Monday, 23 January 2012

Back to Braco

Apologies for the long silence this is partly due to busyness but mainly due to the things I have been busy with being boring. Since Christmas it has been full speed ahead on the good ship fundraising. Writing funding applications is a very useful skill to be practising but does not make for existing blogging. However last week nearly the whole Adopt-a-Monument teem escaped the office to go to Braco.  
Picture of Ardoch looking magnificent from a resent kite survey
We were chatting to Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust, Historic Scotland and the local group (Ardoch Development Trust). Mainly about the amazing Ardoch Roman fort ( and its lack of interpretation, but also about what to do on the village tour front. It was decided to get a new board about the fort and produce a leaflet for the village tour. So I have been having a happy time researching various aspects of Braco’s history for a leaflet, which is much more existing than funding applications. Especially good when you come across things like this in the Old Statistical Accounts:

It has already been observed, that the two large encampments had a communication with one another; and, that there was a subterraneous passage from the small one, under the bed of the river, is more than probable, from a circumstance now to be mentioned.
There was a hole near the side of the pratorium, that went in a sloping direction for many fathoms; in which, it was generally believed, treasures, as well as Roman antiquities, might be found. In order to ascertain this fact, a man, who had been condemned by the baron court of a neighbouring lord, upon obtaining a pardon, agreed to be let down by a rope into this hole. He at first brought up with him, from great depth, Roman spears, helmets, fragments of bridles, and several other articles: But upon being let down a second time, was killed by foul air.
No attempts have been made since that time. The articles, above mentioned, lay at the house of Ardoch for many years, but were all carried off, by some of the soldiers in the Duke of Argyll’s army, in 1715, after the battle of Sheriffmuir, and could never afterwards be recovered. The mouth of the hole was covered up with a millstone, by an old gentleman, who lived at the house of Ardoch, while the family were in Russia, about the year 1720, to prevent hares from running into it, when pursued by his dogs; and as earth, to a considerable depth, was laid over the millstone, the place cannot now be found, although diligent serch has been made for it.” (Accounts of 1791-99, volume 8, ‘The Parish of Muthill’ Rev. Mr John Scott)

Anyway hear is the first draft of the leaflet the group may well wish to change it entirely and we don’t yet have perditions to use some of the pictures but we shall see what happens.



Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Technology 2

Makkamappa: It may just be me but using software that is not developed by Microsoft can be a bit confusing. Thus it is that it has taken me until today to work out how to add pictures to my Makkamappa tags. As you may remember I was getting excited about this program which can be used to rectify any map agonised a Google map and used as an App. This allows people to wander round looking at their location on an old map. The implications for archaeology are fantastic as it’s basically a free and easy way to locate old features (providing the map is roughly accurate) without the need for EDM’s or other posh equipment. This makes exploring places past more fun too.
A Picture.
Although you do need the URL (whatever that is) of the picture (which realistically seems to mean putting the photo you want to use on Flicker first) this makes Makkamappa even more useful than I thought. We can get groups to take pictures of interesting features on their monument or in there town and once people have found the place using their App the important things can be shown to them as well as being described. An interpretation board that follows you about! (although that is slightly close to pythonesk keep left signs it would be more friendly)             
If you have an iphone, ipad or a phone that runs with Android you can now see the first fruits of this discovery by uploading my map of Dingwall from:

Photosynth: This program developed by Microsoft allows you to make 3D models of things simply by taking lots of photos of them and uploading them to the website. What I had not realised is you can also ‘geotag’ them. This means you can not only put your modal on a map but accurately scale and orientate it too. Who needs GIS or laser scanning? Not only is this easier to use it gives results that are easier to understand it’s also FREE!!!

A Photosynth on the map.
Mine is called Abandoned Settlement near Dnyit, Stirling 2 (not as catchy as it might be) try clicking and see what happens.   

Finally on a totally unrelated note hear is an article about an existing site I was lucky enough to dig at in the summer. Watch this space…

Monday, 19 December 2011

Archaeology and QR Codes

Cara spotted a blog talking about some interesting ‘preservation’ of graphite being done using QR codes. It seems ‘Sweza’ has been going round taking photos of graphite and when it is removed or painted over placing a QR code (one of those square bar code things) in the spot. The QR code allows people with smart phones to scan it and link (in this case) to a picture of the graphite as it was or as they put it ‘to travel back in time’. I do wonder a little what stops the QR code being removed like the graphite was but I suppose it’s a bit less offensive?

Swezas work
However in a more general archaeological sense this technique could be used to show people what archaeology was discovered beneath buildings, roads and even in fields. Simply attaching a small QR code to a wall, lamp post or fence post would allow anyone with a smart phone to link to information on a site. This could be really useful on sights where there is restricted space or a new use. It might mean getting public friendly reports online as well.                  
On a less serious note you may enjoy (or disapprove of) this:

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A Matter of Interpretation

Yesterday we had a meeting in the office with the graphic design company Flintriver about interpretation panels at sights for groups. This got us thinking about interpretation so on the principle that seeing things for real is much better that just talking about them Cara took me along to Preston Grangeto see their interpretation. This is an old coal mine, brick and tile works now turned industrial heritage museum just east of Musselburgh. If you are interested in industrial archaeology this is defiantly the place to go. The area is scattered with huge bits of industrial archaeology that you are free to wonder round. Some of these are associated with the mine and works and others have been brought for the museum. It has a grate feel as there is very little interpretation and you are left to wander of your own accord so its like you are stumbling across these amazing objects. On reflection I think more museums should be like this as it feels like you are making discovery’s rather than having someone show you things, which is much more exiting.   


The interpretation at the site is delivered on a variety of boards in different states of preservation. The most interesting though were two old photos that had been printed onto perspex and mounted between posts. The perspex is positioned so the visitor can line up surviving structures with those in the picture and so see what the spot looked like in the past. Although this would not work on every site I think the principle hear is quite exiting and could perhaps be used with reconstruction drawings that tied in using natural features like hills. I certainly know that when I visit a site I am unlikely to read information boards but I may glance at a picture and used in this way they could really bring a monument to life.

The Perspex panels with photos showing the exact spot in the past.  

The other verity of interpretation being used is an audio tour accessed using your mobile phone. This could be great in areas with reception but I wonder how many people are willing to spend money to get interpretation?           
Audio tour sign

One of the sites more impressive imported artefacts.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Minding Merkinch

Jamie our Audio Engineer gets things set up on Saturday morning  
The Minding Merkinch Project got underway this weekend with our first workshop ‘Memories of Merkinch’. This was an oral history drop in session were local residents came and told us about their memories of Merkinch. After a slow start on Friday night we got a few hours of good recording from a range of people. The younger folks on Friday were provided some tales of Merkinch Primary and the older residents on Saturday confirmed that not too much has changed in the school in the last 60 years.
Residents in full swing

The best story of the day defiantly goes to two gentlemen who wile taking us on a tour of Merkinch in the 40’s stoped to tell of a lady they both remembered from their childhoods:
‘No one more like a witch were you ever likely to see going round the place on a big black bicycle with a basket on the front…and she had a big red nose so she never needed a light…’
Needless to say some of the story was lost in the ensuing mirth but the rest of the tour will make a valuable addition to the local archive and I may not look at old back bikes in quite the same way again.

Richard recovers after the recording
As well as providing some grate stories for the archive the workshop has also provided some direction and new information on what features people in Merkinch find interesting. These include the welfare hall on Grant Street and St. Michal and all Angles church on Abban Street which in 1902 was taken down and moved from a street across the river. The next workshop will hopefully be on photo recording and we can get out and about to record some of these buildings as they are now.                  
If you would like to follow the Mirkinch project I have just set up a Facebook group at:

Monday, 21 November 2011


Volunteers working on house 12 at Kildavie this Saturday   
Back to Mull this weekend, this is becoming a habit. But who would have thought 18th / 19th century abandoned settlements could be so enigmatic. The more time I spend with the volunteers at Kildavie the more I appreciate why it’s worth doing adopt a monument. This group certainly don’t need any help drumming up support or enthusiasm as we had over ten volunteers working on site. On a soggy Saturday in November that is pretty good. What this group seem to really enjoy is new information. They are all keen to find things out about the settlement and its history and wont to understand new technics they come across. We decided to put in a bulk as we cleaned out the space between houses 10 and 7 (see ‘A Kildavie Discovery’ from the 1st of November for plan). This is something that has not been used on sight before and although at first I was a bit surprised by the barrage of questions about it I realised that the group all wont to better understand the proses. I’m not sure if I convinced everyone it was a good idea but I’m glad they were thinking about it.  
While we debated the value of bulks Bill got down to some important recording.
The other good reason to look after and investigate this monument is that it’s never quite what it seems. Having been thwarted in our plans for access between structure 10 and 11 we thought between 10 and 7 would be better. This time we were prepared for a wall or tumble and found … well something. There is still more tiding to be done but it’s not really clear if what’s coming up is built into structure 10 or has fallen off it. What we do know is that it’s not just covered in topsoil and turf as the other gap was as we have cone onto a harder sandy yellow fill just under the turf near the middle of the gap. This has been left for the time being while the group decide what they would like to be done. Suffice to say Kildavies history is not as strait forward as it may first appear.

How many rocks make a wall? The ‘gap’ between structures 10 and 7 with our yellow sandy fill just below the scale.

I would also like to thank our driver this weekend who did a magnificent plan of thoughts stones between house 10 and 11 and managed to avoid all the local wildlife. Thank you Lynne!                                    

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Merkinch Update

Progress on lots of fronts today. I have just sent the posters for our first event in the Merkinch project, Inverness. These will be printed off for us by the lovely For the Right Reasons charity printing in Merkinch. The first workshop will be on oral history and we have invited local people to the Bike Shed on Grant Street to come along and share there memories of Merkinch. There will also be a chance for folks to learn about recording and the things people talk about and find interesting will provide direction for the rest of the project.
The Poster, soon to be seen in Merkinch for your delight and delectation.