My name is Harleigh, I am a student at the University of Edinburgh, studying Archaeology and Social Anthropology.
For the last few weeks, I have been volunteering at the Scottish Crannog Centre to gain insight into how such a fast-moving, small museum functions and entices its visitors.
Upon my short but exciting time at the Crannog centre, I found the repetition of words such as community, innovation, fun, interesting, and sustainability frequently being used to describe the magical atmosphere that the Iron Age village holds. This is attained by the hard work of the employees, volunteers, apprentice students, and trustees of the museum; providing a unique experience for people of all ages to enjoy.
Arriving during the ingenuity event weekend, I was able to dive straight into malachite smelting project with Jason and Julian. The process of attempting to produce bronze was a long but very rewarding and fulfilling experience. My role lied with bellowing, as to ensure a constant temperature was reached in order for the malachite to melt into copper, and then again, the mixing of tin and copper to produce bronze. One message that was constantly being relayed onto the visitors during this experiment, was the importance of working together, using the land and its resources to produce the desirable goods the people of the Crannog once needed. I found the copper smelting particularly interesting, engaging science and Iron Age technology to produce something that is so readily available to us in modern day society.
Over the progressing weeks I explored the main areas associated with the Iron Age village: the museum collection, technology area, textiles area, cooking area, trade and back compound area, and other variations, including: music, jewellery making, and Iron Age games.
The Crannog Centre creates an informative, educational experience with an interactive and immersive engagement, that allows for constant discussion throughout the entire tour. Not only is it brilliant to see public engagement with arcaheology and prehistory, but it is further thrilling to see the shift towards a sustainable, modern museum experience. This focuses more on working with visitors and allowing room for them to think and connect with ancestors from thousands of years ago. This changed my perspective on what a museum should bring to the public.
Some of my favourite moments at the Crannog involved learning museum tour talks and connecting with the young apprentices and visitors. Learning how to drop-spindle was never something I thought I would achieve; it was certainly difficult, but nothing is more rewarding than spinning wool into yarn!
Exploring the collection at the museum was fascinating, seeing the 390BC textile piece shows how people in the Iron Age were extremely skilled and I look forward to finding out what further information the team uncovers. I also enjoyed surveying some of this year’s pottery project collection.
During my last few days at the centre, I carried out some research on the plants recovered from the Oakbank excavations. Discovering how this community utilised its natural resources and understood the attributes different plants could offer to aid any need, whether it be medicinal or functional.
Seeing the Crannog Centre’s plans for the future has been innovative and inspiring. Moving across the Loch to Dalerb will provide an even more immersive experience for everyone, allowing for easier access, more space, and future sustainability, that all museums should be striving for. I look forward to coming back to see their achievements.
Thank you for such a wonderful opportunity!