From 3rd Age to Foyer

By adam corsini on 3 Nov 2012

LAARC VIP11 – Week 5

I’ve touched on this in previous weeks, but something special is going on on Wednesday afternoons at the Museum’s London Archaeological Archive & Research Centre. The U3A are here. And soon they’ll be coming for you…

When I first heard mention of the U3A a good 6 years ago now, I really didn’t have a clue who they were or what they were about. I was told that the acronym stood for the University of The Third Age, but in truth that didn’t help much. Sounding a bit futuristic I was half expecting students with a passion for sci fi (which to be fair, would probably include most trainee archaeologists) but was pleasantly surprised to find out that it’s a ‘university’ for mature people, usually retirees, who refuse to retire quietly, but rather are set to prove that you’re never to old to learn new tricks. More importantly this desire stretches in the realms of sharing knowledge. And that pricked up my ears.

Our Wednesday VIP11 team have been learning how the museum goes about caring for its collections; learning to pack pottery up to a standard of collections care that will allow researchers better access to this material; learning information about the pieces of pottery they’ve been getting to handle; learning about the roman archaeology from the magnificent excavation that took place in 1975 at Newgate Street. And now they want to share this knowledge.

Since our first encounter in 2007, LAARC has run 6 consecutive Shared Learning Projects with the U3A (I believe a record for the heritage sector – someone please feel free to prove me wrong). All 6 projects have focused on archive based finds work though each has been wrapped within creative personal projects, which have differed on each occasion (including artwork, film making, creative writing and new skills in Powerpoint presentations). This year’s team however have a different agenda. This year’s team aren’t content with staying in an archive. This year’s team want to meet you!

In 2 weeks time they will be relocating to the Museum of London foyer every Wednesday afternoon to share their learning with our visitors. Their first date will be on 21st November and you won’t miss them. They’ll be the smiley faces behind trays of real, dug up archaeology, which they’ll be inviting you to touch and if you ask really nicely, help them pop into a bag and file away for future preservation. So if you’ve never touched a real piece of roman London, if you want to hear a first hand account of want its like to be a Museum of London volunteer, if you want to have an immersive, interactive museum experience, come and meet them, have a chat and be impressed. Because so far, in their weeks of training, I certainly have.

Indeed, I’m impressed with all our VIP11 teams. Tuesday, Thursday & Friday’s teams have been plugging away at improving loads of finds archives including Clements Lane and Lovat Lane (both dug within the City of London in 1981) which produced this fab seal from a 18th century wine bottle and fragment of slate with etched lines, possible used for sheet music.

Another amazing site worked through was Baynards Castle which had lots of preserved wood including this small paddle.

Finally excellent progress has been made with the Brentford archive. Removing the archaeology from these old style square boxes into archive compliment standard ‘shoe’boxes will save a good lot of shelf space as well as making the objects much more accessible, including our star find of the week, this bowl from a early 20th century clay tobacco pipe:

We’re half way through the project now. Keep track of our progress via Twitter #LAARCVIP # VIP11

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