Working on the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) pt 3

Well into Friday afternoon now and I have been working on the Bronze Age. The Bronze Age panel are holding their workshop next month and we have been putting together a draft of the document to circulate beforehand. The Bronze Age as a whole has been given short shrift in research frameworks so far, normally divided up between an earlier Bronze Age tacked-on to the Neolithic period, and a later Bronze Age viewed as a precursor to the Iron Age. ScARF has decided to approach it as a period like any other (indeed, radiocarbon dating is starting to put a lot of sites into the Bronze Age, and commercial archaeology is uncovering a lot of settlement evidence recently). As well as co-ordinating the sections coming in, I have to organise the venue – we have gone for a location in Glasgow’s Merchant City.

My next task is to work on our Science in Scottish Archaeology panel report. This panel recently met and are fairly far on with their report. The panel itself is slightly unusual in that the majority of people on it would not describe themselves as archaeologists. All panels have involved people from other disciplines – including historians of various types, architects and environmental scientists – though this is the only one in which archaeologists are in the minority. We have a few sections and illustrations to organise, so I have to contact various people and get that underway. The panel documents will provide something of a ‘rough guide’ for those undertaking archaeological work, pointing to further sources of information, and helping provide a context for those making archaeological decisions. We’re also hoping that there will be interesting and relevant material for those in neighbouring disciplines.

The old school way of electing Fellows: put your hand in and drop a ball into either 'admit' or 'reject.' Things are done differently now!

With this done, I can have a quick visit to the newly refurbished museum. The Society offices are located in the same buildings that form the NMS, which is no accident – you can read more about their intertwined histories here. The Society itself was formed in 1780, we have around 3,000 Fellows (many from abroad), and actively promote research into Scotland’s past. As well as publications, the Society also has a lecture series (including the marathon 6-part Rhind lectures), funds research, runs conferences, and has a vibrant north-east section. The Museum also has a library, to which the Society sends books and journals that are received in swap deals for our Proceedings. As such it holds some interesting material that is difficult to find elsewhere. We are now recording and publishing our lectures – again, free to download. Recent highlights have included the annual Archaeological Research in Progress conference, jointly organised with Archaeology Scotland, and the 2011 Rhind lectures by Prof. Stuart Needham. The Society is also on Twitter: @socantscot and Facebook.

And so to the museum – which is really fantastic. The main hall is beautiful and incredibly light, even when the weather is overcast (which very occasionally happens in Scotland). The refurbished museum contains everything, from natural history to art to archaeology. Highlights include the first colour television and a cast of a T-rex skeleton. A lot of the Scottish material is housed in the Modern wing (the Early People’s gallery is a particular favourite) and both museums are linked. It is nice to be able to spend time in such an interesting space.

The main hall

Working on the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) pt 2

Morning’s work done and after a quick lunch I now have a meeting with Stuart Campbell of the Treasure Trove Unit (TTU). The TTU is responsible for the identification and preservation of recently discovered and significant objects. They also co-ordinate the allocation of objects to public museums and set suitable market-value finder’s rewards where appropriate. The Treasure Trove website is the best place for more details and the legal background.

Discussing the document: Stuart about to volunteer his expertise

Finds reported through Treasure Trove comprise a considerable research resource and the potential it has to help us answer our questions regarding the past is something we have previously discussed. Today however, I’m talking to Stuart about his research interests, particularly in relation to the work of our Modern panel. We recently held a workshop through in Glasgow to discuss our draft report and got a lot of feedback on what we should include, and what we might edit down. All of our panels hold a workshop of around 25-40 people and it is a really useful way to get feedback. We’ve also found people are very willing to help address gaps that we might have, and today I’m discussing a couple of topics that Stuart might be able to help us cover.

After a good discussion and with Stuart volunteering to cover a few of the outstanding gaps in the report I head back to the Society offices. Everyone who contributes to ScARF gives their time and their work for free, and I’m constantly amazed at how much effort people put in. We had initially envisaged our series of reports as each being around 25,000 words long – this was then revised upwards to around 35,000. We keep on getting in really good work however, and in a variety of formats (databases, maps, date-lists, spreadsheets etc). As a result, we are developing a ‘wiki’ or online encyclopaedia in order to house the information from the reports, as well as all of the extra information that we had to edit down. Hopefully, we can keep this updated and streamlined so that it becomes a useful and used resource (not much worse than a dead wiki!).

Some of the Society’s publications

Early afternoon I was scheduled to meet with my line manager, Simon Gilmour, the Director of the Society of Antiquaries. He was called away to a funeral today however so I have a bit of time to focus on a couple more of the reports, and hopefully have the chance to have a quick look around the newly opened museum. Before I do, I thought I would highlight the work of the Society as a publisher. As well as publishing the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and the Scottish Archaeological Internet Reports (SAIR) we also produce a number of books. Our Proceedings and SAIR are both available online entirely for free – a real source of pride for the Society. I don’t have the number of times these resources are downloaded to hand, though over the course of a year SAIR is well into 6 figures, and the Proceedings into 7 figures. If my boss reads this, he may be able to update accordingly! Our publications cover a whole range of topics, with recent books on St Kilda, and on excavations of henge monuments by Richard Bradley.

My colleague Erin’s desk – publication is a busy business! (and the desk is always this tidy)

Writing about henge monuments reminds me that my next task is connected to our Bronze Age panel…

Working on the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) pt 1

Tea: Key ingredient to working life

Good morning from a summery Edinburgh, Scotland! ‘Summery’ in Edinburgh often means driving rain though today we’ve got a lot of cloud with some sunshine poking through.

My name is Jeff Sanders and I am the Project Manager for the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF). ScARF aims to provide a review of what we know about Scotland’s past through archaeology and related disciplines, and to consider what promising areas of research we might pursue in the future. We run a series of nine panels of specialists to explore different aspects of Scotland’s past (Palaeolithic & Mesolithic; Neolithic, Bronze Age; Iron Age; Roman Scotland; Medieval; Modern; Marine & Maritime; and Science in Scottish Archaeology).

Each panel produces a report which will be available online early in 2012 and we have a number of other resources that will be available on the website. A lot of my job entails co-ordinating the work of the panels and developing the panel reports, which is a fantastic way of getting to know all the exciting research that is being undertaken across Scotland.

Opening of the refurbished museum!

Today I’m working on three of the reports, but before that, it is something of a celebration at my workplace! I work for the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (SoAS), an organisation that is based in the National Museums Scotland (NMS) on Chambers Street (more about the SoAS later). The National Museum is effectively two museums in one, a modern museum and a Victorian building (previously known as the Royal Museum). The Victorian building has been closed for over 3 years to have a massive refit and it opens to the public today.

The street outside was closed for the opening celebration involving a T-Rex, drummers, abseilers, fireworks and a reproduction Carnyx. There were a lot of people there and the atmosphere was incredible. It was good to move among the crowd and see so many really keen to get into the building (work colleagues included!). Inside, the museum is spectacular and I’ll include a few photos in the next posts. Before that, I need to check my email and sort out some of the work in my in-tray.


My work desk