My last hours of this visit to Aberdeenshire were spent discussing avenues for research and the archaeological assemblages held in the care of Aberdeenshire Council museums service. As I keep repeating, this project is firmly rooted in the grey area between museums and archaeology. It is, of course, an artificial divide, as both sides of the equation are working towards the same ultimate goal: better understanding our past. That said, there are practices from both disciplines which we are working on bringing together to create what will be a significant outcome of this project: a new research framework. I mentioned this briefly in my earlier blogpost, but thought it would be useful to look at how such a research framework could directly benefit museums.
So, firstly, what is a research framework? For ScARF, it “reflects the current state of knowledge regarding Scotland’s past. As understanding of the past changes, so too will ScARF. It should be seen as a live document that will be constantly updated, edited and improved.” A research framework with museums at its heart is a new endeavour for ScARF (with notable mention for a research framework we have been supporting, initatied by Kilmartin Museum). Research frameworks are relatively commonplace in the archaeological world (see the list here on the ScARF website – and that’s not them all) with national, regional and theme-specific frameworks all in existence. Some museum services host said frameworks on their websites (like here from Liverpool Museums) but they’re still very much situated in the archaeological world, not the museums’ (no offence intended, archaeologists).
So, what can a museum gain from a research framework like that which we are working on? Broadly, here are some our aspirations:
- Our museum partners will have new research undertaken on aspects of their collections
- An overview of the current thinking on particular theme(s) for their area, aiding future interpretation
- Addressing any gaps in the collections – either of material or research
- Upskilling where staff might not have archaeological expertise
These are broad aims, and each one can be broken down into many other sub-categories. We listen to what our curatorial colleagues in the museums want from us, and help work towards those aims, whilst also being able to illustrate what archaeological techniques can bring to researching collections. For me, personally, it’s important to remember that ScARF covers right up to the Modern period, so it’s not just the museums’ excavation assemblages which are of importance to this, but what are categorised as the ‘social history’ collections too. Archaeology is about what happened yesterday as much as it is about what happened thousands of years ago, so it’s only right we keep reminding ourselves of this with reference to the museum collections, too.
With thanks to my colleagues in Mintlaw for their time, patience and sharing of ideas these past few days. Now it’s back to the more familiar environs of the ScARF office in Edinburgh. ‘Til next time!
Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on ScARF go here: http://www.scottishheritagehub.com/
For more information on the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland see here: http://www.socantscot.org/
This project is being funded by Historic Environment Scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland.
Featured image – Aberdeenshire coastal landscape. Image courtesy Scottish Rural Network