Anglo-Saxon CSI: Sittingbourne

there’s more, almost forgot…
April 21, 2012, 4:23 pm
Filed under: Community, Home

… Ryan agreed his ‘volunteer job title’ : CSI Runner !  Ryan has been helping off and on since we first started fitting out the shop. This week he visited the library for us to see if they can locate Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England, by Penelope Walton Rogers (out of print and very expensive on Amazon !).  Ryan also initiated discussions with the library about us having a display there. He is a good lad.

… Sittingbourne Library Manager visited us to discuss ordering Anglo-Saxon books and creating a reading shelf to go with our display.

… Susan brought in great hangers and displayed our fundraising T-shirts – she also offered to do readings at the library when we set up our CSI / library collaborations.

… West Dean student Scarlett emailed me a wonderful pg. reference from Theophilus, a 12th century artist who wrote about his crafts – polishing niello with ear-wax… wonderful !!!

Busy week. Speaking of West Dean, be sure to have a look at the West Dean College Conservation Blog which is being updated regularly by students from the college.


Highlights form this week’s visitors/activities
April 21, 2012, 2:00 pm
Filed under: Community, Home, Volunteer Experiences

…a woman who could neither read/write or tell left from right but delighted in seeing what we were doing and discussing lots of our displays and microscope work, because “one never knows what there is to discover !! ”

… a  teenager’s  community carer/enabler and his charge stumbled upon us and spent quite a while discussing our lady with a crystal ball and what is going on at CSI: Sittingbourne.

… a woman who didn’t like dark places but was lured in by our lino-print T-shirts in window, she wants to buy for her sons – and then enjoyed chatting to Janet about the object and X-ray at her microscope.

… an elderly couple were overheard discussing the intricate work we are doing at the microscope and things we are discovering, while reading our wall displays. Debbie then showed them our swords and they stayed awhile chatting to volunteers.

… newish volunteer Catherine got lots of experience talking about her work with a knife with a buckle x-ray and evidence for horn handle, surviving in an  iridescent stripped layer on the tang.

… Interesting discussion about knives with two young men who upon seeing ‘our lady with a crystal ball’s 2 knives commented on how “easy it was to go around stabbing people back then”…  Lisa and Debbie explained that the knives were not weapons, but everyday items for food and work, “a bit like most everyone today caries a mobile phone”.

…Janet improved her air abrading skills and found the very fragile/thin ‘original surface’ on the front of an iron mount – with wood grain preserved on the back.

… a surveyor came in to measure our spaces for the landlord  – eek ! (we just asked for another year’s free rent… hope Tesco is happy to keep supporting us !)

… a grandmother made a pre-arranged visit with her young grand daughter, who loves to collect fossils and interesting things from her garden and walks… both looked down the microscope at a knife with MPO sheath and a bug pupa – the little girl wrote down notes about her visit so she wouldn’t forget.

…Resident artist Rob working on our popular book in the background and sketching some of these scenes – we’ll post some of his finished pieces soon.

Good times. Don’t forget to check our Facebook page for regular updates and more pictures.

Another benefit of volunteers
November 23, 2010, 7:20 pm
Filed under: Community, news

This is just to notify anyone who doesn’t know about the exciting volunteer project at the Museum of London and a brief article featured in this month’s ICON News (November 2010 – issue 31).

The museum has run a number of volunteer programmes during the past 8 years since its archive (LAARC) opened to the public in 2002.  The current scheme, VIP (Volunteer Inclusion Programme), which has been funded by Renaissance London, has been running since 2008.  However, the aim of all the programmes has been to help improve accessibility to the archives by employing the help of volunteers who  update storage, such as repackaging, and documentation.  The added values and benefits of this approach have been those of teaching new skills, engaging the public, and introducing conservation to a new generation, as well as simply completing the work much faster.

Museum of London

From October to December 2010 (OK, October has passed and this post is a bit behind!) the volunteer programme will be on display in the Museum galleries.  VIP graduates will be there to interact with the public to explain the work involved in repackaging and documentation of collections.

As CSI: Sittingbourne is not open at the moment then you might like to pay a visit and have a look at this event instead, as well as the new galleries that opened a few months ago.  The archaeological collections officers are supervising hour long sessions at the Clore Learning Centre in addition to the gallery demonstrations.  Activities take place on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays until 10th December.

For more information about this event or any of the other volunteer programmes have a look at the links below.

What’s on at the Museum of London

Working life of Museum of London

Volunteer Inclusion Programme

Public Comment
May 16, 2010, 11:59 am
Filed under: Community

A number of benefits have arisen within the community from the presence of the CSI: lab so far.  UCL student and  conservation intern Natalie Mitchell, has written her masters dissertation about the public reaction and perception of the conservation profession by compiling research with the aid of questionnaires and comments from visitors to the CSI: lab.  Below is a selection of some of the comments, both before and after the project opened.  If you would like to leave your own comment, please do!

“Fantastic idea to do this in a shopping centre”

“We’re from Milton Regis and we are so thrilled and proud that this mass burial site is right on our doorstep! Knowing it is there has given us a new pride and respect for the Meads and we will say a prayer everytime we drive or walk by.  Keep up the good work and keep us posted!”

“I was very impressed with the two exhibits and I’m surprised that such an important archaeological dig has happened in an area so few people outside of the area know about”  Year 9 student

“So important for us to know our history!!  Excellent dedicated work being done here”

“What a fantastic thing to come shopping and to be able to find out what the Sittingbourne area was like in Saxon times and to be so close to the finds.  We need more exhibits like this.   A note to the governement, these projects really need supporting.”

“I think in here is very interesting and my friend kept on looking at this lady examining something!”

“Please give money,  you should be here forever” year 3 student

“I hated history in school but this history is sweet”

“Very interesting we must look after our history as that is why we are heare. We can learn more aout our ancestors.”

“The exhibitition was great fun I would come see it again.”

“This is first rate.  Many more events such as this should be promoted by the local authorities”

“Very interesting, Thank you”

“What a wonderful place!  Shame it is only for 9 months!”

“Absolutley amazing!”

Marion Green (CAT) with one of many school visitors

“Sittingbourne is about to undergo a ‘renaissance’ and a lot of the plans look to dismeiss or do away with its past.  Hopefully this project will remind people what and who lead us to where we are now.  Shame so much of the past is lost to ‘progress’.  Swale council needs to take more of a leading role, not just to allow this to happen.”

“It’s good to see this exhibition and the ongoing work being done.  Thank you.”

“Incredibly interesting, and a gift that is osmething so extrordinary is present in out locality. I would love to learn more and will keep visiting.”

“It’s amazing what has been found on our doorstep.  Good to be able to see it too- this is what we watch on telly or is locked away.”

Metal detectorist – gave advice to our volunteers about how to clean finds “put on bbq or soak in water for 3 months.”  (Not recommended!!!)

“Very interesting to see. As we found different items in our garden from when we did our extension.”

“Very interesting nice to able to see what actually happens to things when they are excavated.  Thank you.”

Another keen school visitor

“I think it is incredibly good work that you  are doing here.  Thank you.” Age 12

“I’m really impressed by this display of public archaeology in both exhibitions and I wish I still lived in Sittingbourne so I could volunteer here.”

“I would like to go over the red line and look closer at what they are doing, fascinating.”

“It was really cool, I’m starting A-level history because of things like this.  I live on the Isle of Sheppey and I think the new academy would be interesed in helping.  This history A-level students in particular.”

“I like this los and los”

“I know this is the most exciting finds in the human race could find out world today. I think it is beautiful to find what we now know of our ancestors.”

“Very interesting!  Its nice to see some great results from a historical dig so locally.  Give more funding.”

Volunteers hard at work cleaning some of the finds

“What you are doing is fantastic I absolutely love it.  Keep up.” Age 12

“I found this very interesting- I would never of gone to a museum to see this sort of thing- very intreguing be nice if it stayed.  Thank you.”

“Very interesting…I will look forward to more stuff.”

“Fascinating exhibition and lovely to see your experts at work.  Good luck in finding a permanent site for an exhibition of all your work.”

“ I come in  c. 3X per week to see how, objects like the block lifts are progressing”

celebration day
April 25, 2010, 9:12 pm
Filed under: Community

On 5th March 2010 CSI: Sittingbourne hosted a celebration day in The Forum.  Guests included school children and politicians from the local community who were all keen to see the progress during the time CSI: has been running.  It gave everyone the opportunity to see some of the objects and all the hard work that has been undertaken by the volunteers and professionals working in the lab over the last 7 months.

Star volunteer Sylvia with members of CAT

Children from schools in the local area produced their own newspaper front pages based on reports featured in the local papers, as well as thanking all those involved for allowing the finds to be put on display in their town.

On display for the first time were intricate and decorative pieces  including brooches, buckles and sword fittings.  Several of the iron swords were also out for display with archaeologists and volunteer conservators explaining all about them.

Andrew Richardson (CAT) talks to politicians and the press about some of the finds

New exhibits inluded a display of images taken using scanning electron microscopy (SEM).  These enlarged images give the public the opportunity to see the important, small and easily missed details required for a fuller understanding about the practices of the period as well as other things.  The images are excellent – on some you can see fly wings, wool and textile weave.  These are still on display in the conservation lab for anyone wishing to see what has been found and a new post will be added on this blog soon.

Marion Green (CAT) with eager and excited school children and some new displays

We would like to thank Canterbury Archaeological Trust for allowing permission to use the images featured in this post.  All images are (C) Canterbury Archaeological Trust

a bit of a progress report…
March 6, 2010, 5:22 pm
Filed under: Community, news, People | Tags: , , ,


The volunteers for this project have been of great help and have showed good progress so far.  They have gained in confidence along the way and the results they are producing are brilliant.  This section highlights the background and the type of people that are volunteering, or who have volunteered, in the past months.

Volunteers working on some of the objects (Image copyright Kent Messenger Group)

We have 31 volunteers at the moment and the vast majority of these dedicate at least 4 hours per week – some manage to complete 2 sessions per week.  At least a further 20 have been given training to work on these objects.  Some have left to find employment or return to higher education, whereas other have left for other reasons.  This may be due to a number of reasons – the work being too demanding, or finding the postures demanded of long hours at a microscope a bit too uncomfortable, or just that they felt they weren’t suited to the work.  We still get regular requests from visitors asking to volunteer and more training sessions are planned for the future.

Miscellaneous Volunteer Information…

In order of magnitude, we have a mix of retired women and men, part-time working mums, fully employed people who come on days off, people recently made redundant/in-between jobs, recent university graduates, history students (aged 16-early 20s).

These people came from a range of previous professions – examples of previous work include biology teacher, sales rep, secretaries, historian, a former surgeon & nurse, and council and social workers (the latter discovered his employers give him 3 funded days per year for voluntary work – his time spent goes into a ‘Time Bank’, a wonderful scheme where volunteer skills can be swapped!)

These all amount to much more than ‘willing hands’ – they bring their own (and partners’/friends’) skills and knowledge to all parts of our project.  Some have donated items for the lab and/or coffee room, and have advised on equipment procurement.

HLF/ICON intern Katrina Redman presenting x-rays to a group of school visitors

Conservation student interns from the Sorbonne, Cardiff University, West Dean and UCL have given weeks of their time to the project,  and our Icon/HLF funded intern Katrina Redman has been brilliant at helping run the CSI Lab day to day.

How far have we got?

For the first phase of the project (the partly funded part), we have 62 graves with an average of 6 objects in each (1-30 finds being the actual range).  We seem to have worked on the larger graves first, and have almost completed 30 graves, which equates to about 215 finds.

Of the 215 metal objects so far started, 60 have been completed and 155 started/almost finished.  For the first month working hours were not recorded, but so far 1139 volunteer working hours have been counted for working on 120 objects, the majority of these archaeological iron with mineral preserved organic (MPOs) remains present.  MPOs include bug casings, wood, straw, wool and linen.

There are 32 graves waiting to be started containing 89 objects: beads, flint  and other finds are included in this count.  If funding is secured for the second half of the site there will still be around 100 graves to complete.  Hopefully this will be achieved as the project is valuable on so many levels, both for the local community and the profession.


Special thanks go to Canterbury Archaeological Trust, Sittingbourne Heritage Museum and of course Dana Goodburn-Brown.  Further thanks go to Marston’s Brewery and Kent County Council, Heriatge Lottery Fund, as well as all the organisation, local businesses and volunteers/people who have dedicated their time and resources to the project.

Volunteer Experiences
January 15, 2010, 8:47 am
Filed under: Community | Tags: , , ,


This page showcases the experiences and background of the volunteers that have been involved with the success of the CSI: lab so far.  Some are conservation interns and professionals, but the majority are members of the local community.  See what they have to say about the project and their experiences so far.


My discovery of Sittingbourne CSI was something of a happy accident when I happened to catch a story about the initiative on the local news in early September. I had already been looking at going into conservation at the suggestion of one of my tutors, after graduating from university with a degree in Classics in the summer. Ultimately, I signed up for a training session and then for two conservation sessions a week.

As a Classicist I had visited numerous sites and museums, and spent hours perusing archaeological reports and attempting to translate the Latin inscriptions recorded in the hefty, antiquated CIL (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum) volumes that were busy growing mould in the library. However, in spite of the many books that I read examining artefacts (mainly concerning Roman paintings, mosaics, silverware, sculpture etc.) and aside from handling a few Roman coins, I never had the opportunity to deal directly with authentic archaeological finds.

This is where Sittingbourne CSI really excels; after my first training session comprising of scalpel cleaning and air abrasion, I was let loose on the proper Anglo-Saxon finds (albeit under the watchful eye of those actually qualified to practise conservation) and over the following weeks worked on a variety of objects including shield bosses, knives, spear heads and a cremation urn.. I also attended a lecture presenting the historical background of the Anglo-Saxons and the wider archaeological context within which the site at the Meads is to be considered, as well as using the x-ray machine and being shown how to use the silica gel to store the finds.

The initiative has been of great personal benefit to me as a future conservation student; I am now studying for the ‘Chemistry for Conservators’ course along with Katrina, a conservation intern, and have a place for a Master’s degree in conservation. However, the beauty of the CSI venture is that it has not only helped inexperienced graduates such as myself, but is also beneficial and accessible to anybody with a reasonably steady hand and even a hint of an interest in conservation, archaeology, heritage projects, the Anglo-Saxons or the history of Sittingbourne (or, indeed, all of the above), whether this interest existed before the initiative or developed during it.


“I am a postgraduate conservation student involved in the fourth-year of the program “Master Conservation-restauration des biens-culturels” (equivalent to “Master Conservation of Cultural Properties”), at the Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne university.  It is a five year program which trains students to be a conservator in different specialties (painting, sculpture, graphic art, ethnographic objects, archaeological objects, stained glass and art objects).  I am specializing in archaeological objects with a preference for metal, both archaeological and historical.”


Thinking back over the past 3 months probably the best thing I have worked on was a copper ring – not much to get excited about there you might think but this ring was about an inch or more in diameter, it brought to mind the kind of ‘woggle’ Boy Scouts used to keep their scarves in place but this was shiny like malachite, the precious mineral, and much the same colour too.

It was thick with Swale mud and the only way to clean it was with a cotton bud soaked in IMS.  Through the microscope the surface was cracked and pitted, a small fragment broke away and revealed charcoal coloured copper beneath.  At first I thought it was enamel but after working for a while on it I realised enamel would not be so thin a covering as this;  apparently the original description of ‘copper ring’ was just right.

I could not wait to get back to work the following week and finish off this small ‘gem’ of a piece, then the imagination starts to race – who used this, and what for?  Was it an ornament or a piece of everyday equipment? Belonging to a man or a woman?  We may never know, so back to work on the next piece….


I have always been interested in archeology and my main subject whilst at teacher training college was history.  My son-in-laws father belongs to the Sittingbourne Historical society and told my husband & myself about the public meeting which was held in the Avenue Theatre.  We found the presentation very interesting and I was keen to start as soon as possible.  I have been on several digs in the past so I was particularly interested in doing some conservation work on the artefacts.  I find the process especially rewarding and very exciting.


I originally heard about the finds from a meeting of the Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne and subsequently we learned of the presentation about the Meads finds to be given at the Avenue Theatre. I went and at the end it was announced that volunteers might be needed. I gave my name that night to Dana.

I have been working in the lab since the beginning. I felt that it was a unique opportunity to join a community project that would involve me in something that is normally never seen. Many years ago I spent a little time excavating in Canterbury. This gave me the chance to be involved in work at the next stage. I knew that it would involve learning a lot of new skills. These have included working with a scalpel, air abrasion, photographing the finds , using hot wax to conserve areas of wood while working on an artefact and making up silica gel bags .

Among other artefacts I have worked on shield bosses, buckles and a sword .

It took me some time to get used to the magnification, all work being carried out using a microscope. I would remove what appeared to be a large stone but when looking at it without the microscope it was minute.

When working on finds there can still be wood, leather or other mineral remains there. These may well not appear at first to be what they are.

It is fascinating too to find insect cases or eggs. A couple of weeks ago I kept finding miniscule white objects that looked like eggs inside a shield boss. I then found a space in the earth with the long curved case of an insect, looking rather like a millipede without the legs. The insect finds may or may not be old.

I always speculate on what the environment was like and what the people looked like who last used the items about 1400 years ago. I also wonder when working on weapons whether they had been used in anger.


I was lucky enough to be involved with CSI: Sittingbourne for the entire summer of 2009.  As a student in conservation at Cardiff University I am required to complete 8 weeks work experience to further my practical skills and find out what it is really like within the profession.

At first I was reluctant to accept this placement – my initial thoughts were, “what is there in Sittingbourne?”  Luckily I did accept it and I don’t think I could have asked for more.  Dana has helped myself and the other interns with our studies a a great deal, and my confidence has improved when working on objects.  I feel privelaged to have been part of CSI: Sittingbourne and hope that similar projects like this can be set up in the future.

The project benefits the local community as well, and being able to interact with the public so closely has been one of the best aspects for me.  Usually the profession is hidden, and in my opinion can sometimes be quite stuffy: CSI: Sittingbourne helps to break down this barrier and enlightens the public to the importance of the profession in society.  It is a pleasure to be part of this project and listening to the volunteers speaking confidently to the public about what they have learned during their time at CSI: Sittingbourne.