Museum of London Archaeological Archive pop-up in Bromley

Museum of London Archaeological Archive

Adam Corsini, 15.01.2015
Getting collections to new audiences
The Museum of London’s Archaeological Archive is the largest of its kind in the world, storing records for more than 8,500 excavations and over five million artefacts.

Since establishing its volunteer inclusion programme (VIP) in 2008, the archive has developed models of best practice, combining collections care work with public interaction.

Stemming from its visitor inclusion programme – where volunteers engage visitors with collections in a museum space – the Arts Council England-funded Unearthing London programme explores the possibilities of pop-up public engagement at non-traditional venues across outer London.

Unearthing London focuses on engaging residents of outer London boroughs with archaeology from the specific area being visited. Often these collections have been overlooked and are in need of updated packaging.

Volunteer teams, recruited locally, are trained in collections care techniques and public engagement, with the ultimate aim of presenting these artefacts at a public venue in their borough.

As part of these events, the teams encourage members of the public to repack objects themselves; this allows the volunteers to impart their skills, while visitors actively contribute to improving their local archaeology.

So far the programme has taken place in Hounslow, Bromley, Havering, Barnet, and Croydon, involving over 50 new volunteers, engaging thousands of visitors with archaeology, and transforming the finds archives for five major archaeological investigations.

The key component to the scheme’s success is the large-scale public setting for these events. Based in central spaces at large shopping malls, the projects attract a wide-spread, indiscriminate audience, many of whom rarely visit museums, or travel into central London.

Adam Corsini is the archaeology collections manager (engagement) at the Museum of London Archaeological Archive