Articles tagged with: outreach

Archaeology under lockdown

on Friday, 18 December 2020. Posted in Archaeology, History Centre

Almost reaching the end of 2020 has given me a good opportunity to reflect on what has been a most unusual and difficult year but one in which archaeology in Wiltshire and Swindon continues to excite and surprise.

Over the course of this past year around 45 fieldwork projects relating to planning applications were undertaken across Wiltshire and Swindon. There were also 9 research or academic excavations. The volume of work the Archaeology Service has had to deal with has not diminished during the Covid pandemic and if anything has been more intense than before, with some of the large projects we are involved with such as the A303 Stonehenge project and other road schemes in Wiltshire and Swindon. Commercial field archaeology has carried on throughout the year as construction projects have continued. Our team have been allowed to continue going out on site to monitor the field work, subject to strict health and safety policies and Covid-safe practices

Sadly, what we haven’t been able to do so much of this year is the outreach work that we all enjoy so much, the archaeology walks and talks, but hopefully in a few short months we will be able to resume these activities. Please watch this space for details of events from the Spring onwards

Fieldwork in Wiltshire 2020. Map by Tom Sunley

One of the exciting projects we have been dealing with stems from a planning application for a solar farm development between Beanacre and Lacock. It was in this area that Wessex Archaeology excavated Roman remains in 2014 that turned out to relate to a previously unknown large Roman settlement located on an east-west Roman road. The geophysical survey from this latest project and the trial trenching has helped to reveal the extent of a Roman town on its south and east side. This now means we have 6 rather than 5 Roman small towns in Wiltshire and Swindon. Unlike Durocornovium (Wanborough), and Sorviodunum (Old Sarum) and Verlucio (Sandy Lane), this one doesn’t seem to have a Roman name. Who knows how many others may be out there waiting to be discovered?

Tackling loneliness and isolation with heritage

on Wednesday, 06 May 2020. Posted in History Centre

Last year I completed a dissertation that looked at how archives and archival activity could help tackle the widespread issue of elderly loneliness. As an archive professional I wanted to see what was being done within the profession that could aid the mental and physical well-being of those experiencing loneliness, but also to ask what else could be done. My research showed archival institutions are well placed to contribute to tackling loneliness, indeed they are already actively doing so. This blog hopes to highlight the positive effect of using archives during lockdown (and beyond!), and update readers on our work behind the scenes.

Anyone who frequents an archive may note its popularity with those of retirement age; retirees may have more time to undertake research and so may visit an archive more often. However, it should be emphasised that archives are friendly, welcoming places for anyone with an interest in history or any form of local history research to conduct: be it students researching for their degrees, house historians searching historic building applications, or family history enthusiasts. Anyone and everyone is welcome: provision of access to historic documents is at the forefront of our work, and we would encourage anyone to visit Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, regardless of age and, furthermore, that feelings of isolation and loneliness are universal and not confined to any one demographic!

So, in these unprecedented times, where isolation and loneliness for all age groups is more prevalent than ever before, Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre is looking at new ways of serving all of our community. While we’re unable to carry out any physical outreach work during lockdown, promoting and ensuring continued access for as broad an audience as possible is still a fundamental and highly enjoyable part of the work of the archive team at WSHC, except now we must find new ways to reach out to anyone unaware of what we can offer!

In terms of our ability to interact with the community, our intrinsic knowledge of the local area ensures that we are well placed to do this. Archivists can relate to tales of old and offer suggestions on how to find out more on such subjects, but we can also bring to light fascinating new stories, that were hitherto forgotten or hiding in the strongrooms. In Wiltshire, our County Local Studies Librarian, Julie Davis, does exactly this with her ‘Memory Box’ reading groups – follow this link to see some of her recent isolation sessions from her living room. Julie’s work shows how heritage professionals are adapting to fulfil their duties during this period. Not yet available on the website, but done in preparation for the VE Day celebrations is her extract readings on the event. This is available here.

The entire nation would normally be planning events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE day. However, new and innovative ways are being sought to celebrate and mark the occasion during lockdown. The talk we had planned at WSHC has been made available online, again by Julie Davis, and is available here (you may need to sign in to Google for this).

A VE Day celebration

Of course it is a great shame not being able to celebrate with our family, friends and neighbours, but Wiltshire Council has put together a VE Day Toolkit, that will hopefully provide inspiration on how best to celebrate this momentous occasion at home or in the garden.

Even if we cannot be in the immediate vicinity of our friends, family or community, we can continue to be connected, and being connected can contribute to people’s well-being. Did you know that there is evidence to show that tracing your family tree can have a positive effect on your mental health? Indeed, any form of research that engages the mind will be positive during these times, so why not take a look at some of the fantastic online resources that are available and start a new research project or learn about the local area? You can find out more about these resources here in our recent blogs.

Connectedness does not need to be confined to the present. Relating to the past, be it family members researched as part of a genealogy project, or even past occupiers of your house, can help ease feelings of isolation. Documents usually consulted in the searchroom, are increasingly available as online resources, for example: Wiltshire parish registers and wills are now temporarily available for free on Ancestry. Follow this link to see what’s available and for guidance on how to proceed. So, if you’re at home struggling for things to do, why not start your family history? We have starter packs available here too!

The heritage community really is pulling together in the response to the pandemic. The National Archives have recently announced that their digital records are available for free access until they re-open to the public, follow this link to find out more. Further to this, British History Online have made over 200 volumes of primary material available to researchers for free until 31 July 2020:  https://blog.history.ac.uk/2020/03/british-history-online-makes-all-research-content-free-to-individual-users/

A valuable and hugely valued part of all heritage institutions is the volunteer workforce, being part of which is a great way to fend off feelings of loneliness and isolation. Volunteering gives people the chance to utilise skills honed during their careers or learn new ones and keep the mind active. It’s also a great way to meet new people, be it other volunteers or members of staff. We have a great working relationship with our volunteers at Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, and we would encourage anyone interested in helping out when we re-open, to get in touch with our Volunteer Team to discuss the opportunities available: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

There are multiple agencies working locally and nationally to assist us in these difficult times. If you, or anyone you know, is struggling in isolation in Wiltshire, check out the Wiltshire Wellbeing Hub. Charities are naturally at the forefront of the effort to keep loneliness and isolation at bay. At a local level, Celebrating Age is a fantastic project aimed at tackling the issue of loneliness by delivering arts and heritage events in community settings for frail, vulnerable older people unable to access concert halls or theatres. Their current programme of events has understandably been called off, however they are looking at ways of delivering digital programme. Follow this link for 90 minutes of live music and storytelling from the comfort of your living room! Also, keep an eye on their website when lockdown is over because they are doing great things across the county.

The Celebrating Age Wiltshire project

At a national level, the Campaign to End Loneliness website has a really useful section specifically for Corona virus related issues and anxieties, as does the Age UK site.

I’d just like to sign off by wishing all of our readers well. Do share, re-tweet or pass on this message with family, neighbours, colleagues or anyone you know who may be struggling with loneliness during lockdown and whose well-being may benefit from some of the suggestions here.

Follow us on Twitter, friend us on Facebook and keep a close eye on our website for more information, as well as updates on re-opening. Happy researching!

Max Parkin, Archivist

Unlocking the personalities behind the archives…

on Friday, 22 November 2013. Posted in Archives

The Lacock Unlocked project is well under way now and the cataloguing and indexing side of it now has over 30 volunteers. These volunteers are either listing and indexing bundles of documents, or putting information onto our database. It means that instead of unlocking and exploring one thing per day, we are unlocking and exploring six, so to speak!


I love it when the listing volunteers show me something that I had no idea existed, or parts of a story that I didn’t know were there. We keep discovering new words for things and ways of saying them, finding information about places and families through bills, deeds and other items in the archive. I particularly enjoy finding information about people who crop up in the archive, and the example here is a letter from John Ivory Talbot to his cousin Henry Davenport in 1725, which gives anyone interested a wonderful insight into John’s family life, his way of writing, what annoys him (apparently, Henry Davenport’s not writing to him is on his mind!). Just a simple letter like this provides great information about a personality.


We are attempting to piece together many clues and it is fascinating when these jigsaws are completed but also when someone finds a new piece that leads us or them down a different route.

Accreditation and the Conservator

on Friday, 24 May 2013. Posted in Conservation

My name is Beth Werrett and I am a Contract Conservator for Wiltshire Council Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (CMAS). I conserve objects for and provide advice to archaeological units, museums and other heritage organisations as part of the commercial branch of the service.
A year ago I decided that, having worked for nearly five years at a variety of heritage organisations since first studying for the profession, I felt that I had developed sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to apply for professional accreditation.

What is Accreditation?

Professional Accreditation of Conservator-Restorers or PACR assesses  a conservator's professional practice within the work place. It allows a common standard to be applied across the profession, regardless of the training route taken, the conservation specialism, or the context in which a conservator may practice. An accredited conservator demonstrates a high level of competence, sound judgement and an in-depth knowledge of the principles and ethics which are key to conservation practice.

Why did I decide to apply?

The benefits of achieving accreditation were both professional and personal. For the Wiltshire Conservation Service it is beneficial to have accredited members of staff; their clients can be assured that they are working to consistently high standards.Achieving accreditation would be a significant personal achievement, providing recognition of the breadth of skills and expertise that I had developed since qualifying as a conservator. Also, I felt that the structure of continual review in place within the PACR system would help me to maintain my high standard of work and prevent me falling into bad habits!

The ‘Lacock Unlocked’ project needs YOU!

on Thursday, 21 February 2013.

Regular readers of our blog will know that last year we applied for Heritage Lottery Funding to acquire and make accessible the wonderful archives of the Lacock Abbey estate, dating back at least 800 years. After a nail-biting few months we were both relieved and delighted to hear at the end of last year that our application was successful. The HLF have kindly agreed to donate £490,000 to acquire the archives and promote their use by the public.


Now the real work begins and we need your help to make this project a success – there are lots of ways in which people can get involved.

We need volunteers to help:


• Catalogue and index original records

• Conserve and repackage records

• Photograph documents to facilitate indexing from home

• Test a mobile phone ‘App’ being produced by Wiltshire College students

• Write about Lacock’s history for the new Lacock community archive website

• Moderate and administer the new website

• Record oral history – whether interviewing local people, or being interviewed, about memories of life in Lacock; plus editing and transcribing the resulting interviews

• Run outreach activities such as family learning workshops and creating an exhibition

No previous experience is necessary, and full training will be given. Please note the project is taking place over three years so not all the activities will be happening at the same time, and you are welcome to take part in as few or as many as you like.

We also need people to take part in the workshops and use and enjoy the ‘App’ and website when available. Everyone is also welcome to attend the regular community archive forum meetings which help steer the overall project.

We will be holding an open evening on Wednesday 24 April between 6 and 8.30 pm where you can come and view the archives and find out more about the volunteering opportunities available.

In the meantime if you are interested in taking part, please contact Claire Skinner in the first instance – e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone 01249 705500 and leave your contact details. We can then send you more detailed information about the activities involved, and an application form where you can specify which activities you are most interested in and let us know your availability.

Thank you very much in anticipation – Claire Skinner, Principal Archivist.

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