About the Project

Map of Wauluds Bank showing the D-shaped EnclosureA map of Waulud's Bank after 1953 excavationsThis project isn’t an isolated project. It is the culmination of many years worth of work by Luton Culture Staff which we were able to put into practice with the successful award of £10,000 from the Museums Association Effective Collections Grant Funding. The beautiful thing about this funding was it was concerned more about the creative process than narrow defined outcomes.

The project centred on making part of the archaeology collection physically more accessible. Luton Culture holds about 150,000 archaeological objects, of which about 3,000 are on display. We wanted to work on a way to make more of this available to local people. We employed Don Henson to review the collection from an Educational and Archaeological perspective. Don highlighted a number of ways we could approach the collection and make better use of it.

After this review we decided that Waulud’s Bank, a nationally important scheduled monument situated in the middle of a 1960s housing estate in Luton, would be the ideal site to focus on.

The site has long been known about historically. It occurs on all OS maps from 1801 and the first discoveries on the site were 1878. However, the site is little known by today’s residents of Luton.  We wanted to change that.

We could have created any type of resource ourselves. Instead, we wanted to work with local users – school students in this case – and find out what would make a collection of flint tools and Roman pottery attractive to them. What would excite and enthuse them about their past? It wasn’t just what we had but how it was delivered and presented that was equally as important.

Lea Manor students handling replica mortariaLea Manor students handling a replica mortariaThe group we chose to work with lived on the nearby estate. In this case, we started working with the excellent Geography teacher and students from Lea Manor School. We wanted them to learn about the site, not be told about it by the ‘specialists’. Over a few sessions, we looked at all the site finds and archives and on a cold February day we even visited the site. We tasked them to design a resource that they would like to show-case what they had seen. We were not disappointed.

Using this information, and working closely with our in-house Museum design team, we produced the wonderful Waulud’s Bank Resource. This was a catalogue-ordered mechanics trolley modified to hold real objects and a full range of resources and decorated with colourful vinyls depicting the site.

Alongside this work, all objects from the site (500+) were accessioned, cleaned, photographed, re-boxed and bagged by volunteers. Objects selected to go into the Resource were chosen by their condition and importance, but also to be representative of the site. This was done knowing that there is a risk to doing this, but a risk we are willing to take. All students we have worked with have shown nothing but utmost care in handling the objects.

This project would not have been possible without the help of many others. Along this journey we have been lucky to have had the excellent practical support and help from the Museums Association Coach, Sarah Daly. She helped us keep the project on track and was very supportive during difficult times. We also had the benefit of excellent advice and support from Julie Reynolds, an independent evaluator we employed for the project. Her observations, interviews and various discussions and in-depth report and shorter toolkit have helped to highlight the value and added value of this project.

So, what did we learn that we’d like to share with you? The Top 10 lessons learned and some Insights can be found in the tool kit.  Please take from them what you can. They might inspire you to make a little go a long way and create your own Object Resource!

Project Team:

Tim Vickers, Collections Care Officer

Eleanor Markland

Emma Calver, Learning Officer (Museum/Arts)

Dave Graves, Learning Officer (Projects)

Postscript: Subsequent use of the resource has found that the original trolley required two people and a van or two people and two cars to deliver it. This was not practical, so the artefacts have been repackaged into two flight cases. Learning is always ongoing.