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SHARP needs YOUR help!! (Warning - this post contains images of human remains)

Snap Happy!

View of ‘Boneyard’ field trenches, looking approximately north (possibly 2003): Photo from Dr Sophie Beckett

We are thrilled to announce that the Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project (SHARP) has been awarded a grant of £5000 by the National Archives: Testbed Fund.

Our research question is: Can we use photographs of excavations that are donated by volunteers and visitors to help overcome post-excavation challenges?

View of ‘Boneyard’ field excavations, looking approximately south (2006): Photo from Lorraine Horsley

The Testbed Fund project will look to answer this question for the Anglo-Saxon cemetery site at Sedgeford. The site was excavated by hundreds of volunteers over a 10-year period (1996 – 2007). The excavations were open to public visitors and welcomed thousands during this time-frame.

Why could photos taken by volunteers and visitors be so important?

Archaeological excavation is an unrepeatable experiment and a site’s official archive is therefore paramount. However, despite best efforts of archaeologists during excavation, gaps are often identified when archive research is undertaken at a later date. Those accessing such collections are often resigned to the inevitable; working with incomplete data sets.

An example of this in SHARP’s official archive is that there are very few photographs of disarticulated human bone, due to a focus on spatial recording of articulated skeletons during excavations. Recent work to more fully record the disarticulated bone for a National Lottery Heritage Lottery Fund project has highlighted questions about the use of the cemetery in the Anglo-Saxon period.

Can we virtually go back in time and create a fuller picture of the archaeology?

Human remains within ‘Boneyard’ field ‘Old Trench’ excavation (2006): Photo from Gary Rossin

Photographs taken by hundreds of volunteers who worked on the site could provide answers, as many excavators took their own in-situ shots of ‘bulk’ finds within their work areas (including disarticulated bone). It will be fascinating to see what captured the interest of the many local, national and international visitors to the site and how their photographs can contribute to the development of our understanding of Sedgeford’s archaeology.

Can photogrammetry help us achieve the aims of this project?

Sophie Beckett working on-trench as a SHARP volunteer (2003): Photo from Dr Sophie Beckett

With large collections of photographs, spatial mapping using photogrammetry could enable individual photos to fit into to a much bigger picture. This project will consider if it is possible to bring the excavations ‘back to life’ in 3D, through a collective effort of photograph donation.

This is a really exciting project. It will highlight the contributions that many hundreds of volunteers and visitors have made towards the creation of an archive of both national and international significance.

Thank you!

Are you interested in taking part?

Perhaps you have photographs you would like to donate (copies)?

You might be a current SHARP volunteer who could help with photograph scanning?

Perhaps you are just interested in hearing about our project findings and learning outcomes?

Please register your interest here

We are also running a survey to review current practice for donated photograph collections.

If you would like to participate, please click here to access further information and complete the questionnaire.

We will post blog updates on this project, as it develops.

We hope to be able to begin accepting photo donations towards the end of 2020.

In the meantime, potential photo donors can get started by finding (and reminiscing over!) all of those old SHARP photos within their home ‘archives’!

Throughout this post are some of the photos our project team have re-discovered from their own collections.


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