Dispatches from Edinburgh: ScARF project & museums – part 2

A blank powerpoint presentation being presided over by Joseph Anderson FSA Scot (1916-1832)

A blank powerpoint presentation being presided over by Joseph Anderson FSA Scot (1916–1832)

Lunches had, cups of tea refreshed twice over (the only thing this office loves more than archaeology is tea – fact) I spend the first part of my afternoon doing some admin: monthly reports, target checking, timesheets etc. As the ScARF project I’m working on is funded (thank you, Historic Environment Scotland & Museums Galleries Scotland!) I need to dedicate time to considering my work in the context of outcomes and indicators. As I’ve not been in the job long (question from my boss: “when I can stop calling you ‘new’?“) this also helps me focus my work as I continue to get to grips with the wider ScARF project.

Targets, outcomes, indicators, targets, outcomes, indicators...

Targets, outcomes, indicators, targets, outcomes, indicators…

Admin duly administrated, I can focus back on preparatory work for Orkney. I’ll be giving a few talks when I’m there, spreading the ScARF and museums gospel, so I’m busy drawing up plans for what these will entail. Though I’ve mentioned Orkney already, it’s not just there that I’ll be working with museums. Later on in the project I’ll also be working with the Aberdeenshire Council museums service on their collections. While both museums services have Recognised Collections and rich archaeological landscapes around them, they are both really different. It’ll be interesting to see how each museum service benefits from our project, and how our work varies with the different museums involved.

Meeting notes, to-do lists, mind-maps. Therein lies the heart of the museum project. And tea. Always tea.

In preparing talks and any work for Orkney I need to consider how relevant it might also be to Aberdeenshire – I don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to working with my colleagues there later on. The main research topics I’m looking at just now are farming and fishing, so I return to my trusty documents (the ScARF panel reports are free to view online or download here) and see how they’re referenced, and how museums might already have contributed to them.

Perhaps in a couple of months time I’d have some rather more exciting photos to share (who doesn’t love a good museum store?) but for now these will have to do. Last but not least… why not sign up to our monthly e-newsletter at to keep up-to-date with all things ScARF.

Settlements, Shielings & Sunshine: Archaeological Survey at NTS Torridon

Torridon. One of the most dramatic landscapes in the United Kingdom. Driving to it, from the south or the east is an unforgettable journey. Three massive mountains, Beinn Alligin, Liathach and Beinn Eighe rise suddenly from the shore of the deep sea loch to over 1000m in height, looming over you and totally dominating the area.

Beinn Alligin & Liathac seen across Upper Loch Torridon.

Beinn Alligin & Liathach seen across Upper Loch Torridon.

The National Trust for Scotland looks after over 6,000ha of land on the north side of Loch Torridon. Along with the plants, animals, birds, footpaths & upland landscape that we manage, there are also a huge amount of archaeological remains. The majority of these are 18th and 19th century settlement and farming remains; there are very little prehistoric remains on the north side of the Loch, but plenty on the southside. Perhaps it is because prehistoric folk settled and used the same land that is still settled and in use today, thus all traces have been removed. You can find out more about the archaeology sites here

In March, I was lucky enough to lead a National Trust for Scotland Thistle Camp where we carried out condition monitoring and survey work across a number of the settlements and shieling sites. This is incredibly useful heritage management work, as it allows us to see the overall picture of change of the archaeological resource & to develop a management plan to deal with all sorts of threats such as bracken & vegetation growth, erosion, burrowing and collapse.

For the condition monitoring I have developed an Android tablet based system which utilises the Open Data Kit to allow us to remotely collect the data, and then submit it to a server when we have an internet connection. Internally, we’ve found the system to be incredibly robust and useful, and much simpler to use and get data back from than paper based systems.

Condition Monitoring at Wester Alligin, Torridon

Condition Monitoring at Wester Alligin, Torridon

In total we monitored 191 sites and structures over 5 days and from this developed a really good understanding of what is affecting the archaeological remains and how.

Condition Data, Torridon

Condition Data, Torridon

I have previously written about the Data Enhancement project I work on at the Trust; the GPS survey work at Torridon has allowed us to enhance our GIS data and polygons, which means we have better and more detailed information when managing our Torridon estate. We now know the exact location and extent of a wide range of structures, dykes and cultivation remains whereas previously we had them as point data or even described as “left of the structure” “below the area of woodland” and so forth.

Surveyed archaeological remains, Wester Alligin, Torridon

Surveyed archaeological remains, Wester Alligin, Torridon

Through doing this work we have also recorded remains that are quite obvious on the ground for for a variety of reasons had never been recorded and utilised aerial imagery from a range of sources to map some of the more ephemeral remains such as cultivation ridges and furrows. I have also been able to compare the remains to the historic Ordnance Survey mapping available from the National Library of Scotland which allows us to (being to) understand when buildings were built, in use and abandoned.

Some of the structures which appear on the above map

Some of the structures which appear on the above map

We also discovered a couple of possible new sites such as a cup marked boulder, which is very exiciting.

I need to thank the volunteers, Danji, Kathy, Joanna, Will, Thomas, Abbie, Barry & Jim who made this work possible and who took to the work with such great enthusiasm and interest.

It wasn't all hard work! Yhe group at the top of the Bealach na Bà.

It wasn’t all hard work! Yhe group at the top of the Bealach na Bà.


A day managing the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework

The day in the ScARF office begins with tea and the newest member of the team reading our old Day of Archaeology posts from 2012 and 2015 (if you haven’t read them, they can be found at and and finally . Since the last #dayofarch, the ScARF team has doubled in size and so now we are two people, making just over 1 full time post. This means that we can split ourselves easily between archaeology and museums work, as part of the plan for the future is to better integrate existing museum collections with trying to answer existing research recommendations, which so far have tended to be born out of pure archaeological thinking.

There won’t actually be much time for me to read #dayofarch posts today though, that will likely be a task for the bus home. Being part time means you have to use every office minute to its advantage and you often feel like reading blog posts and similar isn’t ‘real work’, even if they do have value! One I can read legitimately, though, is the post for today from Anna our Museums Officer at  Instead, today will mainly be about three things:

  1. Future Thinking on Scotlands Carved Stones – a major new panel report for ScARF
  2. The ScARF student network
  3. Admin tasks
Future Thinking on Scotlands' Carved Stones - a screenshot of the yet to be released resource

Future Thinking on Scotlands’ Carved Stones – a screenshot of the yet to be released resource

Firstly, getting the newest addition to the ScARF panel report family up online. Future Thinking on Scotlands Carved Stones ( ) is due for release at the end of next month and will mark the culmination of work by a group of over fifty people led by Dr Sally Foster, Dr Katherine Forsyth, Stuart Jeffrey and Susan Buckham. I didn’t contribute to the writing of the report, but my job was to advise on structure and to put the text and images online and link everything together, as well as to link to other existing ScARF sections where appropriate. This means some HTML work, as simply copying and pasting leaves a horrible proprietary mess in the code, and then some design work to fit the images into the text nicely. Very similar, in fact, to what I appear to have been doing for the 2012 #dayofarch post.  I’ve blocked off most of the day to work on Carved Stones because it needs focus and concentration so I can’t let myself get distracted by other ScARF bits at the same time.

Exciting as the work on the new stones panel is, I don’t have time to spend all today on it. It’s already made up the bulk of my work over the past three weeks. So, after a no-break-desk-lunch, I plan on quietly putting the stones to one side and begin the never-ending task of project admin. Mostly replying to emails, you do know archaeological project management is pure glamour, right? Some emails will be routine and won’t need much time spent on them, some I can see from the subject line are to do with new archaeological research so they will get marked to explore properly later, and recently it seems quite a lot are related to some of our upcoming panel meetings so I will be sure to answer them straight away.

Trowelblazer Lottie had planned on helping out for the day but instead despairs at the increasing amount of post it notes

Trowelblazer Lottie had planned on helping out for the day but instead despairs at the increasing amount of post it notes

After that block of admin, it will be time for some Friday Fun and telling the world about some of the work we have supported recently. Over the past few months, ScARF has provided student bursaries to attend archaeological conferences. In return, each student had to submit a short report to us about their time there as well as a promise that ScARF can use their research, if appropriate, to help update the framework questions and recommendations. The reports received so far can all be found at and cover a diverse range of topics including prehistoric beekeeping, iron age object deposition, re-evaluation of insular metalwork from Pagan-Norse graves, Medieval cetacean consumption and Iron Age equestrianism, so something for everyone! I have a few new reports to put up this afternoon from the 14C and Archaeology conference ( that recently took place in Edinburgh, so if science and archaeology is your thing then take a look at the reports section later today. After that, I need to write to all the bursary recipients and see if they want to take up the offer of Society Fellowship (you can find out more about that at ).

I plan on spending some time towards the end of the day working on my papers for the European Association of Archaeologists conference, which is at the end of next month. If you are interested, then ScARF and the Society have papers about digital publication and archiving in session TH3-11 , and open access in session TH3-03.   In a previous life, writing papers usually took place in the evenings and weekends. However, now I’m in my thirties and have responsibilities other than work, so paper writing has to take place during the working day. This is a good example of how, four years on from my first #dayofarch post, how I can/have to spend my day at work has changed even if some of the actual work is the same.

An aside: Writing this post has also made me realise how my views on working in archaeology have changed over the past four years since the first post. In those four years, I have had three different jobs (not all archaeological, and none until now more than a 12 month contract) and become a parent. Archaeology (and therefore work) used to be the all consuming thing in life, and I was quite happy to give all my hours/life to it (Hello Silchester!) but life happens and things change. Some of the best posts from previous years are those that truly reflect on what a job/career archaeology is about and how it is rarely a smooth ride (I particularly like,, and recently I think #dayofarch is a great way for people to reflect on archaeology as a career (whether they are already working in archaeology or not) and provides an invaluable and real insight to a world that, despite what some would have you believe, isn’t all Lego, Minecraft, or easy digging in the sunshine. </endrant>

The very last hour or so of the day of archaeology will be about planning the next few months. We are working in our plans for Orkney and Aberdeenshire museums visits as well as updating panel reports and working with commercial units to keep on top of the current archaeological picture in Scotland. This is the first time writing for #dayofarch that I’ve known I’ll still be working on ScARF for the next one, so I love the opportunity to really get stuck into the work and planning is a big part of that. It’ll be out with the diary, fix some dates and then head home – to read lots more #dayofarch posts en route!

Digitally recording land use across Scotland

I’m Mike Middleton and I work as an archaeologist for Historic Environment Scotland in the Data and Recording team, with specific responsibility for mapping. I work on two major projects; the Historic Land-use Assessment – a map of the current and relict land-use of Scotland – and a project looking to map the records in the National Record of the Historic Environment.

In my work I use sources such as historic maps, aerial photography and field survey data to try and map the known extent of sites and historic landscapes. I also work with and train colleagues so as to build mapping into their field projects.

One of our most exciting developments this year has been the completion of the Historic Land-use Assessment to give us full nationwide coverage for the first time. This has allowed us to work in partnership with the National Library of Scotland to produce a Land-use Viewer showing the change in Scotland’s land-use since the 1930s.

Showing the change in Scotland’s land-use since the 1930's.

Showing the change in Scotland’s land-use since the 1930’s.

The maps highlight changing land use and in particular the urban and forest expansion during this period, as well as the impact of infrastructure projects such as hydro schemes and bridges.

Having a nationwide land-use map allows us to quantify and monitor land-use change. By understanding what land-use change is happening we can start to think about how it impacts on the historic environment and this is turn can inform how we manage and target resources.

I got into archaeology because I grew up in Shetland – an area particularly rich in archaeology. As my career has developed I’ve come to see how archaeology is a finite resource, susceptible to land-use change. By working in archaeological mapping I feel I’m contributing by mapping the scale of the resource and by attempting to understand how land-use change is impacting on our historic environment.


Scotland: Land-use Viewer


Canmore: The National Record of the Historic Environment

Monuments and Maps – A day working with the SMR

Having recently re-joined the world of traffic lights and bustle from my four years spent on Orkney studying archaeology at the University of the Highlands and Islands, I find myself working from an office on the outskirts of Aberdeen where I work in the Archaeology Service at Aberdeenshire Council as Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) assistant.

2016 Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology logo2

Click the logo to see the full spread of what the Archaeology Service does and offers.

Studying archaeology allowed for a time of fairly self-indulgent research where there was usually enough wiggle room that I could find a way to write about things I wanted to look at. Coming out of that into the world of working in archaeology has been exciting, as I have been forced to move beyond my comfort zone of Neolithic Orkney and into the full spread of archaeology in the North East of Scotland. While I work at Aberdeenshire Council, the Service covers Angus, Moray and Aberdeen City, as well as Aberdeenshire, so we have a large and varied area to cover. Once I had got over the idea of recumbent stone circles (I mean, really?!), discovering the archaeology of a new area has been hugely exciting and rewarding.

Whole area GIS

The full spread of sites and monuments that we cover (each coloured dot represents a unique site)

So what is it I actually do? Well the Archaeology Service has a wide ranging role, from answering enquiries from members of the public and getting involved in local community digs, to working with developers to ensure that  any archaeological remains are dealt with appropriately. Whatever we are doing, the focus is always on providing the best protection, management and promotion of the historic environment for the benefit of all. An important part of this is knowing what archaeology there is in the area we cover, and where it is, and this is where I come in. What I do most days is ensure our publicly available SMR is as up to date and accurate as it can be.

At desk

Today, I am working my way through the records for listed buildings in Moray. I check what is entered on the digital SMR against the Historic Environment Scotland listed building description, and make sure any discrepancies are checked and any additional information is added. I also aim to make the descriptions of the monuments as user-friendly as possible. Finding the balance between technical descriptions of specific aspects of monuments, and language people might actually understand, is always tricky, but I hope it helps enable those without a background in archaeology to get an overview of what there is out there, as well as being of use to those with a more specialist background. I also make sure that the monument is marked in the right place on the map, and that the mapped  area covers the whole monument. Looking at old maps is something I have always found great joy in doing, and checking these to see the evolution and origins of a site is always a highlight.

Elgin cathedral

GIS map showing Elgin Cathedral. Click on the image to go see the publicly available SMR details of this fantastic site.

I have found working within archaeology from an office side of things to be very fulfilling. While sitting in a cold muddy hole for several hours a day will always be my first true archaeological love, this job has similar aspects to it that can make it just as exciting. Like anything within archaeology, the unknown and unexpected is always just around the corner, and there is always something new that we will suddenly have to respond to. The various specialisms within the team mean there is always something to learn and discuss throughout the day, discussions can go from a Mesolithic flint scatter to an 18th century farmhouse in a flash. The job has also highlighted to me the importance policy effecting archaeology, and how imperative it is that, as archaeologists, we are engaged in this and ensure our voice is heard and consulted at every stage of the process.

Allan Kilpatrick – Historic Environment Scotland

As I stood on the rain-sodden hillside, soaked, surrounded by two-metre-tall ferns and being bitten by a biblical plague of midges who viewed me as a three-star Michelin meal, I wondered: Is archaeology really worth it? However, once I’d brushed myself down, killed a thousand or so midges and began to move again, I realised I wasn’t finished with archaeology yet. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that there is almost no other job like it. Where else can you find yourself walking across a bit of countryside discovering the history of the landscape? This particular day, I was an archaeologist with a mission. I was looking for something not from our ancient past but rather more recent: I was seeking the archaeological remains of the First World War.

The field work is part of a HES project to survey and record the defences of the Clyde from both wars, as part of the Discover the Clyde programme (

The sites I was looking for were military blockhouses. These are timber buildings which housed soldiers and were surrounded by an earth and sandbag wall providing a fighting position or strongpoint to defend an area of ground. I had with me copy of a map from The National Archives on which was drawn the position of a number of blockhouses on the hill. I had many questions to answer: were the blockhouses actually built? What did they look like? How accurate was the annotation on the map? Had they survived or had forestry ploughing destroyed them? So many variables and combined with the new trees and suffocating ferns, it was going to be a challenge to find them.

With the start of the Scottish version of a monsoon, I made my way upwards to a low summit which I thought might be my best chance.  For me, the thrill of fieldwork is the finding of archaeology, be it a cairn or rig, a hut circle or blockhouse.

As I reached the summit I found a small square concrete hut base which was not quite what I was expecting, but I recorded it and moved on. I carried on through the undergrowth and stumbled upon a large, square enclosure with a partial earth wall measuring about 5m by 5m.

The first Blockhouse found © HES

The first Blockhouse found © HES

Was this what I sought or was it something else? Indeed it was close to the position on the map.  I needed a comparison. Some more scrambling and two thousand dead midges later, I found a second rectangular enclosure on the edge of a steep slope covered in dense ferns and fallen trees but measuring the same internal size. Success!

The second Blockhouse built on the edge of the slope covered in dense tall bracken © HES

The second Blockhouse built on the edge of the slope covered in dense tall bracken © HES

As it turned out, these were indeed the sites of two blockhouses. We discovered two almost identical sites about 2km to the north later that day (see We have now found six of these blockhouses which defended Ardhallow Coast Battery on the Clyde from landward attack. The quest will continue as somewhere in the dense forestry lie three more.

A blockhouse was in there somewhere © HES

A blockhouse was in there somewhere © HES

Is archaeology worth it, on a day like this one it really is!

A transition period in the life of an archaeologist

The career of an archaeologist usually has its ups and downs and is not a straight forward road. No surprise that I am again somehow between 2 jobs. Well, okay, I started my current job at the Research Centre of the “Keltenwelt am Glauberg” nearly 3 months ago ( – the museum is a must-see if you are interested in the Early Celts and if you want to see the rich burials of three Early Iron Age men with bronze flagons, gold rings and necklaces, prestigous brooches and many other things more, not to forget the life-size sand-stone statue of one of the buried persons).

But my past job as a stand-in for the Assistent Professorship for Digital Geoarchaeology at Bamberg University ( still needs my contribution: In my Bamberg time I had organised this summer’s student field trip to Scotland.

Bamberg University Archaeology Fieldtrip 2016

Bamberg University Archaeology Fieldtrip 2016

On the Day of Archaeology 2016 we will visit the Corrimony Chambered Cairns (, Urquhart Castle (

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle

Dun Telve Broch

and the Glenelg Brochs (Dun Telve:  and Dun Troddan: – definitely not the worst places to spend one’s day!

Dun Troddan Broch

Dun Troddan Broch

We will travel around Scotland with it’s rich and fascinating heritage to show the students places with a highly interesting landscapes and with sites from the Neolithic to the modern era.

This trip ties in to my research plans for investigations in Scotland, comparing indigenious societies and ‘their landscapes’ in the light of the Roman occupation in areas in Scotland and in the German state of Hesse. Meeting various Scottish colleagues to talk about this project idea will be part fo the trip as will be the preparation of a special exhibition we plan at the Glauberg museum (more to come as soon as our ideas become more ‘stable’). So it’s a great opportunity to combine old obligations with plans in my new job (and of course with enjoying Scotland, its landscapes, its archaeology and last but definitely not least its people and their various [cereal] products).

As I will most likely not be extensively online (and not in the mood to work online) too often during that trip I will use the images of a previous trip to Scotland to illustrate this day in the highlands. I might however – depending on my mood – use Twitter (@posluschny) every now and then.

Heritage Data and the National Trust for Scotland

I am the Archaeological Data Officer for the National Trust for Scotland. We are a conservation charity who own and care for almost 80,000ha of land, making us the third largest landowner in Scotland. Across our land we have over 11,000 heritage sites of which 101 are designated as Scheduled Monuments and 271 are Listed Buildings, we also have the dual World Heritage Site of the St. Kilda Archipelago.

The majority of my workload revolves around our heritage data management, databases and GIS; over the last two years I have polygonised all our heritage sites, and these have associated records linked with the RCAHMS Canmore database. Our GIS also pulls in Ordnance Survey data, including historic maps, survey data created by ourselves or contractors, historic estate plans from our archives, condition monitoring data and so on, all of which helps us to efficiently, and effectively manage the heritage for everyone.

Aside from the data management work, I also have a number of different projects on the go which should enhance the understanding and visibility of the heritage sites to our staff, our members and the public. These range from carrying out detailed surveys of our Scheduled Monuments and other archaeological sites, to developing a system for aiding the monitoring of the condition of our heritage sites, to acquiring and processing LiDAR survey data. One area that I’m increasingly working in is the visualisation of heritage sites, artefacts and architectural details through techniques such as close-range photogrammetry. (more…)

Celebrating Scottish Archaeology!

As a bit of a disclaimer, this post will not include any well-worn trowels, muddy boots, ancient artefacts, swarms of midges, or ugly jumpers. This post will, however, feature some Victorian silliness, Lego archaeologists, and an exclusive look at what it’s like to spend a year celebrating Scotland’s past with Dig It! 2015!

Dig It! 2015, co-ordinated by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and Archaeology Scotland, is all about demonstrating that archaeology really is for everyone. In addition to gathering learning resources, supporting organisations and creating bespoke events, we’ve developed a programme of hundreds of activities, from ‘traditional’ outdoor digs and museum exhibitions, to more unexpected events, such as theatre performances, music festivals and Minecraft sessions.

Victorian Sensation _ Dig It! 2015

Having a bit of fun at the ‘Photography: A Victorian Sensation’ exhibition

The Dig It! 2015 team is pretty small, but we have an extra member today, as one of our fantastic volunteers has joined us! Nuria Lopez, has been volunteering with us to research and analyse lifelong learning options in archaeology in Scotland. We used our lunch break to bring Nuria along to the ‘Photography: A Victorian Sensation’ exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, where we encountered the pioneers of photography. Of course, this excellent exhibition isn’t complete without a few silly shots.

After returning to the office, we settled back into our work. We recently ran an archaeology, art and photography competition with Forestry Commission Scotland, called Dig Art! 2015, and we’re now sorting out all of the amazing entries. One of the prizes for our promotional mini-competitions was personalised Lego characters, and we’re very excited to use the Day of Archaeology to premiere three new mini-members of the Dig It! 2015 Lego team! We’ll be mailing out these tiny archaeologists over the next couple of days – two within Scotland and one to Australia!

Lego Winners _ Dig It! 2015

Tiny archaeologists strike a pose (Image credit: Stephen Reid)

These pink Dig It! 2015 t-shirts (as seen in our #VictorianSensation photo) have naturally become the must-have fashion item of 2015 and we love it when they appear in our inbox or on social media. Photos have come from exotic locations such as Ethiopia, the United States, Cyprus and Dundee. The latest photo arrived last night from the Ness of Brodgar in Orkney (featured on the cover of National Geographic last year). Jenna Ward, a yearly volunteer at the dig and archaeology Masters student, braved the cold July weather to brighten things up a bit. Thanks, Jenna!

Jenna Ward _ Dig It! 2015

Dig It! 2015 popping up at the Ness of Brodgar

Finally, we’ll be sending copies of our new programmes to the Scottish Borders. The wonderful Borders Heritage Festival is featured in the programmes, and they have requested a few copies of their own. These programmes provide a taster of events happening throughout the country from July to December, and are also available throughout Scotland in places such as libraries, train stations, cinemas and airports.

Time to get back to answering all of your lovely emails, promoting activities, researching lifelong learning courses, coordinating events, and sifting through amazing Dig Art! 2015 entries. Hope you enjoyed this little behind-the-scenes tour. If you’d like to know more about Dig It! 2015, or get involved, please visit

Dig It! 2015 Programmes

Dig It! 2015 programmes are ready to go

Archaeo-archivists* unite!

*Archaeolivists? Archivaeologists? Neologise your own preferred term here.

I am one of four trained archaeologists currently working in the University of Glasgow Archive Services: two as researchers and two who also trained as proper archivists. I would be put out at not being the quirky, cool odd one out if I didn’t like my colleagues so much. In fact, the longer I work here, the more interdisciplinary intersections I see, from archaeologist colleagues visiting the archives to do research, to archivist colleagues who do archaeology.

Digging in the archives

For the Day of Archaeology 2015, I want to celebrate some of the particularly archaeological highlights that I have (sometimes literally) stumbled upon in the archival collections at the University of Glasgow.

I particularly like the oversize scrapbook of the Glasgow Archaeological Society. The correspondence and minutes of the society date back to 1866, but items in the scrapbook date to the 17th century.


Noted antiquarian Charles Whitelaw’s drawing of a sword found at Cathcart, Glasgow, in the scrapbook of the Glasgow Archaeological Society, (University of Glasgow Archives Reference: DC066/14/1).

The University Archive includes a collection of posters for past events, including lectures like A.O. Curle’s 1922 talk on Traprain Law. Curle was not just the excavator of some amazing sites, but also served as Secretary of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (1908-13), and the Director of the National Museum of Antiquities (1913-9)  – what would become today’s National Museum of Scotland – among other posts.

2014-05-13 10.45.33

Another highlight is the papers of Leslie Alcock, formerly Professor of Archaeology at the University of Glasgow and Honorary Keeper of the Archaeological and Anthropological Collections of the University’s Hunterian Museum. Alcock specialised in Early Historic Britain and the University Archives hold records on some of his excavations.


Reports from Alcock’s excavations of Dundurn, Perthshire, Scotland

It goes together like beer and archaeology

In addition to the various records of the day-to-day business of the University, as well as papers of past students and staff, the University of Glasgow Archives is home to the important business collections. My personal favourite is the Scottish Brewing Archive.

It is handy for finds research, like this bottle, uncovered by the Strathearn Environs and Royal Forteviot (SERF) Project, the University of Glasgow’s annual field school in Perthshire, Scotland.


WB Thomson Superior Waters Codd bottle

Thanks to the Scottish Brewing Archive (Newsletter No. 7, 1986), I learned that WB Thomson and other brewers struggled during the difficult economic conditions of the First World War: the company was liquidated and ceased to exist early in 1915, with its aerated water and bottling interests being bought out by Perth-based John Craik & Co. Suddenly a seemingly mundane artefact could be linked more widely to dramatic socio-economic events.

Perhaps the promise of discovery is what makes archaeologists and archivists such kindred spirits. In autumn of last year a student cataloguing project unearthed previously unseen photos of St Kilda, much to the delight of archaeologists at the University of Glasgow and the National Trust for Scotland. The photographs were snapped by Thomas Patterson, the first Gardiner Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, while on holiday in the 1920s. The photos offer a glimpse of life on the island of Hirta before it was evacuated in 1930.

St Kilda

DC431/8/14 The St Kilda Post Office, photograph found in the personal papers of Thomas Patterson, the first Gardiner Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Glasgow.

Thus, the University of Glasgow archives are a vibrant source of research for a number of archaeological projects, from ground-breaking (excuse the pun) research into the history of Glasgow’s allotments, to the Heritage Lottery Funded project Digging In, which will recreate First World War trenches in Glasgow’s Pollok Park.

OTC trench Bowman notebook

Using a wealth of archival material like this photograph from the collection of the University of Glasgow Officers Training Corps (DC099/5) and the notebooks of AA Bowman (DC077), Digging In will compare how troops were prepared for trench warfare at home with data gathered by the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology on excavations of trenches on the Western Front to create a dynamic learning environment in the heart of Glasgow.

So for this year’s Day of Archaeology, I am enjoying being an archaeologist in the archives – discovering the past … just with less dirt.

Jen Novotny is an archaeologist employed as a Research Assistant in History who is based in the Archives at the University of Glasgow. She works on Glasgow University’s Great War, a WWI centenary project. Follow the project on Twitter @GlasgowUniWW1 and keep up to date on research via the project blog.