Guernsey Museums and Galleries
Report by Mick Atha
The Guernsey placement provides an opportunity to gain first-hand experience in probably the broadest range of archaeological work available to Bradford students taking the 4-year course.
Guernsey has a stunning archaeological record, including Mesolithic flint sites, a Gallo-Roman wreck and settlement, Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement sites, Neolithic megalithic burial sites, and masses of military sites of Medieval, Post-Medieval and WWII date.
The Bailiwick of Guernsey (which also includes Alderney, Sark, Herm and other smaller islets) has a very busy Archaeological Officer, Heather Sebire. Heather's invariably rushed off her feet, and this therefore, is not a placement for those seeking an easy life with a fixed programme of work. If, however, you have enthusiasm, can demonstrate some archaeological skills, and have a willingness to learn, Heather will provide plenty of opportunities for the further development of your archaeological career.
Whilst with the museum I primarily worked on the development of Guernsey's SMR and gave a presentation at the end of my placement to representatives of other government departments. There are usually several excavations ongoing in Guernsey at any given time, so there are always opportunities for honing your practical skills. Having studied geophysics in my second year at Bradford, the museum's RM15 earth resistance meter got a few outings during the nine month placement.
The highpoint for me was probably my co-ordination of the Jerbourg Battery site, the report for which was published in the Transactions of La Société Guernesiaise (the island's scientific journal). One day a week I took the Museum's Landrover and carried out systematic field inspections of Napoleonic batteries prior to their inclusion in the SMR, and located several flint sites into the bargain! Two unusual jobs (typifying the range of work possible) involved the packing and loading of a 1st C AD Gallo-Roman ship's timbers on to an arctic for shipment to the Mary Rose Trust, and the excavation and recording of a beacon feature eroding over a 200 foot cliff!
The placement was of immense value in my career as it provided the opportunity to take on far more responsibility than would be possible elsewhere. It exposed me to a wide scope of work experience including excavation, surveying, recording, SMR & GIS (used in my dissertation), presentation work, post-excavation work and pottery analysis, to name a few. Having had no practical experience of archaeology prior to university I realised that I had a very steep learning curve to negotiate, and therefore pursued the most hands-on-sounding placements.
I am sure that my Guernsey placement has contributed greatly to my archaeological career, and is in large part responsible for the fact that 18 months after graduation, I am working as a site supervisor with a commercial unit.