Adam Raw Mackenzie
After graduating from the University of York in 2010 with a degree in Archaeology, Adam went straight into work for the York Archaeological Trust as a Front of House Assistant at the Jorvik Viking Centre. He now works at the Jorvik DIG as a Visitor Experience and Learning Programme Host.
My role is to assist the Archive and Conservation team digitise the wealth of material currently in our archives in order to improve access for the general public. The biggest task I have at the moment is to digitise part of our enormous collection of 35mm colour slides. At the time of writing, myself and the Archive team have clocked up some 4,000 scans and around 100GB of data, which has taken some time; though this still only equates to roughly 2-3% of the entire archive.
Over the past five decades, YAT has amassed tens of thousands of images from hundreds of archaeological investigations. These range from small watching briefs to large-scale multi-season sites. Part of the challenge with a collection this large is working out where to begin. Around 15 sites representing York’s Roman, Viking and Medieval past were selected, spanning the years 1972-1989. These include the Roman sewer beneath Church Street; a Viking-age tenement beneath Lloyd’s Bank and backyards of medieval houses at Swinegate.
Many of the slides have not been viewed for quite a long time, so the first job is to clean them off before scanning so as to achieve the best possible results. The transparencies are then scanned using a dedicated slide scanner at a high resolution setting. Compressed images are then uploaded to the website for all to view, offering researchers and members of the general public alike access to this fascinating resource.
One thing I have particularly enjoyed about this project is seeing the way that York’s skyline and landscape have changed over the past 50 years. It’s not the only thing that has changed! Through the camera’s lens, you can see changes in archaeological practice, site health and safety – even fashion!
I have learned a lot about the long term storage of electronic resources during my time on this project and have come to appreciate the role physical archives play in an increasingly digital world. I have found the role both fulfilling and exciting, and hope to be working on the photographic archive for a good while longer.
Most of my time has been spent cataloguing and scanning the image library, but over the spring I was given an opportunity to do something a little different. I have always been a keen photographer, and last year I was offered some training by the York Archaeological Trust to help build on this skill. I was able to put this into practice when the Jorvik Viking Centre entered the final stages of its refurbishment. Before artefacts were transferred to be placed in their new custom-built cases the archive team spent a week photographing the objects in their groups, creating a series of images that could then be used for marketing, publicity or publication.
At the start of the summer I filmed the fieldwork team at the site of the former Newington Hotel on Tadcaster Road, York. It’s been great to get out of the office and into the field, especially since the weather has been so nice (for the most part)! The site itself is along the line of the main Roman road into York, which approached the city from the south-west. Excavation in the past has identified an extensive funerary landscape lining along the road on its approach to the city.
The Newington Hotel site is a continuation of the cemetery site excavated at Trentholme Drive in the 1950s by Leslie P. Wenham. There is a collection of Wenham’s images housed in the York Archaeological Trust’s archive; some of which date to the late 1950s and document an excavation that took place in the front garden of a property on Trentholme Drive. It’s exciting to look through these photographs and compare them with those taken by our own archaeologists. It is fascinating to think that, although these pictures were taken almost 60 years apart, the individuals being excavated were living (and dying) in York at around the same time nearly 2,000 years ago.