in their archives:

http://www.englishheritagearchives.org.uk/

This job is perfect for me as it combines my love of research, archaeology and working with the public. Although I’m very new (I only started this month) I am thoroughly enjoying it and am learning something new every day, and this for me is the most important part of any career or volunteer project. My daily life does not directly involve working in a “traditional” archaeological setting; I do not excavate or deal with physical remains on a daily basis. Nevertheless, I assist both heritage professionals and members of the public alike to carry out a variety of projects by helping them to undertake documentary research, and this is a very important part of archaeology.

My day started with the usual morning check of emails and answering requests from previous enquiries I have already carried out and undertaken. A big part of my day involves carrying out research of our archival holdings on behalf of the public, whether on their house or searching for plans of a particular English Heritage property. This means that I often have to search and handle a variety of archives ranging from measured drawings and 18th and 19th century building sales catalogues to photographs. These photographs can range in date from present day to the 19th century.

Today was no different to this; I have been completing research about small listed houses in Gloucestershire and searching plans and elevations of Osbourne House, Isle of Wight and Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire. Each day is different in that I never know what I am going be doing one day to the next, and this is what makes me so passionate about what I do. In the afternoon, I contacted customers and sent out the information I had found, and answered queries about our archives. I’m still learning my job but am enjoying every minute- especially learning about different areas of England I didn’t know anything about. At the end of the day I organised visits to the archive for customers and started new enquiries, ordering some archives from our cold store. Much of our holdings is fragile and is stored in climate controlled conditions and has to be acclimatised to room temperature before it can be viewed. As this takes 24 hours, ordering in advance is essential.

So this is my day in archaeology; probably not as muddy as others, but equally fascinating and I’m looking forward to many more…

(Note: the words, thoughts, and opinions expressed here are entirely my own.)