Lorna Richardson

Meta#dayofarch Reloaded

As you may have gathered, I am one of founders of the Day of Archaeology, and one of the team behind the manic moderation on the day itself.. My Day of Archaeology started at 6.30am, when I began to read and moderate posts. I was still there at 10pm, hovering over the site like a worried mother, fretting about our baby. But what a resounding success.. we made 1000 likes on Facebook in just 18 hours, and I haven’t even seen the Google Analytics data yet – we had problems earlier with the server, as the memory was reaching capacity (or something, I’m a bit vague about that sort of thing).. so I think that means thousands of people are looking at this.. But actually getting people to use the site as well as contribute to it is very important to me. What is the use of ‘a day in the life’ if no one uses the site?

As Mike Ellis memorably said at a conference I attended in 2009 (and I paraphrase slightly) “saying that your information is avaliable online does not mean it’s useful and accessible”.. This really affected me at the time, and although I have been involved in various online projects that haven’t quite yet grasped this concept fully, I really hope that this website is both accessible, useful, and a demonstration of the future of public, community, participatory archaeology – call it what you will.

The DoA team of 7 people worked as smoothly together as if we had been sprayed with WD40. The 400+ archaeologists that contributed to the site were enthusiastic and fearless. No posts were written that were difficult to understand if you were a member of the public. As a team of 407 we done good.

The important thing is what happens next – OK, so we can do this again next year, and aim for 500 archaeologists from every continent… But the potential of this site as a source for campaigning, education, career guidance, dissertation material and so forth is immense. I want to know what you plan to use it for.. You can always find me on Twitter (@LornaRichardson), or Google+ (search for Lorna Richardson, I’m the red-head). You can even email me at the Day of Archaeology email address if 140 characters are not enough… but please get in touch.

My Day of Archaeology…

How meta am I? I think I win any meta competition. My day was not only spent moderating and uploading blogs to the Day of Archaeology site, whilst Tweeting and Facebooking about it (and sending emails and texts), holding hangouts on Google+, Tweeting about holding hangouts on Google+ and Facebooking about Tweeting about holding hangouts on Google+, but I have also kept detailed notes about my experiences of the Day of Archaeology for my PhD research. I am re-using a Netnographic approach (online ethnolography of sorts) to the days participation and discussion on the various social media platforms as far as possible. So your interactions with me and the website have been considered ethnographically (all anonymously of course). And these thoughts and notes are now stuck on virtual Post-Its on my laptop, ready to be written up into a chapter for my research that discusses the creation of an archaeological community online. I think the day clearly demonstrates the existance of an online archaeological community, willing and able to cross social media platforms. It’s not just about being found on Twitter, Flickr or Facebook – it’s about using all of these technologies to create a supportive and cooperative environment on the Internet where archaeologists can come together to network, share, support and laugh about the wonderful world of archaeology.

We done more than good.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for making the first Day of Archaeology amazing. So, July 2012 anyone?

Antiquities, databases and an atypical day at the British Museum

The Moorlands Staffordshire Trulla

The Moorlands pan, one of my favourite objects

For the last eight years, I have worked at the British Museum, following a couple of years working for a German Investment Bank in the City of London. I’m responsible for the management of the Portable Antiquities Scheme‘s IT infrastructure and I provide advice to the British Museum on ICT issues when needed. The world of IT, is entirely self taught knowledge for me; at university I studied archaeology at undergraduate and post graduate levels, with a specific interest in maritime archaeology. It has been a sharp learning curve, and one that I think will always be challenging and disrupted by new technology. Of course, I’m open to offers to get back below the seas and excavate underwater again!

The department that I work for, the Portable Antiquities Scheme (and Treasure) is a DCMS funded project that records objects that have been found within the boundaries of England and Wales by members of the public. They voluntarily bring these objects forward to one of our 60 members of staff, who then record them on our database. You could say that this is at heart, public archaeology in action. This database now provides the basis for a massive amount of research within the university environment and it is very gratifying to see what people do with the database that I built. For example, the map below (produced in ArcView – I use QGIS at home) shows where coins of different periods are found by our contributors. Of course, I have to be very careful who has access to the full spatial co-ordinates, academics have to apply for access and I use some maths to obfuscate points on a map.

A plot of all coins recorded on the Scheme's database

A plot of all coins recorded on the Scheme's database

I’ve also been heavily involved with the #dayofarch project alongside friends and colleagues (we’re calling ourselves”Digital Archaeologists” ). The team working on this project were Matt Law and Lorna Richardson who came up with the plan, Tom Goskar, Jess Ogden, Stu Eve and Andy Dufton). I provided the project with server space, Google analytics, installation of the software and configuration of the software with Tom Goskar. The project has been amazing to work on, and we’ll hopefully be writing this up and getting a chapter on it into Lorna’s PhD.

My day is pretty varied and is either filled with writing funding bids, writing papers (CASPAR workshop papers on Archaeology on TV and Museums and Twitter at the moment), refactoring or writing new code, creating maps in various GIS packages, manipulating images (by script and hand), meetings with academics, TV people or colleagues. It is extremely different to my previous job, and it is probably why I’ve stuck with the role for such a long period. The database that I run, has been written from scratch and I’m currently transferring all my code to GitHub so that others can make use of my work. All the software that I either use or build has to be open-source. I have a very small budget for my IT work – £4000 per annum; is this the smallest budget for a National IT programme ever? I use products from Vanilla for our staff forum, from WordPress for our blogs and various framework packages like Zend Framework for our main website and database. As such, I spent only £48 on the site’s rebuild, the rest goes on server hosting and backup! At the moment, I am also working on a variety of funding proposals, a couple of JISC bids and I’m also looking for funding for the Video-Conferencing workshop that Elizabeth Warry refers to in her post. This is based around the discovery of the Frome hoard and forms the basis for her Masters’ dissertation that I’m supervising with Tim Schadla-Hall. Other people working on this include the British Museum’s education team and members of the Treasure Team. I’m also on various academic advisory boards, an honorary lecturer at UCL (currently helping to supervise Lorna Richardson’s PhD) and a Trustee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, a scholarly society based in Marylebone that has a wonderful collection of artefacts, maps and photos, and I’m currently involved in helping with a research bid for high resolution imagery of fragile documents which involves a wide array of partners.

Ian Richardson hold a double eagle

Ian Richardson hold a double eagle

Currently we have records for over 720,000 objects which have been contributed by over 19,000 people in a 14 year time span. We get around 60,000 visitors per month to our site and around 3-10,000 objects recorded; the time of year has a great effect on this – harvest and seasons especially impact. The site was awarded ‘Best of the Web’ as a research tool or online collection at this year’s Museums and the Web conference in Philadelphia. Something I’m extremely proud of for all our staff and contributors.  All of these records are released under a Creative Commons NC-BY-SA licence and we’ve had considerable success with a variety of digital projects. High profile finds that come up generate a huge amount of interest, and I’ve been trying to get suitable images for the Wikipedia community. We’re finding our relationship with them very beneficial and we now have lots of images in the Wikicommons.

With my wife, Katharine Kelland, I built the Staffordshire Hoard’s first website in 12 hours, and this was viewed by 1/4 million people in one day when we launched. I now use this model as a way for publicising other significant archaeological discoveries. I’m very lucky to work in the British Museum, I never thought I’d end up working there and you never tire of walking through the main gates and up the stairs to the Great Court. In the last few years I’ve been privileged to have seen amazing discoveries close up – the Hackney hoard, the Moorlands patera, the Staffordshire Hoard, the Frome Hoard, the Wheathampstead hoard, and the list goes on. I’ve even got to dress up as a gladiator and parade around the Great Court. Where else could you do this?

The comic strip: Find of the Day

Promoting the project takes many different forms. As a PR-type person, I’d argue that all finds and information from any archaeological project only take on value when their existence is communicated. This is an amazing time for being able to reach people without having to rely on the purchase of a newspaper, seeing or hearing a broadcast, waiting for an article or book publication…


A Town Unearthed has Heritage Lottery funding. It’s only a couple of years ago that I wrote a communications plan for a successful BIG Lottery grant of nearly £300K without mentioning social media. I can’t see that happening today. One of ATU’s lovelier means of communication is through the development of a wonderful comic strip. You’ll need to click on those words as sadly the ancient lap-top can’t support the illustration otherwise.

This is being done by the wonderful Marine Clabaut, who is spending the summer on the dig while working as an intern with the Canterbury Archaeological Trust.

Tech trouble

I’m clearly having trouble with technology today: I caught sight of Lorna Richardson and a couple of  other contributors on the Google+ hang-out: they could hear me but I could not hear them…