Katherine Hamilton: Archiving the Past for the Future

My name is Katherine and I am the Archives Supervisor at Oxford Archaeology East based in Cambridge. My role in this part of the company is to make sure that, once a given project has been dug, recorded and written, all the paperwork and finds are filed correctly and then sent off to their final destination at the relevant archive or museum. My day to day work largely consists of putting archives onto our archive database and making sure they meet the relevant guidelines, managing our OASIS records, uploading finished reports to Oxford Archaeology’s online library and looking after the in-house library.

People often forget about archiving as part of the archaeological process, mainly I think because it isn’t deemed as exciting as actually excavating something. It certainly isn’t glamourous sitting amongst stacks of cardboard boxes trying to reorganise finds into context order or spending hours checking all the context records are there. However, if we do not archive projects then the information gathered during that project could be lost for future generations.   There are plenty of cautionary tales out there about projects from the past where the site director has stored the project archive under his or her bed for decades only for it to be lost once they have died. Thankfully these days there is much more of an awareness within archaeology of the need to make sure projects are archived and that the information gathered is available to a wider audience. Because that’s why we do this job, right? To preserve the past for the future.

A stack of finds archive boxes and a clipboard

Archive boxes as far as the eye can see

Katherine Hamilton is the Archives Supervisor at Oxford Archaeology’s East office in Cambridge. For more information about Oxford Archaeology and our digital archiving, visit our online library:

Lister Steps Carnegie Community Hub project

Our Lister Steps Hub 2015 post is written by our Heritage Development Officer Kerry Massheder-Rigby.  Kerry joined the Lister Steps team in 2014 when the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) gave us a stage 1 pass and development funding.  Her role is now partially funded by HLF and the Architectural Heritage Fund.

The Lister Steps Hub project aims to regenerate a much loved former Carnegie Library in Liverpool and return it to community use.  The library was closed in 2006 and sadly the building has suffered neglect, theft and vandalism and has deteriorated considerably.  The building is still an absolute beauty despite her mistreatment!  Lister Steps, currently a charity providing childcare and family support, aim to create a community hub at the building—heritage activities, additional childcare services, a cafe, business and enterprise space, outdoor play space and a unique venue for events (such as your wedding!).

The team are currently working hard to raise the required match funding, develop the business plan, activity plan, building designs and conservation management plan.  We are holding community conversations, online surveys and events to engage the local community in the project.  We aim to take part in a review with HLF in October and hope to submit our full application in Spring 2016.

A day in the life of a Heritage Development Officer……….

My role is varied and each day brings a new challenge or experience.  I love working with Lister Steps to help develop the HLF funded heritage project and we have some exciting activities planned for the future (if we secure the funding!).

Today I am working on two tasks; developing a programme of activities for the Lister Steps Summer Playscheme project ‘Tuebrook Heritage Trail’ and gathering ideas of what to do for our next community event.

We have received some funding from Carillion (thank you!) to run a 10 day project to work with 24 Playscheme children to create a heritage trail of Tuebrook, Liverpool.  Although we would like the children to take the lead on the project, design it themselves and work as a team to create a resource that can be shared with community members, some planning is required!  I’ve created an ‘ice breaker’ activity and a sheet to collect their feedback on each activity within the project.  I’ve arranged a trip to start the project off.  We will be taking the Old Dock Tour (run by the Merseyside Maritime Museum) to look at the archaeological remains, learn about the development of the dock and its important role in Liverpool’s history and hopefully get a few tips on how to make a tour (trail) interesting and engaging.  Next we will head to the Museum of Liverpool to take their Liver Bird Trail, have lunch and take part in crafternoon.  The children at Lister Steps LOVE fieldtrips and they’re really excited to take part in an archaeology themed day!  The Playscheme children have been pro active in helping to develop our Activity Plan-we are really excited to be running a mini version of activities we hope to deliver in the near future.

It is brilliant being a Heritage Development Officer within a charity that serves the local community.  The staff and local community are massively supportive of the project and are such fun to work with.  Being based in an existing childcare provider has enabled the heritage themed activities in the Activity Plan to be written to focus on children, young people and their families.

This is such an exciting project to be working on-let’s hope the project receives its HLF funding and can take part in Day of Archaeology 2016!

3D laser scan, 12th May 2015, Dr Oriel Prizeman, Cardiff University

3D laser scan, 12th May 2015, Dr Oriel Prizeman, Cardiff University

Model made by children of Lister Steps

Model made by children of Lister Steps

10.04.15 Member of Falcons designing Sky High ideas box 1

Monrepos – the early birds


Who thinks that an archaeological research centre and museum can only be run by archaeologists these days must be ignorant. Technical staff is required at many places and usually they are our early birds. They are cleaning, fixing, and organising the house and its bits and pieces before most researchers actually arrive. Nevertheless, they are a part of the our daily working life and an important part of the staff: Imagine an uninformed cleaning lady in an institute mainly focused on stone age archaeology with several pebbles or bones or sediment bags on the floor… Thus, these staff members not only make a whole day of archaeological research possible but also contribute to it with their experience.

However, in the last months, new skills were required from some of them. For example, Walter Mehlem, our house technician, has quite some extra work to do at the moment taking care that really all the work that was supposed to be done in the museum by subcontractors, craftsmen, gardeners etc. was in fact correctly done. So, really he is looking forward to the days after the opening when “business as usual” or the usual craziness returns.

Well, writing about early birds by midday just shows that I’m none of them. However, we couldn’t keep our schedules at the institute if everyone was a nightowl like me. For example, mail arrives early and parcels full of paper necessary for an institute like ours arrive almost on a daily basis. A lot of paper is needed for prints of our scientific output such as our own articles, official letters, and bureaucratic formalities such as compensation of travel cost. Moreover, many pages of articles have to be printed out to become a hardcopy part of our ever growing library. Besides these articles, our library owns several thousand monographs and journals all focused on hunter-gatherer anthropology, Palaeolithic and Mesolithic archaeology, zooarchaeology, experimental archaeology and everything of interest for archaeologists working on the development of human behaviour before the Neolithic revolution(s). Presumably, we house one of the largest libraries on this topic worldwide.

Apparently, such a large body of information needs some organisation and someone who prints out the articles, picks them up from the printer, registers them and puts them in the right place – so if a researcher is looking for a specific article it can be found. At Monrepos, Sascha Sieber is currently taking care of this bit of enabling archaeologists to actually work all day. Frank Schmid is sharing his office and working on another important project: Digitalising photo documentation. Monrepos has been participating and organising excavations in Eurasia for over thirty years so we have an enormous number of slides from excavations and excursions which need to be digitalised and organised in a way that someone looking for a specific profile is also able to find it. Of course, no archaeologists could do this job besides the usual work so we are really thankful that Frank is doing the job for us.

It’s not as if archaeologists were a bunch of poorly organised people but help is always appreciated. And although a lot of our drawings and graphs are made by ourselves as a part of our research, help is not just welcome in this important part of our profession but occasionally needed. Graphs and figures help to visualise our findings or simply the artefacts we found. Therefore, Regina Hecht and Gabi Rutkowski are part of the Monrepos team. Regina helps us make better graphs, optimise our print outs and, occasionally, she also gives short introductions to graphic programs for young students like I used to be. Her work is so helpful because someone who is only considering the readability of a graph helps to translate our results for everyone and, thus, helps us to make science understandable and useful.
Gabi Rutkowski usually helps us with neat and clean ink drawings of artefacts. Although she hasn’t studied archaeology, she has probably seen more archaeological stones and bones than many senior archaeologists and occasionally can point out overseen details. However, at the moment she is also needed for last preparations for the opening of the museum.


Who is a “Real Archaeologist”?

“Seventy percent of all archaeology is done in the library. Research. Reading.”

Which eminent scholar confidently states that statistic? Certainly someone from the last half-century, right? Perhaps an archaeologist who is concerned with the inherently destructive nature of our field.

Nope. Indiana Jones.

He utters these words in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It rings ironic not only just for the general practices of this fictional character, but also because he has just told his students that archaeology is not “about lost cities, exotic travel, and digging up the world,” yet he is about to hand the speciously-acquired Cross of Coronado to Marcus Brody. (more…)

A day with the UCL Institute of Archaeology Library: 29th July 2011

Books, books, books. Journals, conference proceedings, technical reports,  e-resources. And lots more.

Institute of Archaeology Library

Institute of Archaeology Library

You might wonder why a library wants to contribute to the Day of Archaeology and what our relevancy might be. But libraries, especially specialist libraries like the UCL Institute of Archaeology, are vital for archaeological research and have been part of archaeology since the beginning – the Society of Antiquaries Library was founded in 1751!  Researchers – students, academic staff, commercial researchers and even interested members of the general public – come to libraries to  find the factual information and the theoretical frameworks that drive and structure their work. It’s also here that the final published results of excavations and fieldwork – site reports – end up!

So if you want to find out a little bit more about what we do and what our customers use our facilities to research, read on!

 Our day…

My day starts at 8.30 a.m. I have an hour before the library opens and I usually take this time to open up, sort out the ‘reshelving’ (books used in the library or returned during the previous day) and have a look round for any problems, potential areas of work or to get ideas about how to improve our working space and collections. Ian, one of our shelvers, has been working on periodicals (journals) ‘weeding’ and created some extra space for both the periodicals and the

Egyptology shelves

Egyptology shelves

Edwards Egyptology Library.  I work through the Egyptology collection, assessing where we need to shift the books to leave space for growth – I estimate we have space for 3-5 years’ growth overall that can be distributed amongst the shelves. Most humanities and social sciences research libraries have space problems and we’re no exception. Because so many of our books and journals are used for research as well as teaching, we can’t send older material to Stores, as it needs to be on the shelves for researchers to consult. We’re trying to make space where possible by sending journals that are also available electronically to Stores – ‘weeding them’. Electronic access means that we can still provide access to key resources, but we don’t have to have them physically on the shelves.

Yu-ju Lin and Paul Majewski, two of our library assistants, arrive and the library opens at 9.30 a.m. Paul starts work on the virtual exhibitions page we’re building to accompany a Friends of the Petrie Museum exhibition that will be opening in the library in September.

Yu-Ju Lin

Yu-Ju and the missing book

Yu-ju goes out to look for missing books. In a library with over 70,000 books and 800 periodical sets (I’ve no idea how many actual individual volumes of these we have!) books can easily become mislaid. So shelf tidying and looking for books reported missing to us each week is a vital part of our work. It’s a good day – she finds an important missing book needed by the Ancient History department straight away.

I look through my emails and answer any enquiries. These can be from our current students and staff about their library records and our collections, but also from other researchers asking about our archive material (which is held by UCL Special Collections), staff and students from other universities asking about using our collections or from members of the public who just want answers to archaeological questions. There aren’t too many today, so I start working through our Accessions List (the list of new books that have arrived in the library that month) highlighting some for our Ancient World/Archaeology blog. Once I’ve done this, I continue some on-going work with free online journals. I have a long list of free electronic resources from AWOL (Ancient World Online) that I’m working through looking for digital duplicates of our paper resources. Where possible, we try to always provide digital access to resources – students and staff can get to the 24/7 and pressure on our paper copies – both in terms of use and preservation (general state of repair) – is lessened.

Ricky Estwick

Ricky Estwick

Ricky Estwick comes with our delivery of mail from elsewhere in UCL Library Services. Although we’re a library in our own right, we’re also part of UCL Library Services and our work flows and patterns fit in to the larger structure of the organisation. We don’t for example, do our own cataloguing. This is done in a central cataloguing unit to ensure standardisation across UCL’s library collections and so our material is in line with global information standards. Ricky brings books and periodicals that have arrived for us from different libraries, as well as materials from cataloguing, acquisitions and Stores.

Scott Stetkiewicz comes to the Issue Desk to ask about obtaining materials from Scottish excavations for his MSc dissertation on slag analysis. We have a look through the resources available in the library and online through English Heritage, the Archaeological Data Service and Heritage Gateway.

Stuart Brookes comes in to borrow books for his project ‘landscapes of governance: assembly sites in England, 5th – 11th centuries’.  (more…)