Tackling Photoshop

Now that the actually quite pleasant tasks of discussions and excursions are coming to a close, this week will consist of nothing but production. Instead of adopting a Chamberlain-esque method of simply starting and winging our way through it, it became immediately apparent that the dreaded old ‘organisation’ thing would be at play again. The sticky notes even made a comeback.

One of the main tasks in the production process would be editing the photographs of the museum’s objects that we would be including in the game. Unfortunately, this meant that we’d have to try and get our heads around Photoshop. Indeed, we did have a lengthy Photoshop session last week, which I confidently nodded through. However, my blank expression when I opened up the software afterwards suggested that I wasn’t following it all as much as I thought.

When the group was asked to identify who was most confident with Photoshop, we all sank back deep into our chairs, resulting in us all sharing the burden. Consequently, the others weren’t pleased when I admitted that I used Photoshop for two years in Interactive Media. In my defence, those days were mostly spent placing my friends’ heads on the bodies of dictators (and the occasional phallus). Since Malton Museum didn’t at any point make requests for that sort of material, I think I was justified in concealing my experience.

In fact, what was required was background removal and general tidying-up of images of the museums objects. Perhaps I should have paid more attention in my school days, as my incompetence shone through when I started hacking off chunks of the objects instead of the background.

As punishment for my earlier deceit, I was next allocated a particularly tricky image of a comb on a similar coloured background. Rather than doing the sensible thing and finding the most appropriate tool, I opted for the tedious method of changing the colour of individual pixels one by one. Needless to say, my dishonesty and stupidity meant that I fully deserved the subsequent migraine.

An image of a bone weaving comb
An image of a bone comb that caused a lot of grief (Photo: Isobel)

One major issue I have with the editing process is the fact that nobody will understand the time and effort we put in when they see the final product, yet they would have noticed if we hadn’t. I’m beginning to think that I may have to stand with the game and verbally inform people of what I did to the images.

All in all, the photo editing went pretty well considering I can barely even take a photograph, never mind ‘adjust its colour saturation’- whatever that is. Another bonus is by concentrating on the image side of things, I avoided any ‘CSS work’. I won’t explain what that is, as I’ve been only pretending to know myself for the past two weeks.

Preparing for the First Meeting

Our main task in this year’s heritage programme is to create a videogame for Malton Museum. Naturally, we needed to first meet with the museum staff to discuss exactly what they wanted, so a meeting was prepared for Tuesday afternoon.

If it were left to me, I would have turned up with a biro and hoped for the best, looking like a lesser known Chuckle Brother, although we fortunately decided to prepare a list of questions.

Harald then whipped out his post-it notes. I presumed he was going to write a small shopping list, but we were shown how to use them to organise notes. All of these good organisational skills terrified me a little, but I went with the flow and we ended the session feeling confident.

On Tuesday, we’d allowed a little time to explore and assess the presentation of the Roman fort site. Inquisitive visitors can wallow in education provided by four information boards, yet we were distraught when we found the third board to be completely absent. Seeing a crude rope swing hanging from a tree branch, we deduced that the local youths must be responsible.

Meghan and Sara observing an information panel
Analysing the first sign (Photo: Isobel Christian)

Thankfully, these vandals clearly had some sense of decency, as they respectfully left their ill-gotten gains resting against the fourth information board. We revelled at the opportunity of learning more about the history of the Roman fort, though the only thing we learned from the latter half of the boards was that lichen clings to plastic panels rather well.

Cursing the shenanigans of the sign-spoiling hooligans, we then paid a visit to our pals on the excavation site. Unsurprisingly, mine didn’t seem too pleased when I turned up in my Chelsea boots, after I seemingly blagged myself an early exit from the excavation.

Hayden analysing a lichen covered information panel
Deciphering the lichen (Photo: Emily Pearson)

Matters didn’t improve when one friend laid out her jacket for me to sit on whilst I ate my Nutrigrains, since I refused to sit on the soil. After receiving a complete roasting over my degree choice (and general nambypamby-ness), I made a slightly smug retreat and headed off to meet my appointment at the museum.

I don’t remember Tony Robinson ever being subjected to such grief when he checked up on the man with the colourful jumpers and the bloke with the hat.

Mattocks and Misery

The prospect of physically being involved in archaeological excavation proved to be the source of much concern on my part. Indeed, one major cause of anticipation was the unpleasant weather every archaeologist seems to reference when discussing excavations in Britain. I can withstand rain and sleet as much as the next man, but this usually entails a short walk down the street, and certainly not spending the better part of the day kneeling in a ditch.

To my obvious ‘delight’, the road to Malton wound its way under a titanic rain cloud- and with it, the prospect of cold and misery. Finally on site, my first experience of field excavation consisted of me standing in a field being battered by relentless rain, whilst I attempted to hear a man in an anorak pointing the way to a pair of portaloos. He then pointed to a series of Roman earthworks. One would expect this to be more interesting than the portaloos, but when you’re surrounded by friends laughing at the miserable look on your face, interest is not something that comes easily.

Mr Steve Roskams then appeared, who looked frustratingly optimistic. After a rough overview of the site, he then instructed us to join our specified groups. Fortunately, nobody appeared too more excited than me, and after attempting to sign a very soggy sheet of paper (probably originally a risk assessment), we made our way to the trench.

I was genuinely delighted to find that the initial work we would be undertaking would be basic manual labour. This was something I could get fully on board with, as I could not perceive any possible mistake I could make which would jeopardise the dig (other than mattocking somebody’s toes off, which I managed to avoid). The first task involved working in pairs; with one person using a mattock to create a nice straight edge to the trench, whilst the other shovelled away the spoil. Fortunately, my partner preferred the shovel whilst I favoured the mattock, so I was able to work away merrily until the sun at last appeared, and with it I realised that I was actually enjoying the experience.

Annoyingly, my friends from earlier were working in a group adjacent to mine, and found amusement in me wielding my tool. I had the last laugh when we stepped back and looked at my clean vertical trench wall, leading on to the absolute pig’s ear they’d made in comparison (At least, that is what I told myself). In their defence, they seemed to spend most of their time screaming with joy as they uncovered what seemed to be actually interesting finds. This reminded me of the purpose of me being in this situation, and I endeavoured to be more observant when working on the opposite side of the trench. This new approach proved quite fruitful, as I uncovered what was deemed to be a fragment of worked flint. I enthusiastically threw this find into the tray of modern pottery sherds, and continued my affair with my mattock.

Of course, any complaints I verbalised were consistently met with the same response- “Stop whining, you’re only doing this for a few days”. This was entirely true, as with me being on the Archaeology and Heritage course, my interests centre around the preservation of history, rather than simply its discovery.

Whilst it may be exciting to be the first person to hold something in thousands of years, I find it impossible to ignore the thousands of years still to come after such a brief moment in an object’s history. Whilst mattocking, I considered the fate of my flint in this regard. If everyone were to simply toss their flints into a plastic tray with no concern of what is to happen to them next, the whole process of trying to discover and understand our heritage would be useless. Much consideration has to be made when deciding the appropriate way of dealing with the flint; How important is it? How should it be preserved? How should it be presented? What can we gain from it? These are questions which are seldom considered, yet are vitally important.

Knowing my luck, my piece of flint probably ended up gravelling the site supervisor’s driveway.