March 28, 2016
by Lauren Nofi
In the eleventh – and final ☹ – in a series of weekly blogs, IAFS/Learn intern Lauren Nofi reports on the last week of her internship.
This is what Lauren looks like underneath her hat and coat and 20 layers – she just has to visit in the summer!
Hello! This past week we’ve been getting some last bits of information needed for the site report as well as working on the site archive in general. Of course the weather was beautiful when we were sitting in the site office. Many a time I had to physically wrestle my intern (Ciarán) from sneaking out of the post-ex lab with a trowel…he claimed he heard a song coming from the trenches telling him to come to the main work area of Cutting 6 where our chapter house stood. My only explanation for this sudden and belligerent behaviour is trench sirens which are a thing I totally did not just make up. Trench sirens, like sirens of the waters of the ancient Mediterranean, call me to their doom with sweet songs. And I’m like, “Ciarán, bro, do not go into the trench. You’re going to your doom.” So aside from all of this doom, we had a very pleasant week of office work.
Our last bits of research were gathered and sent off to Dr Shine who had the herculean task of writing the main body of the site report. We were mostly just checking paper records for feature descriptions and putting together little cheat sheets of trench info. After this, we went through our old paper records and undertook a number of archival tasks.
We pulled out all the folders of every plan of every trench on site and went through them, cleaning up any rough edges, remnants of masking tape used to hold them to drawing boards, and checking their contents. We compared our drawing register information with what was actually written on each drawing sheet, adding grid points or supplementary information from our register. It was very interesting work as it allowed us to see areas of the site we had only known as backfilled cuttings as well as giving a glimpse of earlier phases of our two cuttings from this season. Soon all of these plans, section drawings and profiles will be scanned for the computer to add to our digital record of the site. I’ve talked about plans more than you probably ever needed to know, but section drawings and profiles are the other drawn records we take of spatial elements: section drawings are like cross-sections of an excavated area, while profiles map the elevation changes of a given area of trench.
After this, I began digitising all the old trench files while Ciarán chased down some specifics on our “show and tell” box of finds. Every cutting has a folder full of feature sheets, describing every feature within each cutting, as well as various registers and other notes. I started the process of scanning every page, compiling multiple sheets into PDF files for each feature, and converting them to an archive-quality PDF. Just like with paper records, one of the most important parts of creating and storing an archive is thinking ahead about how these physical materials may degrade over time. With our paper documents, we have to think about things like ink fading, or binder holes ripping, and things like storage conditions. For our digital documents, we have to think about how we will access them in future, so for example, we are using a type of PDF which will still be able to be viewed even if PDF reader technology improves and computer programs change in the coming decade. It’s all a lot to be conscious of, as our archive itself becomes like an artefact we have to conserve.
It’s my last week on-site, and I just wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone who made it possible for me to be here doing the stuff I love. So thanks to all the staff for helping me to become a better archaeologist; showing me the ins and outs to running both a site and field school. Thank you to all the amazing students who helped me become a better teacher, as y’all are one of the main reasons I love working at field school. Finally, I’d like to thank all of you who read and shared this blog; I honestly never thought my words would reach as far as they have, and it’s been an honour to be your host for our very first winter season at the Blackfriary. This whole experience was unforgettable, so from the very bottom of my heart, thank you all.
Thank you so much for all the hard work, and for doing this incredible blog. We are really going to miss you Lauren. Come back soon – Denis, Fin, Ciarán, Mairead, Bairbre and Steve xxx