More Companies, More Changes

(Chris Webster – President and PI at DIGTECH, Co-Founder of Field Tech Designs, LLC, and host of the CRM Archaeology Podcast)

First, a big thanks again to the organizers of this event! It’s a lot to put on something like this. Go and buy something from their store to support this for many years to come!

Welcome to my fourth Day of Archaeology post! Hard to believe this has been going on for four years now. Every year, so far, I’ve been at a different stage in my life. Nothing stays the same around here, ever! Here are my last posts: 1st year here and here, 2nd Year, and 3rd Year.

Logo - No Back 900x400Last Year

When I wrote my 2013 Day of Archaeology post my new CRM company was just seven months old. I had done a few projects, but, I was mostly focused on the arduous task of business development (BD). I’ve never been good at BD. It seems that no one actually teaches you how to do it. So, I never really learned the ins and outs. I do have some networking skills, which helps, but that’s not all BD is about.

This Year

I’ve got a few more contracts down, but, I seem to have put the CRM side of DIGTECH on the back burner. That’s not to say I would turn down a contract if I were approached, I just don’t have time to go seek them out right now. What I’m really focusing on is my other company, Field Tech Designs.

FTD Banner SmallField Tech Designs

This is what I’ve been working on for much of today’s Day of Archaeology.

Excavation Forms

I’ve been subcontracted to do the excavation for a project in Lake County, CA and the fieldwork starts next week. It’s actually a pretty sweet gig. DIGTECH will do all the fieldwork, but, we aren’t doing any of the artifact analysis and report writing. While I do enjoy those phases of work, I don’t really have the time for it right now. So, this gets me out in the field, shovel in hand, and then allows me to get back to other tasks.

For the fieldwork, we’ll be using iPads rented from my other company, Field Tech Designs, to record the shovel tests and excavation units we’ll be digging. I’ve created custom forms for the shovel tests and spent a portion of today creating the excavation forms.

Working digitally will allow us to transmit the completed paperwork (should digital forms be called, electrowork? digiwork?) to the PI at his office 200 miles away every day. With cell service, we can transmit the forms as we finish them.

Tablet Rental Program

I’ve also spent some time coming up with the various pricing models we’re going to have for our tablet rental program. Over the last few months I’ve gotten the sense that some companies are a bit apprehensive about buying a fleet of tablets for their fieldwork. I don’t know if it’s the upfront cost of the tablets or the thought that they could easily break (which isn’t true). Either way, I thought that since they are used to renting things like Trimble GPS units anyway then a tablet rental would just make sense. Renting the tablets allows Field Tech Designs to assume the burden of keeping them maintained and updated while always giving the client the latest and greatest.

Video Tutorials

For the custom forms we are creating for our clients I always make a video detailing the use of the form and how to turn the digital data into a CSV file and then a Word Document. It’s pretty straight forward, but, if you’ve never done it there are a number of steps that just make more sense when you can see them.

Working on video editing this afternoon made me realize just how old my MacBook Pro is getting. I could really use an upgrade soon!

Podcast LogoPodcasting

I spent some time thinking about, and taking notes on, some things we’re going to talk about in the podcast we’re recording on Saturday. The CRM Archaeology Podcast is up to episode 38 and we’re still going strong. We’ve released an episode every other Monday for the last year and a half and we never lack for things to talk about. That’s why I’ve come up with another idea…

New Podcasts

I feel that the current podcast could really be split into a bunch of other shows. The shows would be essentially single topic shows that focus on really digging into whatever issue they are concerned with. I’m not going to go into too much detail right now, but, stay tuned for a lot more content about CRM Archaeology in the coming months.

Third Company

The last thing I did today was some research for a new company. This new entity will have something to do with aerial drones but I’m not going to go into it right now. We’re in the research phase right now. Since the FAA here in the U.S. is still up in arms about using drones for commercial purposes, we have some time. I’m a licensed pilot, though, and that might go well for me if the regulations go the direction I think they are going to go based on some information I recently received from an FAA official here in Reno. Interesting times are ahead in the world of Drones.

So, working on tablets with Field Tech Designs, researching a new drone company, and trying to, sort of, find more work for DIGTECH so I can test out all my ideas…busy day. Unfortunately, nothing I did today directly made me any money. One thing you learn while you’re indulging your passions and chasing your dreams is that money isn’t always the reason to do things in life. If you keep doing what you love and work hard at it then the money will come.

Oh, I also turned my popular series of blog posts, the Shovelbums Guide, into a helpful guidebook for CRM Archaeologists at any level. The book was published by Left Coast Press in April and is called the, “Field Archaeologist’s Survival Guide: Getting a Job and Working in Cultural Resource Management”. You can find it on Amazon and at the Left Coast Website.

Enjoy the other posts for the 2014 Day of Archaeology!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!


From Cultural Property to Fiction

Cast of part of the Parthenon frieze at UCS

Is there a typical day in the life of a Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk?

This is the week of Ip-Art, the Ipswich Arts Festival. On Tuesday night I was at Arlington’s in Museum Street for a poetry evening hosted by Poetry Anglia. The building was constructed as a museum – so it appropriately became the home of the muses! I was invited to be the first reader and offered my ‘Roman Vision‘ reflecting on the Roman remains that peep out among the buildings of modern Athens.

Earlier in the day I had attended an e-learning workshop. There was a focus on the use of iPads, a topic of interest to me through the Gwella project work at Swansea University (in my previous role). I am developing materials that can be delivered to smart phones and tablet devices to assist with the interpretation of archaeological and heritage sites.

Wednesday was the UCS research day. There was a varied programme with a keynote address on e-medicine. I gave a paper, ‘Looting matters: cultural property, conventions and compliance’. This considered a discussion of how recently surfaced antiquities can continue to surface on the market and to be acquired by major museums. I reviewed some of the international guidelines, as well as the ethical codes for museums and dealers in ancient art. The focal point was the compliance (or non-compliance) of dealers and museums when questionable material is identified. (For more on this topic see ‘Looting Matters‘.) Earlier in the week I had received my offprint of a study of the material returned to Italy from Princeton University Art Museum.

The same research conference included a discussion of project management from a colleague in the Business School. We have developed an interesting dialogue about the management of ancient projects. I was struck by the wording the (Athenian) Eleusinian Epistatai decree of the 430s BC that cites the way that the ‘management’ structure for the temple (presumably the Parthenon) and the statue (presumably the Athena Promachos) should be used as a model.

The Sainsbury Centre at UEA

Yesterday was spent in a series of meetings at UEA in Norwich. Part of the day involved discussions in the Sainsbury Centre and it was good to see the series of Cycladic marble figures from the southern Aegean. These figures formed the subject of a research paper with Christopher Chippindale (Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) that was published in the American Journal of Archaeology [JSTOR]. It was the first in a series of studies about cultural property.

One of the trends on Twitter yesterday was the submission of online poetry from around the world to celebrate the forthcoming Olympics.  I offered my ‘Shaded Marbles‘ as an audio track with appropriate images. The theme is on (historic) cultural property currently in the British Museum. (The Greek theme was appropriate given the origins of the Games.)

Another of my roles is as Head of the Division of Humanities. So this evening I will be attending the Short Story event in the Spiegeltent at Ip-Art to hear the competition winner announced. I was one of the judges for the short-listing and I have been asked to say something about our institutional support for this literary event.

Archaeology on the web

My name is Tom Goskar, and I am Wessex Archaeology‘s web manager. I am also one one of the team behind the Day of Archaeology, an international online event which has taken months in the planning.

Like the rest of the Day of Archaeology team, my day has been an incredibly busy one. Essentially it began in earnest yesterday evening (if that’s not cheating) putting the final touches to the DoA website, through to seeing the first post from the Guardian’s Maev Kennedy go online.

After some sleep, I have been helping to keep the website well-oiled and ticking along. I have been doing this whilst publishing and planning web content for Wessex Archeology, who have helped to support the Day of Archaeology by providing some of my time during the day to help run it. Today, I have published some updates about a large excavation that is happening in the heart of Dorchester, the Roman town of Durnovaria. I’ve also been following back people who have recently started following Wessex on Twitter, planning some future web content for an industrial site that we are working on in the north of England, and looking at ideas for publishing some of our content as e-books (in EPUB format) and how we might fit that into our existing design workflows. There are some promising tools out there, and it’s exciting to think of the possibilities of publishing content that will look good on devices from smartphones to Kindles, iPads, etc. Especially when you have a back-catalogue of titles which are now out of print. We could give some publications a new lease of life. Specialist books which when printed are only ever available to a small number of people could have global distribution and benefit many more. Keep your eyes on the Wessex Archaeology website, there’s lots of exciting things planned for the future.

Today I have also just finished an article for a forthcoming publication based upon a talk I gave earlier this year as part the Centre for Audio-Visual Study and Practice in Archaeology (CASPAR) “Archaeologists & the Digital: Towards Strategies of Engagement” workshop in May 2011 at UCL in London. My paper is called Wessex Archaeology and the Web, a simple title, but one that explores how the organisation’s website has grown from a small nine page brochure-style website in 2001 to the  socially connected 4000+ page site that it is today. Major archaeological discoveries, such as the Amesbury Archer and the Boscombe Bowmen amongst others were catalysts to expand and change the way we published information online. We’ve been earlier adopters of many “Web 2.0” (despite my hating that term) technologies and web services, as well as starting the first archaeology podcast, Archaeocast. Many other heritage organisations have looked to us for trying things out first, so we have been in the spotlight on many occasions. It’s been some journey since I relaunched the website in May 2002, and it still feels like this is just the beginning.

My philosophy has always been that archaeology is all about people; as archaeologists we have a duty to make our work available to as many people as possible, otherwise there is little point in what we do. We run the risk of becoming irrelevant to society if we do not broaden access to the information that we uncover. The web is instrumental to helping us to help people learn about their pasts, and the Day of Archaeology is a fantastic way of showing the sheer diversity of work that goes on inside archaeology, and how exciting and relevant it all is.

It has been wonderful to, throughout the day, read many of the posts as they have been published. It makes me excited to see so much happening in the world (literally – see the map of posts!) of archaeology, and that so many people have been passionate enough about their subject to tell the world about it through the Day of Archaeology website. I do hope that it inspires more archaeologists to shout about their work (we’re often quite shy) and see the benefits of the web, and that it inspires readers of this site to follow up the projects that they see here. Maybe some will be moved to take up archaeology in some way, maybe as a volunteer, joining a local dig, or even thinking about archaeology as a profession.

So, a big thank you to all who have contributed an entry to the Day of Archaeology so far, and to fellow organisers Lorna, Matt, Dan, Jess, Stu, and Andy. And thank you, dear reader, for supporting us by visiting and reading all about a day in the life of what is now 422 archaeologists.

It’s been a fun journey, and fingers crossed, there will be a Day of Archaeology 2012!


So, am on way to Pompeii having just avoided hell at Roma Termini station. Tourists have descended and the Italians are ripe for their holidays. Coupled with the fact that there was some incident at the other main line station in Rome I apparently caught the last train headed south for… well who knows how long. All is dealt with in a manner of utter chaos. Welcome to Italy.
From the air conditioned luxury of the fast train to the smell and grime of the local tonker-toy train to Pompei Scavi ( Pompeii Excavations). I spent 4 years living in this area when I worked on the BSR Pompeii Project directed By Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, and I still get a buzz when I return. Being amidst the tones of the Neapolitan dialect fills me with fond memories.
Next, to meet up with Dr Steven Ellis and Dr Eric Poehler who have devised a revolutionary approach to archaeological recording. One that is paperless. Using only iPads on site to record all aspects of excavation and wall recording they are pushing the boundaries of technology, apps, and even the way of thinking of how to record archaeology. But for the moment I am stuck on a platform with the stale stench of urine and cigarette butts.

So made it to Porta Stabia on the south side of Pompeii to meet the lovely Dr Steven Ellis. Not a trace of sweat on his brow despite finding him hard at work backfilling one of their trenches. Do like excavation directors who get their hands dirty. Then met up with the similarly lovely Eric Poehler in the Quadriporticus. His work on the standing building survey really fascinates me as it was what I did in Pompeii but using pencil and paper and incorporated no swish of the finger across an iPad screen. Brilliant discoveries by simply looking at walls always excites me. The simplicity of the technique but one that reveals the complexity of the story.
Obviously cannot divulge the new findings but suffice to say there are some and both PARPS:PS and the PQP team are delighted with their seasons work.
Now in true archaeologists fashion…. A cold beer is much needed.

It’s Friday… Friday… Which Seat Can I take?

As dear Rebecca Black so eloquently said (covering Dylan of course) – it’s Friday, which seat can I take?

I have two archaeological hats to wear, I am a Partner in L – P : Archaeology and I am also undertaking a PhD at UCL.

It is an amazing position to be in and the straddling of the academic and commercial world really makes my archaeological life interesting and the constant crossover gives some pretty cool insights into how things work together. That and my five-week old kid means I am pretty busy most of the time!

Today I am sitting in both seats. This morning I have been working on the PhD, I am looking at using Augmented Reality (AR) to aid in Phenomenological Investigation of Landscapes. What that means in the real world is that I get to play with iPads and gaming-engines, making archaeological information appear in the landscape. AR is slowly becoming a widely-used technique (especially in the advertising world) and indeed many archaeologists are getting in on the act. The Museum of London has just released StreetMuseum Londinium which allows users to wander around the streets of London with their smart-phone, ‘seeing’ where various artefacts, etc. have been discovered. Today I have been attempting to move some of my AR work over to a new SDK released for iOS by Qualcomm to aid in marker-based AR. Ideally later today or at the weekend I will take the iPad out into the landscape (the local park with my boy in his buggy) and actually make some stuff appear outside – instead of having to sit at the computer futzing around. Before I do that though, I have to get my head around quaternion mathematics, accelerometers and gyroscopes, then meshing this all with GPS and vision-based analysis. It’s pretty fun in a sick masochistic kind of way, but it does seem quite far from archaeology at the moment!

This afternoon I will have to move seats and put on my L – P : Hat. It is the end of the month and therefore its time to take a good look at the finances for the past month and what contracts we currently have on, etc. As L – P is owned and run by the partners themselves, it means that we all have to do a bit of everything – this is a great way of working and means we can really turn our hand to anything. Although we are spread over 4 offices in the UK, we are all great friends and working with everyone here is an absolute pleasure. It is great fun working with such amazing people in a very dynamic sector and doing work to a highly academic standard in a commercial framework. I mean doing archaeology, constantly learning new things, working with mates AND getting paid for it – not a bad Day!

However, times have been a bit rocky recently for commercial archaeology, and although it seems as if UK PLC. is pulling itself slowly out of the recession, new planning laws are being drawn up that may or may not make it better for archaeologists. There are constant stories of planning departments closing, units going bust and people out of work. We are all really at a turning point at the moment in commercial archaeology and so this afternoon I will also be taking the time to look over the new proposed National Planning Framework and seeing how this is going to affect the sector. I urge everyone else to do the same, the Government is asking for consultation responses, so please do take a look and contact the IfA and let them know what you think about the document and how we can change it to make it better for the needs of the sector.

Right back to my seat… front or back?