DigVentures is a social enterprise organising crowdfunded archaeological excavation experiences. Headquartered in Barnard Castle with offices across the UK, DigVentures is a platform that enables civic participation in archaeology and heritage projects. They have pioneered the use of crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, and digital methods to increase access and opportunities for real people to purposefully participate in real research.
To experience the whole lifecycles of multiple projects – from the design stage to delivery and reporting – my 6-month placement was spread out over the three years of my PhD. The placement was well-structured with clearly defined objectives tailored to my personal training and development needs. Given my pre-existing proficiency in excavation and recording methods, the program focused on project logistics, technical reporting, volunteer, and student training, and using social media as a communication tool.
My journey encompassed a diverse array of experiences, ranging from overseeing volunteers and recording archaeological finds and features at DigVentures’ flagship project on Lindisfarne, the scene of one of the first Viking raids in Great Britain, to organising and delivering an interactive online workshop on plant remains from archaeological contexts. Apart from contributing to several project designs and post-excavation assessment documents, I co-authored the Written Scheme of Investigation and Final Report of the Citizen Science project “Carr-Lands”, which aimed at reconstructing the Holocene palaeoenvironments of a basin east of Newton Aycliffe in County Durham using geoarchaeological field and laboratory methods.
My placement with DigVentures offered me invaluable insights into many aspects of the unique role of archaeology in British society, both in terms of participation of the general public and heritage management within the planning system. I’m grateful for the experience of meeting and collaborating with a wide range of people from various backgrounds, an opportunity rarely encountered within the confines of academic life. Working with highly motivated volunteers and witnessing their progression over days and weeks was an exceptionally gratifying aspect of this experience.
Finally, the technical and interpersonal skills I acquired during my time with DigVentures made a huge difference in my career and allowed me to secure a position as a Scientific Officer with a commercial unit straight after the completion of my PhD.