A428 Digital Engagement Assistants
As part of our excavations for the National Highways proposed A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet improvements, some of our archaeologists had the opportunity to take on the role of Digital Engagement Assistants (DEAs). They have been taking photos, shooting videos, interviewing colleagues, and turning these into social media posts to share stories about the past, and the everyday life of archaeologists working across the A428 scheme. This has been a really exciting part of the excavations, as it’s one of the first times our archaeologists working on a major infrastructure project have shared live updates from the trowel's edge.
Over the last 6 months our three DEAs have been sharing some amazing discoveries, fascinating finds and taking us behind the scenes of the excavation. Valeria and Jamie are based on-site excavating, whilst Maddy has recently started working in post-excavation processing. We caught up with Jamie, Maddy and Valeria to hear all about their experiences.
Q1. What have you enjoyed most about being a DEA?
Jamie: The thing I have enjoyed most is communicating and sharing archaeology with the public in real time, being able to see their reactions. I’ve also enjoyed being creative with the photos and posts that I write.
Valeria: For me, it's the creativity and thinking outside the box, showing the interesting sides of everyday things. Many of the things we find are actually something that about, and we can forget that as archaeologists because we see these things a lot. I used to do re-enacting and that’s similar in a way, sharing knowledge, sharing the past through archaeology.
Maddy: It has been fun to think through the archaeological material in a different way. The best part of being an archaeologist is continually learning more about the past. It has been really enjoyable getting excited about all the things we are discovering and to share that with people.
Q2. What is the main thing you have learnt in your time as a DEA?
Maddy: How to craft your posts for the different social media platforms – getting everything you want to say into the right number of characters for a tweet, for example!
Valeria: Writing in the correct way – the right level, accessible language – to always be thinking “how is the best way to communicate this to people?”.
Jamie: I think the main things I have learnt are how to present archaeology in a fun, informative and engaging way, and how to take good photos.
Q3. What had been the most challenging or difficult part?
Jamie: The most challenging thing about being a DEA has been the days where there hasn’t been much to write about or photograph, meaning a fair bit of improvisation and thinking outside the box!
Valeria: Definitely, on days where the weather has been really bad, so there hasn’t been much work on site, then you have to think of new ways to share or present things. I think about what I have learned that day, and how I can share that new knowledge with people.
Maddy: In processing it’s slightly different. We aren’t affected by the weather, but we are working on lots of different projects, so I won’t always be working on finds or material from the A428. But it gives us time to share our experiences as well as the finds. It’s great to see our posts about the daily lives of archaeologists have been so popular.
Q4. What is your top tip for future DEAs?
Valeria: Always talk to everyone on site, you never know what someone might have found or what you’re going to spot. Be curious and observe everything.
Jamie: My tip for someone starting out as a DEA would be to really just have fun with it. Get creative, think outside the box, show archaeology for the fun and exciting job it is! Not every post is going to be a hit, and it will surprise you which ones people react the most to, so patience and persistence is key!
Maddy: I agree with you both. I have also really enjoyed speaking to our specialists and learning so much more about the finds myself, so I would definitely recommend doing that. I’d also add that you should just let your passion for the archaeology shine through. Don’t be embarrassed about being excited over things like animal bone – people will engage with your passion and interest.
You can hear more from Jamie, Maddie and Valeria on the latest episode of our A428 Podcast Highways to the Past, avaliable wherever you listen to your podcasts!
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Excavations are being undertaken by archaeologists from MOLA, as part of the proposed National Highways A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet Improvement Scheme.