Jake’s Volunteering – with a tiny bit of support from Autism in Museums, Feb 2020

Ness of Brodgar’ dig Orkney

Volunteering at ‘Ludlow Museum and Resource Centre’ by Jake.

In July 2018 I began working as a volunteer at Ludlow Museum and Resource Centre, cataloguing hundreds of finds onto a database called the Portable Antiquities Scheme. This taught me vital lessons in presentation, using photoshop and allowed me to develop my vocabulary when describing archaeological finds. This experience saw me work with a group of varied aged volunteers, both male and female; allowing me to develop teamwork skills and confidence. Other valuable skills included professional photography of objects as well as 3D scanning to produce interactive models online; which are currently proving valuable applicable skills at university.

Museum Marathon fundraising team.

Whilst volunteering I got the opportunity to work on fresh finds arriving in, the objects I was able to work on varied from musket balls to Iron Age gold. One project I helped on was with a volunteer who wasn’t comfortable with computers, I was able to aid her in digitalising her large collection of pottery from years fieldwalking. This really helped with my understanding of pottery and identifying the different types of sherds.

A couple of the volunteers had very vast knowledges of the local area’s archaeology, so once in a while we would visit a local site and observe it’s shape in the landscape, debate and discuss chronology of these features and admire the area in general; many of these sites I was completely unaware existed and for me a Hill Fort on Clee Hill we visited remains one of my favourite Archaeological sites.

Other opportunities were made possible from the Museum work including the opportunity to learn on courses with Sam Moorhead one of the countries top coin specialists, teaching me and a small group about the process of Roman coin identification, it’s value and general history of the period. This took place in the London Museum which had a plethora of interesting artefacts on display, only ever able to view a section of its vast collection. One of these courses also included also visiting Birmingham Museum, where I was trained in PAS database work further.

Jake’s visit to Orkney

The greatest opportunity that I had during my work at the museum was the opportunity to visit Orkney and take part in an excavation at the Ness of Brodgar. I was able to spend two weeks on site and excavated an Iron Age area of the site. The site goes as far back as Neolithic in age and I found some carved stone, bones and pottery during my time there. Whilst taking part I was able to learn the skills to better excavate, work as part of a larger digging team unit over a very large trench and learn a great deal about the islands past.

Jake’s visit to Orkney

Whilst on the island I made sure to make the most of my time and when I wasn’t digging visited other sites on the island including Skara Brae, The Broch of Gurness and the Rings of Brodgar. All these sites were remarkably concentrated and really showed me that settlement north of the Scottish mainland can still thrive and excel. I also visited Kirkwall Castle which is an unusual site in that it contained two palaces, one for a member of the nobility and the other for a bishop. The Medieval part of this castle was very interesting due to its close tie to the Vikings. Finally, I visited the Kirkwall museum which was very useful in chronologically sequencing the cultural history of the island. Upon returning I continued to volunteer at the museum until September 2019

Jake’s visit to Orkney

Now at university I seek to broaden my exposure to the trade and plan to take part in another dig after the autumn semester. During my time at university I have spent my time using the vast library to study and enhance my knowledge, studying texts relevant to my modules to further my studies. I have also attended extra-curricular seminars covering topics not discussed in class. These lectures are voluntary and involve a specialist speaking about a sector or site, my favourite was around settlement in Sahara Desert in the Neolithic which at the time was a rich grassy savannah.

Ness of Brodgar’ dig Orkney

I have also contacted an anthropologist through one of the lecturers and plan to begin some experiments on bone analysis very soon. Not only that but I have visited sites such as Stonehenge, Chepstow Castle and Tintern Abbey through the university. The variety in my module’s themes from Mediterranean Societies to Conservation, means my volunteering time at the museum has been invaluable. The experience I have received has opened lots of opportunities, enabling me to continue exploring, gaining new knowledge and strengthening my CV.

Ness of Brodgar’ dig Orkney

Jake was supported by £300 pounds raised through Museum Marathon and Autism in Museums in 2018. http://www.autisminmuseums.com/a-museum-marathon-thank-you-2018/

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