MOLA meets Crossrail's Lead Archaeologist Jay Carver

MOLA team

This week MOLA met with Crossrail’s Lead Archaeologist, Jay Carver, who oversees all archaeological work on Crossrail sites, of which there are more than forty locations requiring some form of archaeological work.

We asked him for his thoughts on big development and infrastructure projects communicating the exciting archaeological discoveries on their schemes to the public and enquired into the community engagement work that Crossrail has been undertaking, in particular the enormously popular Bison to Bedlam exhibition.

MOLA: Jay, tell us a little about what Crossrail is doing to communicate information, about the archaeology on your sites to the public, and especially local communities.

JC: There are a number of measures we are implementing to communicate with the communities around our worksites and there is a huge amount of interest in Crossrail’s archaeology programme. We reach many of these communities through community forum meetings, regular information updates in our newsletters, our website, engaging local and London media and our exhibitions.

MOLA: Bison to Bedlam was an extremely popular public exhibition that Crossrail hosted in 2012. What was the aim of the exhibition?

JC: Providing regular exhibitions was part of the project design from the beginning. The objective was really to try and share the results as early as possible, with as many people as possible. Rather than members of the public and interested professionals having to wait until publications are ready.

MOLA: The exhibition was so popular that Crossrail organised a second showing. Tell me what you think captured the public’s imagination.

JC: The significant public interest in Crossrail’s archaeological finds has been really evident by the media interest and the attendance numbers to our exhibitions. The Crossrail route is quite wide, so many people could relate to particular finds that relate to their local area, either where they were born or grew up, where they live or where they work. So there are so many different angles that people can feel connected to a project of this scale.

MOLA: There seems to be a growing focus within the development sector on community engagement and making a positive impact within the community. Do you believe that archaeology has something to add to the process?

JC: Yes, an essential role. Whatever type of development, an essential part of the process is investing in the place where the new construction is going to happen. Certainly in the residential sector we have seen how affective a focus on the heritage of a site can be, in creating valuable places. It has become part of creating value out of the project over and above the square meterage of the property that they have to let or sell. With Crossrail, we are delivering a new railway that will benefit communities, but also unearthing London’s history in the process.

MOLA: What has Crossrail got on the horizon in terms of your community programme?

JC: We are hoping to undertake a community dig at one of our sites and allow people locally to come and get their hands dirty. We have been able to show numerous school groups around excavations and do indoor activities but, due to the fact that a lot of the sites are quite inaccessible for amateurs and for younger people, we have been looking for an opportunity to do something else.

We are hoping to develop a partnership agreement with a couple of our neighbours, who are adjacent to our works and that share the same archaeology below ground, so we can do a community dig supported by Crossrail but that also engages other local land-owners and voluntary organisations to celebrate that locations archaeology.

MOLA: Lastly, do you think that the archaeology that has come out of work that Crossrail has been doing is going to influence the final design?

JC: Crossrail will soon launch an impressive art programme to select artwork to be built into the station design. It would be great to complete a station with a reference to historic sites lying below the footprint of the station. I’m really hoping we can celebrate the finds we have made in a permanent way, whether that be in a station or elsewhere, we will input into that design process.

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