I spend the greater part of my archaeological life digging up and studying parts of the world with which I have very little personal connection. Most of my commercial work concerns London (see my 2011 DoA post) and sometimes it concerns Brazil (my 2012 DoA post was from Brazil). But this years fair Day of Archaeology dawns to find me in the village where I grew up. Along with an eclectic team of archaeologists, farmers, designers, architects and others we are “popping up” a museum… right here on Hayling Island. Hayling Island Pop-Up Museum, is an event for the CBA’s Festival of Archaeology.
As I cycled up to the Museum site at the farm tea room this morning I was filled with a strange sense of satisfaction to be doing something that will directly relate to the place that I’m “from”. In many ways this place is idyllic, it is a lovely place to be working and it is a pure pleasure to be here. Today, I’ve helped build display cases, make signs, make ice-cream, discussed display layouts, designed a visitor handout, I rode to town to fetch postcards from the printers, I edited the captions on a video. Almost all of these things I’ve done as only one volunteer amongst many.
I was always dimly aware of the Iron Age-Roman-Saxon temple that lies in the fields not half a mile west of the little Norman church in the village. Perhaps it was an unremembered visit to the dig here in 1978 (aged 2) that set my mind towards archaeology; gave me my instinctive desire to “do” archaeology; an enjoyment of all that special patina of finds bags, permatrace, planning frames and muddy anoraks that form the special fabric of (British) archaeology.
Coming back to Hayling years later and setting this project in motion has been like writing a love letter to the village and to the special site on our doorstep. It has also been a way to engage with and show appreciation for the archaeologists who dug the site here in the 1970s, to get to know them and to find out more about the site, the way they dug it and what it was like for them to do the dig.
Making a museum is a curious thing. Certainly it is about “public” although I’m not sure if I know what I mean by that or who I mean by that. It is certainly about creating an experience, trying to inspire or evoke some feeling in the visitor that they have experienced the site in some way as well as having learned something more concrete about it. For me is also about shining a reflected light on the way archaeology and heritage are about memory, connection and place.
Most of all this project has been about what can be done with very little money and very much good will and hard work.
HIPUM will exist for one weekend only, we launch tomorrow the 27th July and close on the 28th of July 2013. IF you are on or near Hayling Island please do come to the Museum and see for yourself.