100th artefact added to our Virtual Museum!

For National Museums Week, CA have been celebrating the wonderful finds, data, samples, and records that we have added to museum collections, and our fantastic team who make this happen. And we couldn’t have timed it better ourselves, as today we also celebrate the 100th artefact to be added to CA’s Virtual Museum!

Hazel O’Neill

I’m Hazel O’Neill and I’m Senior Archives Officer at Cotswold Archaeology. I spent eight years in the field, helping out with archives whenever I was in the office, and so when a job became available in the department, I moved indoors. I’ve now worked with archives for another eight years. Archives are obviously closely linked to fieldwork; its our job to deposit the finds and archives recovered and created through the hard work of our field team, so they’re available for everyone to access in museums. It’s also our job to ensure that what we’re depositing is archived to such a standard that it will survive in perpetuity – hopefully people will still be able to access our archive boxes in 500 years! We also work a lot with the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) who make sure our digital data is accessible for all to view online.

One of my main jobs is arranging museum depositions (I have a target to deposit 250 boxes a quarter). To do this I need to liaise with museums, landowners, and clients to get this underway. One important job is to secure a transfer of title. When a find is recovered from site it is the property of the landowner so a transfer of title (moving ownership from the landowner to the receiving museum) needs to be arranged for each site before deposition can happen.

Each site we deposit falls within a collecting area for a certain museum based on location. There are almost 1,800 Arts Council England accredited museums in the UK and almost every one has their own set of guidelines, so working out which museum wants what can take some time to get your head around!

Probably the most difficult part of my job is considering the issue of so called ‘orphan’ archives. These are archives that have nowhere to go, either because no museum exists in that collecting area, or the collecting museum can no longer take depositions due to a lack of space. Until a solution can be found for these archives, they are kept safely in our own stores.

The thing I most enjoy about my job is seeing a set of neatly written-up boxes being delivered to a happy curator. It’s really important to me that anyone can go and see our archives and that they look great too! I also enjoy tea and biscuits with the curator post-deposition as well, just in case any of them are reading this.

Zoe Emery

My name is Zoe and I’m one of the Archives Supervisors at Cotswold Archaeology. I started my career as a Trainee Archaeologist in CA’s Andover office in the summer of 2015, before transferring to the Post-Excavation (PX) department as a PX Processor until mid-2016. here I progressed to a PX Assistant, and then PX Archaeologist, before moving to Suffolk in May 2022 to become their Archives Supervisor.

During my time in Andover, I predominantly processed environmental soil samples due to an interest in the subject. I also enjoyed the general process (and the satisfaction!) of seeing the results of my work – especially in seeing the many sample tubs become few(er) archive boxes! My enjoyment in processes that result in a reduction in the number of boxes being stored such as processing, rationalization, or deposition was part of why I applied for the role of Archives Supervisor and is still a source of satisfaction.

In my role, I primarily deal with paper and digital archives, which I do to the guidelines of both CA and the museums we work with. I also make sure new projects are on our main database and entries are as up-to-date as possible (which includes doing periodical shelf audits) and contact museums for accession numbers. I think the main challenges I face (other than remembering the nuances in procedures, and being consistent with my attention to detail) would be locating folders and figuring out what has (or has not) been done with the archives.

I recommend that anyone with a relevant background, an interest in archives, and good attention to detail, should consider the discipline.

Molly Agnew-Henshaw

I’m Molly and I am an archives supervisor at Cotswold Archaeology. I have been working in archaeology since 2017, starting out in fieldwork before moving into the position of archives supervisor in 2021.

I was lucky to gain experience helping with deposition work whilst working in post-excavation during my time in fieldwork and it’s something that I always enjoyed, so when the position of Archives Supervisor was created in our Milton Keynes office, I jumped at the chance to apply for the job and, luckily, I got it!

My day-to-day work largely consists of working alongside the Post-Excavation team or volunteers, to prepare the paper archives and finds for deposition at a museum or county archive. It also includes working on the paper archives generated on site, cataloguing them, and security copying them if required. I am also involved with the digital archiving process, largely uploading the reports to OASIS and helping Hazel with the metadata for the Archaeology Data Service.

The main challenge of the role is the varying guidelines for each museum – most museums have their own guidelines and standards so we have to adapt how we are working to produce archives that they can integrate into their own collection. We have sites all across the country so we deposit with many different museums or archives a year, so it’s a lot of information to keep in your head!

For me, my favourite part of working in archives is seeing the process the whole way through. We’re now at a stage where we’re depositing sites that I worked on in the field and it brings back a lot of memories. For example, last year we deposited a community excavation at Great Linford Manor Park that I worked on in 2019.

A definite perk of the job is seeing behind the scenes at the museums and archives we deposit with – it’s amazing what they have in there, waiting until they go out on display.

Li Sou

My name is Li and I’m a Senior Illustrator at Cotswold Archaeology. What I enjoy the most about my role is the variety of different archaeology I get to work with. From drawing a whole variety of different small finds to producing maps of vast excavation areas, no two projects are ever the same! As there are so many varied projects, I think the main skill (and challenge!) of my role is to balance different tasks, but also knowing how to use a variety of professional design and 3D processing software is essential for what I do, so I can scan finds so they can be showcased in our Virtual Museum!

Li Sou

My favourite find in the Virtual Museum is the portable Roman altar, as it’s such a good example of why digitally recording finds can be so valuable – not only could we digitally put all the fragments back together to see the altar’s original form, but in the process of 3D modelling it, chisel marks were noticed on its base. These are an indicator that the altar was made by a professional mason, so we managed to find out some new archaeological information!

I think the Virtual Museum is a fun way for people to get digitally hands-on with a whole range of different artefacts. There’s a lot of detailed information on the finds, so if anyone’s interested in finding out more or doing research on them, there’s many articles on the CA website and in our reports for people to find out more. The 3D models are especially fun as they literally give you different perspectives on these objects that photographs don’t always show!

Claire Collier-Jones

I am an Assistant Finds Officer who specialises in worked bone, metalwork, and pottery, and I write reports on all sorts of finds which come in from our sites. When I heard about our Virtual Museum I wanted to be involved. I have prior experience of website editing and the opportunity to assist in making archaeology accessible to everyone is important to me.

My role in our Virtual Museum team is to uncover an artefact’s story, by referring to the finds specialist’s reports and drawing out information on the form, function, and deposition of the object. The illustration team do a fantastic job taking the pictures and producing 3D scans of some of our objects. The information and images can then be uploaded to the website and we put up one object per week. Some of my favourite items so far have been the bovine mount, enameled plate brooch and the gaming piece.

My hope is that by sharing these finds on the Virtual Museum we are able to reach a wider audience and help to educate everyone about the people from our past who once used these objects.

Check out Li’s and Claire’s favourite finds below, click on the pictures to view them in CA’s virtual museum

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