Reflections at the end of all things

As part of the conclusion of the module, the student participants were asked to reflect on their participation.

Emily

What do you consider to be the main learning outcomes of the module? What will you take away with you after completion of the module?

From this module I have learnt and developed many skills that I otherwise would not have had the chance to. Including; programming and coding, photoshop editing, communication within a group and working with a real museum to develop a product that will be used in the heritage world. Moreover the main learning outcomes I have achieved from this module are perspective and communication. Working with a group has meant that compromise, coordination and allocation of tasks has been key, possibly mirroring working within the heritage sector in my future career. Perspective has been crucial as understanding what the museum wanted and being able to fit this to their environment was something I have never done or thought about. The chance to work on a project that will be used in the real world is something that is not usually offered to first years and has given me key skills that I will take with me into the following years of my degree.

Do you think the fieldschool has had an impact on how you understand heritage? How?

Definitely, as the opportunity to work with a small museum has shown me the heritage world from a completely different perspective. Seeing a museum run on one member of staff and the rest being volunteers, changes the dynamic of how management choices and the organisation of the museum is decided. Additionally being able to work on a heritage project instead of solely being on the dig allowed me to see the heritage world from a professional perspective for the first time.

If you could describe this module in one word, what would it be?

Opportunity.

Hayden

What do you consider to be the main learning outcomes of the module? What will you take away with you after completion of the module?

To be introduced to how a heritage project is undertaken.
To develop teamwork and presentational skills.
To acquire a range of technical skills.

I will primarily take away a better understanding of how a project can be undertaken by a small group. Particularly, I believe I have developed my own understanding of what contributions one should make. One major point of feedback I received throughout the module was that I don’t push my opinions and ideas to the extent I should, even though I clearly have them. My justification for this was the dilemma of not wanting to cause unnecessary friction and seemingly hinder progression, yet I learned that when creating a final product, opposing opinions is vital to the process.

Do you think the fieldschool has had an impact on how you understand heritage? How?

Before taking the module, I understood heritage to be far more finite and ‘static’, in the sense that we are already naturally provided with our heritage in a tangible form, and we then make a few minor decisions on how it should be presented. In fact, it became apparent that heritage is not so definite, and is actually something that continuously develops. If we consider heritage to simply be a representation of our understanding of the past, then it becomes something very ephemeral.

If you could describe this module in one word, what would it be?

Informative

Marionna

What do you consider to be the main learning outcomes of the module? What will you take away with you after completion of the module?

I think that the main outcome for me in this module has been having to expose my ideas and learn how to work in a professional way with a museum.This was really interesting because that’s actually one of the things that I want to do after finishing my degree. Apart from that, I think it had been really enriching as it had helped me to view different ways of having to coordinate for managing an important work in only two weeks. And also having to learn how to treat our public while they were testing the game as I had never had to do something like that before.

I would take away from this module the opportunity to expose our ideas, as in other modules, is more difficult to be heard if you aren’t fast or you are not secure about your dominance of the language. Here you are encouraged to say what you are thinking and you can feel that what you say is valued.

Do you think the fieldschool has had an impact on how you understand heritage? How?

Yeah because I always thought that Heritage was about managing expositions, making leaflets, and create boring posters to announce amazing exhibitions that nobody use to visit . But here I have realized that is more than that, It’s gaining people’s interest, especially those who just don’t bother about culture. It’s making them realize what are they missing and show them that it’s actually interesting and exciting. I realized of this while doing our game, as our main goal was that players learned something in an interactive way,having fun in the process.

If you could describe this module in one word, what would it be?

Different

Isobel

What do you consider to be the main learning outcomes of the module? What will you take away with you after completion of the module?

I consider the main learning outcomes of the module to be able to create a video game, which meets the needs of our clients, and provides both entertainment and education to the visitors of the museum. Alongside this was the learning outcome of working together with various groups of people, and to learn skills such as CSS, Photoshop, and photography.

I will take away from this module, the ability to use Twine, a program previously I had no idea how to use, I now know the best way to photograph archaeological artefact to enhance its intricate details. On top of this I have learnt, about the complexity of Heritage as a discipline, and it has allowed me to gain a greater understanding of the area of work I hope to go into in the future. Working together as a team has also taught me more about myself than I would ever imagine, and I feel like my ability to work in a team has improved vastly over the course of the module.

Do you think the field school has had an impact on how you understand heritage? How?

The field school has definitely had an impact on how I understand heritage, before I started I had a vague idea that heritage involved museums and historic buildings. This module however, has taught me the importance of digital elements in the world of heritage, and how by embracing the technology of the 21st Century it can allow people to create a connection to the historic and prehistoric past. Archaeogaming is not something I had heard of, but now I can see the important role it plays in heritage, and helping people understand heritage and archaeology as disciplines.

If you could describe this module in one word, what would it be?

Eye-opening!

STRESS STRESS STRESS

Production week has finally descended on our small group of four, and as anticipated, there have been several moments within the past two days where I have wanted to take the University owned laptop I was working on and throw it off the top of the Minster.

The reason behind this irrational thought, Photoshop. Before this week I had naively thought that our short crash course in Photoshop would be more than enough to cover the Photoshopping we would need for our game. I was wrong. So very, very, wrong.

Monday morning I had a great time working on the CSS for the game with Tara, which basically consisted of changing the colours and making the game look pretty. CSS was something I felt confident with, I knew what I was doing provided Tara was next to me the entire time in case I messed up! However, this is a group project and so my stress-free morning did not last as I took up the new task of using Photoshop to edit one of the images we needed for the game.

After I had opened up the image in Photoshop, something I did with great ease, I

A image of the Twine software, and mechanics of our game.
A screenshot of the mechanics of the game in Twine.

knew I had misjudged what I was getting myself into. It was in that moment as I stared blankly at the screen before me, I had no idea what I was doing. What followed was what I can confidently say one of the most frustrating and painful experiences of my life. Whenever I stopped to look at how Hayden was managing to do everything that I couldn’t, I imagined running away from King’s Manor very quickly and never returning. Somehow though, I managed to remain in my seat and through what can only be described as a miracle I managed to muddle my way through and edit the image to something we could actually use.

Tuesday morning dawned and all I could think was that if I had to use Photoshop ever again I might actually just break down on the spot. My first job was indeed to use Photoshop again. Tuesday was off to a great start.

However, to my surprise and probably the surprise of everyone else, I quickly managed to crop my image and resize it to the correct dimensions. In hindsight, it’s no surprise I managed it as it was probably one of the simplest jobs I could possibly need to do. The next image though was definitely going to test my meager abilities, but thankfully Tom from the University’s IT department was in and managed to explain to me exactly what I needed to do in order to sort out my image.

Ironically, this afternoon I cruised through the rest of my Photoshop work, and to my immense disbelief even managed to enjoy myself. This was an unexpected turn of events, and I’m convinced I must have hit my head at some point, either that or Photoshop isn’t as bad as I thought, but I’m not convinced.

Being more than archaeologists

After our short tour of the village of Malton and our meeting with the volunteers  of the museum, we found an avalanche of ideas that had emerged from our brainstorming. All of this was overwhelming, due to the fact that we actually have to put all those ideas in a video game. It may seem attractive to design a videogame that will be played by real people, but taking into account that none of us has any experience in this, the prospect was no longer so appealing. So in our first seminar on Thursday, our faces of confusion and perplexity seemed to had been recorded in our professors’ retinas, since at the end of the session they looked really concerned about us. This was not surprising because the ideas that came out were so different from each other that practically were impossible to put all of them together. Between our antagonistic ideas we went from a time traveler, to a soldier who had to survive in the “Roman jungle”.

Trying to made up our minds with Twine
Working on Twine ( Screen capture: Isobel Christian)

After a little break, we found ourselves heavily deep into an intensive course to learn game programming with a program called Twine. At the beginning, feeling confident after a week on the “battlefield”, we said to ourselves “this can’t be so difficult”, but the reality was quite different. As we progressed I realized that all my experience playing with Flappy Birds or any other game was useless, and my sketch started to seem like an incomprehensible tangle of hieroglyphics. However my brain and my heart beats returned to normality when I realized that in the notes that they had given to us were all the keys that could prevent the disaster in our video game. But we will have to wait until the end to see what results from our “computer mastery”.

Mission Malton

On the day of the meeting, the museum had been thoughtfully closed so that we would have the opportunity to have a full, in depth discussion with the volunteers at the museum. Myself and Emily strolled down, what seemed to be a busy road in the heart of Malton, in our search for the museum itself, which was identified by the two banners hanging on the outside proclaiming the word ‘Exhibition’. Our time keeping skills were slightly lacking and we were the last to arrive for the meeting, entering the building with slight trepidation hoping we had definitely got the correct building.

The first part of our meeting at the museum, introduced everyone and allowed the museum volunteers to give us an overview of the museum as a whole. The four volunteers who were present at the meeting were Anne, Margaret, Jenny and Roy who represented both the education side of the museum and the collections side. It was then I began to fully understand both the history of the museum, and also the issues and problems which it is currently facing, with funding and visitor numbers. It was hearing this history that instilled in me a great want to put all of my capabilities into making sure the game we develop will meet all of their hopes and expectations; and in an ideal world provide the museum with a longevity that a greater use of technology might provide.

Following a whistle stop tour around both the museum itself and the stores, it was time to get down to business and get to the heart of what the purpose of our visit was. To question the volunteers on what their hopes and aspirations were for the video game and to collect a solid basis of information in order to head back and develop our pitch. A tool we used in order to help with this was using post it notes to create a visual representation of their priorities.

Board which depicts the ideas we came up with at the meeting in Malton
The final product, from our meeting at Malton Museum. (Photo: Sara Perry)

Already I can feel my abilities being pushed by this course, and I hopefully am rising to meet them with the best I can give. All I can say is that our first time at Malton felt like a success, and I am excited for the journey ahead of us.

By Isobel

Proper Archaeologist

Bright eyed and bushy tailed we turned up to what was for the most of us our first excavation, bags full and hands at the ready to dig. Drastically the smiles faded as we arrived at the site to imminent rain and the chill of a heavy wind, it was not long however until the trenches revealed themselves from behind a corner and the excited buzz grew. Seeing the trench and finally getting stuck into what has felt like a marathon year of lectures on excavation theory was truly thrilling; I finally felt like a ‘proper archaeologist’. I could go home head high and tell all those who had asked me since my first day whether I had been on a dig, that I finally had. Although the dig had not been something I had particularly looked forward to, actually being on a site that held so much information about the past and being the first people to uncover it is a feeling I don’t think will ever go away.

The hard work kicked in as we finished the work the digger had already started, this was a tremendous team effort with jokes and high spirits rife. Turning our attention to the emerging features we looked expectantly from our trowels to the supervisor with the hope of being let loose on them; much to my disappointment the process of ‘cleaning the context’ was broached, and so began the slog of cleaning 1mm of topsoil by hand from a 60m trench. Moreover my disappointment was quashed as I unearthed my first piece of flint; it felt like I had struck gold. After my supervisor told me it may date to 1000-3000BC my excitement could not have been greater as I felt the connection between myself and the human being millenia before me who had deposited it there for me to find. We were like primary school pupils running with their latest drawing to their teacher to show it off, we were instead however running manically across a trench with broken pieces of bone to a supervisor who had seen this a thousand times; still we beamed with our finds. Throughout the following days we continued to clean and more features began to emerge, we identified a possible foundation wall (which with both love and frustration, later took me a day and half to clean between the stones), a possible cremation site and a ditch filled with animal remains. Hearing what was happening in the other trenches I was both relieved and jealous, as my friend had to dig her trench from scratch; my three blisters from digging half a day could not compare to her two solid days of digging. However as possible human remains were uncovered my interest had to be satisfied and I wandered over. Aside from the initial daunting shudder that runs through your body when you first see human remains the after effect of the possibilities this could open was mesmerising.

This image consists of two finds trays filled with an assortment of artefacts. The majority are animal bone and pottery with some interesting looking stones mixed in.
Finds from wall and ditch day three (Photo: Emily Pearson)
Trench six on day one with students at different stages of cleaning the context with trowels.
Cleaning the context day one (Photo: Emily Pearson)
In focus is my hand with a piece of flint in it dating from 1000-3000BC. In the background is a finds tray with various pieces of flint and animal bone.
Flint 1000-3000BC (Photo: Emily Pearson)

As my time at the site drew to an end I remarked at my relief to be leaving the site and heading to a museum to which my friend replied “oh you’re so a heritage student”, which I take no shame in. Although I enjoyed my time on site and would relish at the opportunity to return and see how the work progressed, I always found myself thinking about the next stage: what this meant, how were the finds going to be incorporated into an established museum and what this meant for the community, thus yes I am “so heritage”. I fell into this degree switching at the last minute from another course I loved because I couldn’t see myself doing the alternative as a job. However when I changed and imagined my studies and future, as cheesy as it sounds everything fell into place. The National Trust properties I had visited hundreds of times as a child and teenager became the place I wanted to spend all my time and this was the only thing I had ever felt passionate about. The thought of the stories these places held and me screaming them  at anyone who would listen showed me that after a little refinement of screaming to conserving this is what I wanted to study.