The archaeological resource is a fragile relic of the story of humanity, and unfortunately, the processes of archaeology often utterly destroy this precious evidence even as it is recorded and investigated. Modern technology offers new ways of recording and preserving, using, interpreting and teaching Archaeology, and Media at BRP aims to explore ways we can make the most of what is available. One of the main ways we do this is through digital video.
We are not the first archaeological project to film its excavations, but we have been among the first to apply a holistic approach that aims to make a record of the archaeologists' thought processes and interpretations of archaeology as it is discovered. For us, the people who contribute to the project are as important as the physical archaeology. Because of this, the role of media at Bamburgh has become a kind of social anthropology as much as a record of excavation.
The dissemination of information is considered one of the project's fundamental responsibilities, given the essentially destructive quality of archaeology. We use video as a tool for archiving the social history of the project and for reaching a non specialist audience who aren't necessarily going to look for published reports in academic journals. The history of Bamburgh should be available also at a popular level and the work we do with video and other media is important in achieving this.
What does the media team do?
Using High Definition Video cameras, and stills cameras, the media team work on site with the archaeologists. We document the progression of the excavations, recording as layers are removed, finds are recovered and featured are dug. This archive of the on site processes is just one aspect of acquisition. All of the archaeologists at Bamburgh, staff, students and visiting professionals, are encouraged to present their opinions, interpretations, observations and experiences of the archaeology on camera in PTC's ("presenting to camera"), video diaries and candid interviews in the trenches. We also try to capture the social side of each season, without being invasive, so we let the students film themselves and make their own updates to out blog and social media.This live interpretation from people with different experience levels captures the developing theories and themes of the on site story. It is a way of opening up the world of archaeology to a general audience, and this human story of people doing a job provides a cast of characters and a narrative framework all of its own. It allows us to document the process of archaeology as well as the results of a particular interpretation.
Filming the project since 2000 we have acquired a unique archive of over 1500 hours of digital video.
Managing digital video
The management of this archive is a large undertaking. We have footage in multiple formats, from mini DV to HDV and we currently use full resolution HD video captured solid state media. The footage is captured onto hard drives and logged using Final Cut Pro, so that each file has embedded xml data containing contextual information. Complementary to this is a paper archive of Tape Registers and Tape Log Sheets for each season. The paper archive also has to be digitised and added to the site database. This work is very time consuming, but will eventually better enable integration of the video archive with the conventional archaeological archive.
The large archive of digital video is a wonderful resource for making films. Project participants are encouraged to use the footage to edit their own films, some of which we put up on this website and You Tube.
Gerry Twomey is developing a feature film documentary based on the work of the project. The film is almost completed, barring raising some funds for archive footage of the late Brian Hope Taylor. The story concentrates on how the BRP began to unravel the mystery of Bamburgh, and along with it, the late career of one of the pioneers of field archaeology in Britain (Brian Hope Taylor).
BRP on the Web
The internet has made it possible to show our videos worldwide and we are committed to producing films that reveal the discoveries on site and processes of archaeology as well as the experience of digging at Bamburgh.
BRP has pages on YouTube, Facebook and a blog that staff and students can contribute to during the excavation season and beyond.
Education One of the things we are working on currently is educational resources using media. We aim to extend the BRP learning experience with bespoke video tuition modules. We currently have several lectures online, and we hope to add a lot more content in the near future.