Archaeology and Shopping

By adam corsini on 19 Mar 2013

It’s been a busy start to March at the Archaeological Archive. Or rather, we’ve been busy taking the archive collections out of the stores and back to where they were first discovered.

Our Unearthing Bromley project is revisiting the archaeology that was dug up in Keston and bringing it back to its borough. We started our roadshow with a pop-up stand at The Glades shopping centre and had a fantastic weekend chatting to shoppers.

“I had no idea there was this much stuff in Bromley”

The excavations revealed a history going back to the early Iron Age running right through to the Saxons with three centuries of Roman occupation in between. Whilst the dig itself uncovered the history of the site, our events at the Glades uncovered the connections to the past that people still have today

“I remember this. I remember when the first dig was going on in the 60s. I took my girlfriend down there to see what was going on!”

“I live right near Jackass Lane (where the excavations took place). And you’re telling me that all these things are Roman? Really? That’s fantastic.”

Our team of Archaeological Ambassadors chatted to over 2000 people, sharing the history of the area and encouraging shoppers to touch the past.

“To get my hands on something almost 2000 years old… Wow…”

However, this was more than just your standard piece of outreach. Our guys were actively encouraging people to join in with the kind of collections care work that usually only takes place behind the scenes, back at the archive. Shoppers suddenly became absorbed in repacking pieces of Roman pottery. It’s a simple process transferring a sherd of pottery from an old to a new bag and writing out a museum label.  Yet, this simple method is an important and effective way of preserving the past.

There you go. We’ve become part of the Museum of London” (Mum to daughter after packing bags of pottery)

This type of event is known as Public Archaeology and it pretty much does what it says; sharing archaeology with members of the public, getting people involved with their local heritage. Some visitors knew lots about the area already, some none. Our oldest visitor remembered the site being dug up, our youngest couldn’t even speak yet.

Ultimately though, it’s about giving people some enjoyment out of the past. And judging by one girl’s response below, we like to think we nailed this. Over to Grace:

“On 8313 my mum and I stayed at the Museum of London stand in the Glades, Bromley for 2 hours as we were so fascinated by the wonderful artefacts that had been found in Keston. I was lucky enough to hold and pack real Roman pottery! My favourite piece was part of a handle which was quite rough and lumpy because it had been made with crushed oyster shells! I cannot wait to go to the Archives of the Museum of London and see more pieces of history”

#UnearthingBromley continues on Wednesdays at the Bromley Museum and Fridays at Tesco Extra, Orpington, throughout March, culminating with a celebration of local history at the Bromley Museum on Saturday 6 April :

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