Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ironbridge Archaeology Van

Today was an epic day in the history of the Ironbridge van, which has served the Museum well over the last 16 years. It has now become part of a contemporary archaeology project at the University of Bristol. The project intends to dismantle and investigate the vehicle archaeologically. The reasoning behind the project, and some of the views of the archaeology team about its value, were discussed in an earlier post.

Today, the van was handed over to its new keepers...

The lonely van, almost the last occupant of Furrow's former compound.

Rear view, the old phone numbers date the van as well as the number plate.

Odometer reads 27,845, in reality this is at least 227,845; life expired at 3.03pm!

The formal handover took place today between 12.00 and 12.45. The Bristol team was represented by Dr John Schofield (English Heritage), Cassandra Newland (Bristol PhD student and also a former Ironbridge Archaeology staff member) and Greg Bailey (an MA student who was filming the event). The Museum was represented by Paul Belford, Senior Archaeologist. Many thanks to Mark Grainger of the AA.

Cassie and John seem delighted with their new acquisition!

Loading of the vehicle onto the AA truck took less than 10 minutes. The whole process was carefully monitored and recorded by four archaeologists with at least 8 degrees between them.

Greg (with video camera), John and Cassie watch as the van is loaded onto the AA truck...

...the winch cable is run out...

...the van is winched up the ramp...

...and firmly lashed down...

...the ramp is retracted...

...and they set off to Bristol!

Dismantling of the van will start in mid-July. We are going to monitor this work and updates will be posted here. We will also gather together the various historical documents associated with this 'artefact' such as old MoT's, service records and the insurance description of the famous accident.

Anyone who now works, or formerly worked for, the Museum and drove this van is strongly encouraged to contribute their reminiscences to the project. If you can email the archaeology unit, or any of the Bristol group, we can make arrangements to interview you either at Bristol or at Ironbridge. The project is aiming to build up a social history of the vehicle as well as analyse the various changes that happened to it.

If you have any views on the project as a whole (and we have recieved a number of comments already) then please either add comments here, or email us, or vote on the 'Contemporary Archaeology Poll' that we have set up on the BAJR forum.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I first heard about this project I couldn't help but laugh because on the face of things it appeared an absurbed concept to me.

However, the more I think about it, and the more I read about it. It is a completely intriguing concept.

Firstly because it enables you to test archaeological observations and match them up with van records and memories of the people the travelled within the vehicle without too much time have elapsed which often goes hand in hand with the problem of biased records.

Secondly I cannot count how many times I have had the conversation of "archaeology in 500 years times" where the excavation of modern materials will be common place. So trying to investigate if the establish archaeological methodology works in modern (even localised enviroments, like a van) is, well, kudos.

These are only my personal ramblings though. I have never come across contemporary archaeological projects until this one. It's been a good read.

Pete B

5:09 pm  

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