I started volunteering as an Archaeology Finds Assistant in February this year, working alongside Alex Croom, Keeper of Archaeology for four sites within Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, including our two Roman Forts. She gave an induction to the role on the first day and it became clear, this was going to be a massive task.
Based in bulk finds, down in the basement at Segedunum my role was to sort, document and database boxes of pottery, bone and various other materials to be sent to Bainbridge Roman Fort. This involved re-organising, re-bagging, and re-boxing the finds, labelling each bag with the site code, year of excavation, context number and material and labelling each box, site code, trench number, context number and material, then making sure to add every item onto the extraordinarily large database, including the year it was excavated, the context number and material code, P for pottery, B for bone, MD for metalworking debris and so on. The finds were organised by year within each box, which I learned had to be full so as to not waste space in the expensive acid-free cardboard boxes, but not too full to damage the contents. Some boxes were ultimately labelled as mixed and uncertain years, where not enough information was available to put the finds in the relevant box. These boxes go at the end of the run, I learned.
As I had experience sorting books in the Learning Resource Centre of the now closed All Saints College in the West End of Newcastle while attending there as a student, and enjoying it; I knew this was a good role for me. A faint interest in archaeology combined with my passion for organisation is exactly what attracted me to the role.
I learned a lot from the role, and working with other volunteers to get the various tasks done was another good opportunity to put my team work skills to good use. I was never confident with team work until I studied at Burnside College in Wallsend, North Tyneside. I am much more able to work positively as a team, and also more capable of working independently since volunteering with Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.
In addition to my behind the scenes roles, I volunteered for two Willington Waggonway events at Stephenson fundraising on both occasions for the preservation of 50 untreated timbers from the Willington Waggonway discovered at the former Neptune Shipyard site in Walker, North Tyneside close to Segedunum Roman Fort at Wallsend. From this role I gained knowledge of the Willington Waggonway.
The public were superb in supporting our fundraising efforts and responded positively to the events as a whole. It was truly fabulous to welcome the many visitors to Stephenson. A Mini Dig Challenge and craft activities plus the temporary exhibition, untreated timbers and related talk firstly by John Clayson (Keeper of Science & Industry) and then Dominique Bell (Project Co-ordinator for the Willington Waggonway) meant all the many visitors enjoyed their visit.
I learned from both archaeology roles, something that doesn’t look like much can be surprisingly significant.