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I'm on a year's CBA Community Archaeology Training Placement at Northlight Heritage in Glasgow

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Takeover Day

Takeover Day was a brilliant collaboration between us, Greenmill Primary School in Cumnock and the East Ayrshire Leisure team.  It was a national initiative where kids get to take over museums for a day -experiencing all jobs from managers to tour guides.  I looked after the Collections Care team along with Bruce -a curator with East Ayrshire Leisure.  The kids even took over our facebook and twitter account for the day.  They were cleaning and displaying artefacts we had found on the excavation in September.  It was seriously one of the most rewarding days at work I have ever had.  To see the children take such care and ownership over their objects whilst they worked out each artefact's biography was a pleasure.  A great day was had by all - the objects are on display at the Baird Institute - telling a story of the Tup Inn - written by the children of Cumnock.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Rest of November 2013

After the Community Heritage Conference I continued to have a busy month...

I drew the winner of the Cumnock Shop Front Heritage Hunt (where there were clues in the shop windows like this and kids had to hunt for them).  They got a goodiebag of prizes - thanks to the shops in Cumnock who donated them.  

I also did a couple of school visits in Cumnock - one was at St. Patrick's Primary where I did a Skara Brae session (they asked specially!)  Thanks to Historic Scotland Rangers in Orkney for providing a great Education Pack and to Alice Watterson for the use of her film - which is great - check out her blog to have a trippy neolithic experience.

National Archives
Later in the month I even headed over to Edinburgh to the National Archives and NTS Archives to do some documentary research about the Mausoleum at the House of Dun.  It was my first time in the National Archive and a bit scary!  I found it VERY difficult to read the 17th and 18th C Handwriting - but the highlight was finding a letter with James VI Privy seal on it.  

Cumnock History Group
We attended the first ever meeting of the Cumnock History Group at the Baird Institute in Cumnock.  It was brilliant to be there at the formation of a brand new group - which was an unexpected outcome out of our Raising the Bar heritage project.  

Wemmys Caves
I went up to Wemmys Caves in Fife to visit a project which Northlight and our sister organisations ArcHeritage and Trent and Peak are involved in.  Northlight are involved in creating a high quality digital scan of the amazing Pictish carvings in the caves - which will be available for the public to view online.  I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on an RTI workshop which was fab - using a normal camera and some amazing software to create images of the carvings with a movable light source.  You can read more about it on the SCAPE website: 

Selkirk Finds
I worked with one of the Hidden Heritage volunteers - Biff to sort out the finds from Selkirk - including this lovely spindle whorl.  We got all the finds catalogued and sorted - and it was great to have a yarn to Biff again!  

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Scotland's Community Heritage Conference

Conference outing
One of my activities as Community Archaeology Bursary Placement was to help with the organising of Scotland's Community Heritage Conference - hosted by RCAHMS, Archaeology Scotland, Historic Scotland, Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust, NTS, SCAPE and Northlight Heritage.  I worked with the Skills for the Future trainees at RCAHMS (the lovely Martin and Sharon) to run the photo competition and we helped to run the social media storm with live tweets during the conference.

Sharon & Martin have put the tweets online here:


I also gave a poster talk about what I've been up to on my placement so far - and a minute of madness  talk on Edinburgh YAC (I only had 60 seconds to talk!) which can be viewed on Doug Rocks-Macqueen's website:

Youtube Video of Minute of Madness

It was a brilliant conference - vibrant and exciting (and I'm not just saying that because I helped organise it!) It was great to see friends old and new and to hear about the wealth of great community-led archaeology projects going on around Scotland.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Peat Coring with Pete

At the start of November I headed to Arrochar again for a Peat coring workshop - I've always wanted to do this - so was very exciting.  Although we didn't find any peat it was still very useful to show how environmental archaeology can be used in a community setting.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Selkirk Castle Community Archaeology Project

children from St. Joseph's Primary come to visit the site
I was really looking forward to this excavation, as we've worked with a group of volunteers in the community over the summer to run various workshops (walkover survey, desk based research and a terrestrial laser scan) to encourage them to become more interested in the local archaeology and specifically the site of Selkirk Castle.  To find out more see the group's website http://selkirkcastlecap.weebly.com/
When you go down to the woods today!  One local chap lent us his bear suit to take some novel shots!

The excavation took place in the last week of October and we had over 30 Volunteers - as Volunteer coordinator, scheduling them in so we had no more than 12 per day was tricky!  It was the one dig I've been on where 99% of the Volunteers attended when they said they would!  We had a real mix of people  - 3 generations of one family, retired folk, health professionals who'd taken time off, school children...the lot.  What a great bunch of volunteers - and they were so enthusiastic that they kept working hard even when we weren't finding much in the way of medieval castle remains!  Star find for me was Richard's Spindle Whorl - found at the base of the Motte.
Wildlife ecologist and archaeological volunteer Richard with his spindle whorl - evidence for a textile industry in Selkirk before the big mills.
We had a site open day on the Saturday - with around 50 visitors and on the Thursday I welcomed an entire primary school to the site.  For me the highlight was working with a group of volunteers who were getting into archaeology for the first time.  I hope we'll be back!
Me giving a site tour

Saturday, 2 November 2013

October - A mix of things

At last, during October I got a wee bit of time to think about future projects, and have a look at different avenues of funding out there.  It's a bit daunting but also very exciting at the same time.  However, I was also very busy with the Cumnock Project.  Although the excavation had finished, the project was still continuing.  I organised a little 'Shop Front Heritage Hunt' for the October holidays, where shop owners let me put little clues about Cumnock's history in the windows and the kids had to go around looking for the clues.  In the end I got 26 responses, which for Cumnock I think isn't too bad...
Initial Wordle cloud of "Inn 3 Words" - memory gathering about the Tup Inn

We also had a couple of meetings with the Cumnock Living Memory Group + new members of the community who came to our "Memory Bank" sessions.  The breaking news on 31 Oct was that the amazing ladies from the Living Memory Group want to start up a completely new group with new members and will donate all their website content (A LOT) to the new group!   Amazing.  It's so great to think that the Raising the Bar project has inspired a new group to form.

At the end of October I did a 'follow up visit' for one of the local primary schools - the teacher wanted a Victorian tour of Cumnock.  It was a great success - the kids orientated themselves in the OS 1st Edn map far better than the teachers & helpers managed to.  They also spent time in the Square using old photos to work out where the photographer stood and how the views had changed.

We also had planning meetings for the Community Heritage Conference happening in November - I was working with the Skills for the Future Trainees at RCAHMS to organise a photo competition.  The entries started trickling in throughout October.  The theme was "Heritage for the Heart" - something I totally believe in - Heritage is good for you!

Monday, 30 September 2013

A little bit about Cumnock's Raising the Bar


Well I don't know where to start talking about this project.  It's been a whirlwind!  When I started working on it properly at the end of July/beginning of August I was quite daunted - Would the people of Cumnock be at all interested in heritage?  It's a fairly run down Ayrshire mining village, so I thought it might be quite a challenge.  I was also quite daunted by the site we were going to be digging - right next to the road and I thought access wise for groups of school children was going to be tricky.

First of all - the people in Cumnock blew me away.  Everyone is so friendly, helpful and curious.  Now, a few months into the project Ingrid and I are 'weel kent faces' (as we say in Orkney) on the streets of Cumnock.

Second of all - yes the site was not the most visitor friendly - it wasn't in a lush field of green grass, but in a concrete filled carpark - full of demolition material....however the location was key to the high engagement levels we achieved during the excavation.  Because it was in the middle of the town, we had so many passers by checking in daily to see what had been discovered!

Before the excavation we did various things to raise awareness of the project and gather community input.  These included having a stall at the Cumnock Highland Games and also doing some 'pub crawls' looking for memories of the Tup Inn - the site we would be digging up.  What a great response - the pub seems to have been a really well loved place and what better place to dig up on a Community project than someone's favourite pub! Ingrid also did a 123D Catch workshop with the Young Carers to give them an introduction to archaeological recording.

Volunteer Shaun digging away
We carried out a two week excavation at the start of September (prior to which I'd done 8 school pre-visits in 4 days!) where we had 19 Volunteers from the local area come and learn the techniques of excavation.  Recruiting the volunteers was interesting - we got quite a lot from the local Volunteer Centre and the Job Centre.  It was key to us to up-skill people to help with their employability.

We also had visits from 6 primary school classes and 2 Young Carers groups.  The Young Carers were great.  If you think how hard their young lives must be - trying to knuckle down at school whilst caring for an ill/disabled/elderly family member - no wonder when they get to Young Carers group they let their hair down!  Despite this, once they got into digging, they were concentrating so hard!  This is what I find really rewarding about Community Archaeology - using what I love to give people a special and memorable experience.

We also worked alongside Neil Finlayson - a woodcarver who worked together with the forestry staff at East Ayrshire Woodlands to create a collosal bench.  The bench was then a platform for Community Art- each visitor getting to 'Make their Mark'
The Bench Arrives!

Craig - a local chap who designed a Cumnock-themed carving for one side of the bench, and carved most of it himself!

More on Cumnock later - I haven't even scratched the surface of the amount of work we've done!