A Day of Solidarity

Day of Archaeology - the Bristol desk

Day of Archaeology – the Bristol desk

The Day of Archaeology is probably my favourite day of the year. As part of the volunteer team that co-ordinates the project I tend to spend the day reading through incoming posts,  proofreading them and checking links work before they’re published. When not doing that I’m checking our e-mail account for queries and new sign-ups, and tweeting about the posts I’ve just read. I think I said last year that I learn so much new about archaeology through taking part ion Day of Archaeology. This year I’ve also learned some useful things about being an archaeologist. Many of us have quite varied working lives (see, as one example, David Gurney’s series of posts about his work as county archaeologist in Norfolk), and so it is with me.

Currently, most of my time is occupied by working for a small commercial archaeology unit in Somerset. I’m also a freelance environmental archaeologist, an hourly paid lecturer at Bath Spa University (where I was lucky enough to work as a maternity cover lecturer last academic year) and a part-time PhD student at Cardiff University. Additionally, I’m working on a few other fun projects – Day of Archaeology being one of them! Right now, a number of people who started PhDs the same time as me at Cardiff, but who have funding for full-time study, are submitting or very close to submitting their theses. It’s an exciting time, and I’m really proud of them, but it does make me wonder about my own situation. Some days submitting my PhD, even finishing the data collection, feels like a very distant prospect indeed.

Being a part-time PhD student can be wonderful, because you have a lot of freedom to manage your time in a way that suits you, and I have a phenomenally supportive supervisor, but it can also be a bit isolating. I seldom see my fellow PhD students, and I have no yardstick against which to measure my progress. I was pleased then, to read DoA entries this year from other part-timers, who actually seem to have reasonably similar experiences to mine.

Bob Clarke, for example, seems to divide his non-PhD time between commercial archaeology, community archaeology and his old career in engineering (his post contains a wonderful quote from Mick Aston incidentally). Duncan Berryman had the fortune to be working on his PhD on the Day of Archaeology, and takes quite a positive view about the timescale a part-time PhD affords for developing his research. Spencer Gavin Smith, who is trying out crowdsourcing as a way to fund his studies, also divides his time between commercial archaeology and PhD research. I’m sure there are many others like us – it’s encouraging to hear from some once in a while.

I think it’s important for those working with heritage to be mutually supportive, and for me one of the strengths of Day of Archaeology within the archaeological community (engagement with other archaeologists is still good engagement!) is that it helps foster a feeling of solidarity. It  couldn’t work without collaboration – not just those of us who have managed the project over the past three years  – Lorna, Dan, Tom, Andy, Jess, Jaime, Monty, Stu and Pat – but also the 1048 people who are registered contributors on the site, and everyone who shared links on facebook, twitter and elsewhere. Although in practice, I spent Day of Archaeology on my own (with the uninspiring view in the photo above), I felt very much connected to a network of people working in different ways towards the same broad aim. Fittingly, Sara Perry wrote an especially thoughtful post for DoA this year on the importance of collaboration in her work life. Thank you so much to all of you who have contributed, shared or read DoA posts. Let’s do it again next year.

One thought on “A Day of Solidarity

  1. Bob Clarke says:

    Matt, it is clear we are not alone! You have a good point when you say about measuring progress. I’m aiming for submission next September – hopefully by next DoA I will be able to report on those final days. Thanks for the summery.

    Best wishes


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