Liverpool

Finds from Home

Coming from Ireland but working in England I particularly enjoy when finds have a connection with home. Liverpool and Dublin have always had strong links and it should be of no surprise then when objects are handed in for recording on finds.org.uk/database which have been found in the North West and have strong Irish parallels or links.

Tonight I’ve been working on an object which I recorded recently, a rare socketed heeled sickle of Iron Age date, LVPL-23E5CF. The sickle is in three pieces and has been irregularly broken during antiquity. On one face of the object the heal, in line with the socket, is decorated with a squirly circlet decoration. When researching the sickle I found that it is the only socketed example currently on the PAS database. Immediately I contacted my fellow FLOs Peter and Dot who have an interest in the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age. They directed me a similar example in Norwich County Museum which may have been created in the same mould. Then during the course of her research Dot spotted another parallel illustrated on p.14 of P.W Joyce, A Reading book in Irish History. Eager to find out more I emailed the National Museum of Ireland who got back to me straight away with a bit more information about their object. The Irish sickle was discovered in Westmeath and catalogued by William Wilde.

Early Iron Age sickle

Early Iron Age sickle

A spectacular find now in the Museum of Liverpool is the Huxley Hoard, LVPL-C63F8A. A hoard of silver bracelets with flat, punch-decorated bands belong to a well-known Hiberno-Scandinavian type found distributed in areas around both sides of the Irish Sea and produced in Ireland during the second half of the 9th and first half of the 10th centuries. The hoard like that from Cuerdale was probably part of a war chest belonging to the Vikings driven from Dublin by the Irish to settle in the Wirral, Lancashire and Cumbria at the beginning of the 10th century.

The Huxley Hoard

The Huxley Hoard

This mount from Doddington, Cheshire East LVPL-D35B84 is another great example of Irish metalworking and the decoration can be compared to mounts from the ‘near Navan’ hoard for which an eighth-ninth century date was suggested. Again probably brought to England due to Viking activity.

Early Medieval Mount

Early Medieval Mount

Another Irish vessel mount is LVPL1646 recorded in 2000. The stylised staring face and the lavish use of enamel are features characteristic of eighth-century Irish decorative metalwork. Similar anthropomorphic mounts have also been found on Irish bowls and buckets in Norway. As well as vessels, Irish mounts and fittings traveled with the Vikings as loot or traded goods, or possibly as gifts and dowry pieces. While often of no value as bullion, they were appreciated for their decoration, bright gilding and enamel.

Hanging bowl mount

Hanging bowl mount

Objects connect us with people and places and figuring out their stories is a great way to connect us to the past and for me, to home.

#PyC15

It’s raining. Not pouring down, just a light drizzle. Like someone is helpfully spraying us with mist. It’s also windy and the temperature can be described as ‘a little bit nippy’. This doesn’t matter. Even though the weather isn’t the best there’s a clear view of the River Mersey and the city of Liverpool to the north-east and Beeston Castle and Moel Arthur to the east and south-east respectively. If you look to the north and squint you can even make out Blackpool Tower. The whole of Cheshire, Merseyside and parts of the North Welsh coast are visible. But the view doesn’t matter either. All eyes are firmly pointed towards the ground. We’re not here for the views. We’re here for the archaeology; ‘here’ being Penycloddiau, the largest hillfort in Wales. Not a bad place to work in all honesty.

We’re here excavating the prehistoric rampart entrance of the hillfort to try and understand how it was constructed; and for good measure we’re also excavating what could turn out to be a roundhouse platform. So far so archaeological but what makes #PyC15 different is that our team is undertaking some fairly intense on-the-job training: they’re all students on their very first dig. Our team consists of students from the University of Liverpool and the IFR. This year alone we have students from the UK, United States, Canada and Australia who study a range of subjects from archaeology to ancient history, anthropology to civil engineering. The variety of knowledge and enthusiasm these students bring to site is astonishing and highlights the best aspect of archaeology: it’s inclusiveness. Anyone can hold a trowel. Supporting these students are a dedicated team of supervisors, many whom were digging here as students in previous seasons. #PyC15 isn’t just a student training dig, but a site where those who truly want to make this their career can develop crucial supervisory and interpretative skills under the direction of experienced directors who work in both the academic and contract sectors.

Here at LAFS though we don’t believe in just teaching our students the ‘basics’. Penycloddiau is also a research excavation and in the framework of Hodder we try to encourage our students to ‘interpret from the trowels edge’. In essence we teach our students the necessary skills to work both on- and off-site. To be able to interpret a context and understand formation processes whilst also seeing the ‘bigger picture’. Our students experience on-site and off-site training in illustration, survey, excavation, finds and environmental processing, and heritage communication. We ensure that students are exposed to all aspects of the archaeological process.

It’s not all smooth sailing of course. The weather can change, our time frame is limited, students inevitably favour one aspect of archaeology over an other, and as often happens when a group of people get together someone always gets ill. These things pass pretty quickly though, no doubt aided by a healthy dose of competition (all our students are places in Game of Thrones style ‘houses’) and 80’s tunes and we all come together to get the job done (from de-turfing to cleaning to excavation).

So on this #DayOfArchaeology, a week into our season, we will be shoulder to shoulder with our students. Working alongside them as we excavate a little piece of prehistory at a time. Bringing them into contact with all the things associated with the field that so many people love: the humour, the mystery, the excitement, the rain, the camaraderie and (hopefully) the rush of unearthing your first find. Our aim is inspire, to guide, and to open their eyes. Judging by the students responses so far we’re well on the way to fulfilling those aims but don’t take our word for it. Come and join us and experience it first on hand on our open days (Saturday, July 25th and Saturday, August 7th).

Join us…and appreciate the view. In the meantime here are a few pictures of our lovely students and site and a video that will tell you more about we do here than I ever could.

Getting a handle of Section Drawing in our dedicated training area

Getting a handle of Section Drawing in our dedicated training area

The team in convoy visiting the #PyC15 sister site Bodari

The team in convoy visiting the #PyC15 sister site Bodari

Starting from the edge and working back: cleaning exposed archaeological layers

Starting from the edge and working back: cleaning exposed archaeological layers

Suns out, Trowels out

Suns out, Trowels out

Dr. Pope, site director, answering a question from one of students

Dr. Pope, site director, answering a question from one of students

Getting to grips with surveying

Getting to grips with surveying

A rampart with a view

A rampart with a view

On-site teaching of finds and survey allow students to expand their archaeological knowledge and skills

On-site teaching of finds and survey allow students to expand their archaeological knowledge and skills

Area 3 cleared and ready for excavation

Area 3 cleared and ready for excavation

A beautiful sight: exposed rampart wall

A beautiful sight: exposed rampart wall

Team work in action

Team work in action


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

Lister Steps Carnegie Community Hub

Day of Archaeology 2014 finds me working as a Heritage Development Officer for Lister Steps in Tuebrook, Liverpool.

Lister Steps have secured initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to regenerate the Grade II listed West Derby Library on Lister Drive, Tuebrook.
West Derby Library was established with funding from an Andrew Carnegie (Philanthropist and Industrialist) grant, and opened in 1905. The library is a one-storey brick built structure with stone dressings, a slate roof and an octagonal turret and was designed by Thomas Shelmerdine. The library originally contained a lending library and a number of reading rooms. Sadly, following health and safety concerns, the library closed in 2006 and has remained vacant since. This period of un-occupation has resulted in the library being subject to theft, vandalism and neglect. Items stolen from the library include lead flashings, the glazing to roof lights and feature ridge tiles. There has been substantial rainwater ingress which has severely damaged the timber structure and internal decorative plasterwork and joinery and dry rot is common throughout the building.
The ‘Lister Steps Carnegie Community Hub’ project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is currently in its development stage, however once completed Lister Steps aim to relocate their existing childcare services into the building. The regenerated building will also serve as a centre for community engagement, a ‘hub’ offering refreshments, activities and training opportunities for the local community and visitors.
The project will shortly begin a period of consultation with stakeholders and members of the community. The project aims to host a number of heritage activities in the near future such as tours of the library and grounds, an oral history project and training opportunities.

I am so excited about this fantastic project.  The end result will have saved a historic building from further deterioration and provided a much needed community led center for engagement, in addition to the skills gained and experiences of the project itself.Lister Steps Carnegie Community Hub-A work in progress!Lister Steps Carnegie Community Hub-the West Derby Carnegie Library

I welcome all comments, suggestions and funding for the project!

Kerry Massheder-Rigby

Heritage Development Officer

Kerry Massheder-Rigby@listersteps.co.uk

Please follow our social media https://www.facebook.com/listerstepscarnegiecommunityhub @ListerStepsHub and invite your friends to do the same 🙂

A day in the life of… a community archaeologist!

My name is Sam Rowe and I’ve been an archaeologist since graduating in 2009. I am currently the Community Archaeologist at the Museum of Liverpool where I have worked for 3 years.

Being a Community Archaeologist means doing a whole host a different jobs in one go. One day I be working with volunteers on an excavation or in the museum on a handling session, and the next I will be writing project reports and the more tedious tasks (like finances!) No day is ever the same which makes it such an exciting job! The best part of the job is working with a range of different people and bringing people closer to the archaeology of their local area.

For the last three weeks I’ve been managing a community excavation in Rainford in St Helens, Merseyside, as part of the ‘Rainford’s Roots community archaeology project’ (www.rainfordsroots.com). We have been excavating the site of an industrial clay tobacco pipe workshop on a site now occupied by Rainford library.

This season’s dig has been hugely successful with lots of volunteers getting their hands dirty and learning new skills. We’ve had people excavating, recording, taking survey measurements, and washing finds, and a whole host of visitors have been to take a look at the site. We’ve also installed a small case of objects inside the library to display objects found during our excavations.

We uncovered a whole host of objects associated with previous activity on the site including clay tobacco pipes, kiln waste from the production process, industrial waste (slag), animal bones, glass and a whole range of pottery. Industrial archaeology isn’t always the most exciting project in term of finds (you won’t be finding neolithic flints or Roman coins!), but there is always something to find and is a fantastic introduction to practical archaeology. It’s a great way to get out of doors, meeting new people, and learning about local heritage.

Today I am writing a presentation on the project and getting prepared to host a tour of a new display case in the Museum of Liverpool which exhibits a huge collection of post medieval ceramics discovered during the Rainford’s Roots project over the last two years.

You can follow the project on twitter @rainfordsroots and facebook.

You can found out more about community archaeology at the Museum of Liverpool on their website:

Volunteers excavating and recording the site at Rainford library

Volunteers excavating and recording the site at Rainford library

pics 345

Where’s my trowel?

For some reason yesterday I decided to look for my trowel. Said tool brought in late ’80’s (I think) and lovingly worn mostly from finding Romans on York’s waterfront (Yorkshire, UK). Last seen in the dining room, last used on a rather nice medieval moated site in Cheshire in 2013. Failed to find it for a day I spent helping/ hindering (your choice) on a community archaeology excavation in Edinburgh in June. So why do I want it now? Well I don’t need it but because I can’t find it then this takes on a whole new urgency. For years it sat lovingly on my work desk alongside a leaf (plasterers/ archaeologists tool for the uninitiated & rarely used) to remind me that 1) I used to use it all the time, 2) it was always there to help on community excavations (or days I took off to keep my ‘hand in’) as a local government archaeological officer 3) more recently to remind me that I know I can still use it!

I have temporarily given up looking for the hallowed old trowel now. Today I have been following up some contacts from a flurry of networking during Liverpool’s International Festival of Business (IFB) 2014 – a splendid opportunity. I’m a freelancing archaeological consultant providing archaeological planning advisory services to the development sector. Sometimes this feels like being ‘Daniel in the Lions den’ but like troweling skills – this takes practice and a bit of persistent enthusiasm.  ‘Hello my name is …. and I’m an Archaeologist’ is usually cause for excitement or bafflement, or fear – but at least its going to get some reaction. At one recent networking event a property consultant delighted in telling me that he’d advised a builder in the 1970’s to concrete over some burials to hide them and not tell anyone. He was somewhat surprised to hear that he could have done worse.

I have learnt much from the IFB and picked up new language being thrown about the place ‘green infrastructure’ (Ok, we know this is landscaping/ natural environment, ‘blue infrastructure’ ( this is wet stuff/ water bodies) and ‘grey infrastructure’ ( actual buildings). What’s been interesting is to go to events where the ‘green and ‘blue’ are  recognised as important economic opportunities as well as creation of a better environment.

Now where’s my trowel?

 

Mapping Interactive Workshop – Festival of British Archaeology (28 July 2011) by Sam Rowe

As a Community Archaeology Trainee for National Museums Liverpool every day at work is different for me; some days I will be excavating an industrial site with a group of volunteers, other days I will be surveying a graveyard with a local society, assisting with museum education workshops, and at other times accessioning objects for museum collections. I love the range of activities I get to do as part of my training.

I have also been involved in several events for the Festival of British Archaeology. Last Thursday I helped run a workshop in the Merseyside Maritime Museum on the Mapping Interactive resource that will form part of the History Detectives gallery in the new Museum of Liverpool, which incidently also opened its doors during the festival fortnight. The interactive map of Merseyside will allow the public to explore local buildings and places, peeling back layers of historic mapping to reveal how the landscape of Merseyide has changed since the last ice age up to the present day.

Thursdays’s workshop was a chance for the public to get a sneak preview of the early stages of this new learning resource before it enters the museum later in the year. Archaeologists who have been working on the project for the last few years were on-hand to guide visitors through the features of the map, allowing them to search for historic sites, buildings, famous people and periods of Merseyside. We also prepared a ‘lost places’ activity that highlighted several buildings that the centre of Liverpool has lost over the last millennia including Liverpool Castle and the overhead railway . Visitors were challenged in trying to place these lost building in the correct place on the map where they once stood in the city.

The Mapping Interactive resource has been formed from Historic records but also from pictures and information from the public and is still an ongoing project that anyone can get involved in.

Jetlag and a very full day – GIS manuals, Egyptology and conference preparation

Hello!

Yesterday was a very busy day, thus I am only now able to submit a post here!

Australia!

I got back from a two-week holiday to Western Australia on Thursday. My Dad and I went to visit his brother who moved to Perth from the Isle of Man 40 years ago, and his family. We had an awesome time, saw lots of places and wildlife: Roos, Quokkas, Koalas, the lot 🙂

A herd of Kangaroos at Rockingham Golf Course

A herd of Kangaroos at Rockingham Golf Course

Myself and a hungry Quokka on Rottnest Island

Myself and a hungry Quokka on Rottnest Island

My family out there is lovely! I am still rather tired and recovering from a long journey back, which commenced on Wednesday afternoon: 5h flight from Perth to Singapore, then 13h Singapore to London-Heathrow. Then another 3h back to Liverpool by train. My poor Dad had to fly back to Hanover, which is close to Peine, Germany, where I am originally from!

The thing that struck me, whilst visiting Australia, however, is the general attitude towards archaeology. Whenever I mentioned my interest in visiting a particular museum, or seeing anything related to archaeology, I was told that “Australia doesn’t have very much history at all”, and that “surely, there is not very much archaeology around”… I was rather shocked and saddened by this, given the huge amount of aboriginal culture in Australia. I did point this out, and obtained some understanding, but the attitude of Australians towards Aborigines is a very problematic topic in general. When visiting the Western Australian Museum in Perth, however, I saw a very well-displayed and super-informative exhibition on aboriginal culture in Western Australia. Shame it didn’t seem to be too-well visited! 🙁

Back to work!

I had to get up extra-early yesterday (29th July), as I had to get straight back to work: I work as a Supervisor in Geomatics for Oxford Archaeology North, specialising in open source GIS. I totally love it and really do think it’s the way forward, especially given that proprietary software can “lock in” archaeological data, which can lead to data loss – something that should be avoided, I guess we all agree! Over the past couple of years we have been using open source GIS software, such as gvSIG (both the “original gvSIG” and the OADigital Edition), Quantum GIS, GRASS,  in addition to some 3D GIS visualisation tools, such as Paraview. Furthermore, we have been testing and using database software, such as PGAdmin (PostgreSQL and PostGIS), and illustration software, such as Inkscape successfully. I must say that all of the software we used has come a long, long way in those past two years, and at OA North, we use open source tools more or less as a standard and I can confidentially say that it is replacing the proprietary software previously used, such as AutoCAD and ArcGIS.

My friend and colleague Christina Robinson and I were given some time to document our combined knowledge in order to make it accessible to both colleagues within the company, and also the wider archaeological community – what is better than a free guide to open source GIS, which allows you learn to use free, powerful GIS software, and edit and analyse your own survey data! 🙂 We have produced guides and manuals during the past couple of years – they are available for free download on the OA library website and released under the creative commons license. Here are the manuals we released so far:

Survey and GIS Manual for Leica 1200 series GPS

Survey and GIS Manual for Leica 1200 series GPS

Hodgkinson, Anna (2010) Open Source Survey & GIS Manual. Documentation. Oxford Archaeology North. (Unpublished)

Hodgkinson, Anna (2011) Using the Helmert (two-point) transformation in Quantum GIS. Documentation. Oxford Archaeological Unit Ltd.. (Unpublished)

Robinson, Christina and Campbell, Dana and Hodgkinson, Anna (2011) Archaeological maps from qGIS and Inkscape: A brief guide. Third edition. Documentation. Oxford Archaeology North. (Unpublished) – this is the third edition, re-released today!

And here are two brand new guides, produced on the Day of Archaeology and made available today:

Robinson, Christina (2011) QGIS Handy Hints. Documentation. Oxford Archaeological Unit Ltd. (Unpublished)

Hodgkinson, Anna (2011) Download of the Leica 700 and 800 series Total Station. Documentation. Oxford Archaeological Unit Ltd. (Unpublished)

Please download and  use these and extend your skills; please burn them and let us know, we are grateful for your feedback! Some more guides/manuals are currently in production and will be added to the library, so please watch this space!

Lunch Break – (not really) time for some Egyptology

I briefly escaped work at lunchtime in order to go to the bank – I had to make an international transfer, the only way (annoyingly) to pay for my speaker’s fees for the upcoming 16th International Conference on Cultural Heritage and New Technologies, Vienna, November 2011. My paper on “Modeling Urban Industries in New Kingdom Egypt” was accepted for presentation, my abstract an be found here. I will be presenting my current research on the distribution of (mainly) artefactual evidence from Amarna, ancient Akhetaten, in Middle Egypt. Using open source GIS (naturally), I am studying the distribution and density of artefacts relating to high-status industries, such as glass, faience, metal, sculpture and textiles within the settled areas of Amarna, in order to establish how products and raw materials were controlled and distributed.

Distribution of the evidence of glass- and faience-working within the North Suburb at Amarna

Distribution of the evidence of glass- and faience-working within the North Suburb at Amarna

This paper presents part of my PhD research on high-status industries within the capital and royal cities in New Kingdom Egypt, Memphis, Malkata, Gurob, Amarna and Pi-Ramesse. I have now completed my third year of part-time research and am hoping to finish the whole thing within the next two or three years. We will see, thought I’d better get on with it!! 🙂

I am a member of the fieldwork team at Gurob, and I am very much looking forward to our next fieldwork season in September this year! Check out the project website for reports of past fieldwork seasons and my work in the industrial area, which I also presented at The Third British Egyptology Congress (BEC 3) in London, 2010.

After-work seminar and more open source GIS

We had an in-house, after-work seminar at 5pm, at which Christina and I gave our paper on “Open Source GIS for archaeological data visualisation and analysis” to colleagues, which we presented at OSGIS 2011 in Nottingham. You can watch the webcast of the original talk online (scroll down until you find it), unfortunately it only works for Windows, though. :'( The paper, which was presented on June 22nd 2011, is about our successful case study, moving Geomatics at OA North to open source GIS and away from proprietary software. We even won the prize for the second-best presentation! It went down well with colleagues, and after a discussion we moved on outside for a barbecue, which was very nice, as it stayed warm all day (unusual for Lancaster). I had to eave rather early unfortunately, as the commute back to Liverpool takes about 1.5 hours. At least I was able to relax and read George Martin’s “A Dance with Dragons”on my Kindle!

Our Presentation for OSGIS 2011, Nottingham

Our Presentation for OSGIS 2011, Nottingham


Opening Day at National Museum of Scotland

I like to consider myself as a Heritage Management Consultant and sometimes even a Museum Designer. This morning for work (of course) I visited the Royal Museum which was just opened today by the National Museum of Scotland. The museum has been closed for about 3 years now and has been undergoing a £47 million renovation and reinterpretation. The important thing to say is that my firm Jura Consultants helped them with their redevelopment master-plan and supported them in their HLF bid for funding. Most projects that we’re involved in take quite a bit of time to come to fruition so it’s amazing to be able to see the designs you saw on paper become reality and experience the fruits of your labour.

And what a fantastic experience it is! There were thousands of people lining Chambers Street at 9am waiting for the doors to open. We had an animatronic T Rex, tribal drummers, aerial dancers abseiling from the roof, and fireworks. A great atmosphere indeed. The entrance has now been diverted from the main staircase to two street level entrances that lead into the undercroft. Here is a really spectacular and dramatic space. Once used for storage, the space has been converted into a visitor reception area that includes and information desk, cloak room, gift shop, toilets and a new Brasserie. From the dimly lit space, you then ascend into the light-filled Grand Gallery that seems almost like a birdcage with all the iron work. This is meant to be a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ that entices visitors with an array of different and wondrous objects. Beyond this space is an escalator that takes you up to the very top floor, allowing visitors to work their way down. This is an interesting feature and an important one as previous research found that only 5% of visitors made it beyond the ground floor. The other controversial move was to put the museum café on the first floor. But I think it’s one of those things that if you build it they will come.

It was quite clear that the animal gallery was the most popular. Jammed packed with people, prams and exotic animals. The incorporation of video screens with hanging oceanic creatures is quite something to behold. Other galleries include world cultures, design, nature inspired objects, Egyptians, sculpture, and decorative objects. I think the one thing that stands out is the lighting. It certainly adds to the atmosphere and creates distinctly different experiential areas. The colour scheme works really well too, using jewel tones to delineate thematic areas.

I think though, my favourite thing about today was observing the other patrons around me. One little boy asked why fish die, referring to a display in the animal galleries relating to environmental issues such as pollution, poaching etc. His mother responded with ‘because some people don’t recycle’. Another woman remarked about her disappointment with the Egyptians. ‘Liverpool has a mummy but there’s no mummy here.’ The same goes for the way people begin to use the space. We weren’t in the door 5 minutes and there were already people lined up for the café. There was a pram car park that started in one corner and people were sitting on display plinths and touching objects (hopefully this was the intention). I think what it reflects is that visitors are comfortable in the space, are able to read the space properly and that the museum has been a catalyst for conversation.

A truly great morning! I encourage everyone to make a trip themselves.


A day in the life of a National Finds Adviser for the PAS

I work for the Portable Antiquities Scheme as the Deputy Finds Adviser for Iron Age and Roman coins and part time as a Roman Finds Adviser. It’s my job to help our national network of Finds Liaison Officers to identify and record all the tricky coins and artefacts brought in by metal detectorists to record and to emphasise their research potential. Every day working for the Scheme is different. The past couple of weeks have seen me give lectures at metal Detecting Clubs in Liverpool and the Wirral, attend a conference on Roman coins from Britain and record more than 1000 coins from new sites discovered throughout the country. This entry gives a snapshot of what I’ve been doing today.

9.15am: I arrive at work at the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum and spend the next half hour answering email queries from finders and Finds Liaison Officers. Answering queries is a major part of my role. Today, I’ve identified and referenced a couple of coins from the Isle of Wight, where the FLO, Frank Basford, works very hard with detectorists to record as many objects as possible. As a result, he has recorded more than 1500 Roman coins for the island which has totally changed our understanding of the Roman period there.
9.45am: I check in to the Finds Liaison Officers’ Finds Forum and leave a couple of opinions on objects posted there. One of the FLOs wants to know where he can find examples of iron Roman brooches, whilst another queries whether an unusual wire feature on the foot of a Roman brooch is a repair or part of its decoration. I make a note to flick through some Roman catalogues later to try and find parallels. I post a map of the distribution of Roman knee brooches recorded by the PAS which I’ve been working on and it provokes some interesting discussion from FLOs…
10.20am: I start putting together a provisional object and image list for a display on ‘Roman coins as religious offerings’ which will form part of a new Money Gallery at the British museum. I want to use a combination of objects from the museum’s collections and some reported through the PAS. I choose a selection of coins found in the River Thames at London Bridge, some cut and mutilated coins from a range of sites throughout the country and decide it would be a good idea to also have some artefacts too. I therefore email the curators in the Department of Prehistory and Europe to see whether they have any votive objects in their reserve collections which might be suitable. I’m hoping for a miniature object and a lead curse tablet!
1pm: Lunch and a bit of a rest!
2pm: I check up on my intern, Victoria, an MA student in Museum Studies from George Washington University. She’s spent the summer recording coins on the PAS database and scanning accompanying images and has done an amazing job, entering more than 1000 over the past month. We get a lot of help from students and volunteers and I hope they get as much out of it as we do!
2.30pm: Back to the museum display. I’ve just found out I have to write the general display text to accompany my finds by Monday. It’s only 80 words explaining the theme of my display but I think it’s going to be a bit of a challenge.
3pm: Start recording part of a large assemblage of coins from a site in Wiltshire which looks like it might be a Roman temple site. Amongst the coins are about 20 pierced with iron nails – possible evidence of a ritual practice I aim to investigate in more detail later. I add these coins to my spreadsheet of ‘mutilated coins’ recorded by the PAS and will come back to them next week when I start writing an article on ‘Cut and mutilated Roman coins recorded by the PAS’.
4pm: I start collecting together all the reference works and recording sheets that Victoria and I will need tomorrow. We’re going to a Finds Day in Sussex as part of a team of FLOs and PAS Finds Advisers to record coins and objects. Getting out and about to let people know about the Scheme is really important. We’re hoping to see some interesting finds and meet some new finders..