Over the past few months I’ve been working with the Finds Liaison Officer, Vanessa Oakden, photographing finds and editing the images; producing clear images to be uploaded onto the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) database. What has been particularly interesting is the amount of strange and wonderful objects I’ve had the opportunity to handle – ranging from an assortment of old coins to such things as Roman brooches and an old riding spur from the Civil War. It certainly has been a lot of fun trying to identify them (although I’m usually way off the mark)!
In terms of the process itself, I’ve learned, through my own experience and a training session I attended several months ago, of techniques to ensure that the end product reveals every bit of the object’s detail, and how the photographer should, wherever possible, capture naturally-lit images of the finds, and become less dependent on the use of artificial lighting, particularly those which taint the object with an unnatural yellowish colour. Indeed, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the back room of the Pilotage building on Liverpool’s Waterfront trying to resolve the issue of lighting on cloudy days; believe me, every conceivable sun-lit/lamp-lit combination has been tried to enhance the appearance of an object. I suppose it’s just one more reason to hate those dull and cloudy days!
The process itself has been a valuable insight into the functions of the PAS database. Not only does its recordings of spatial data render an importance service to archaeologists and scholars in their efforts to identify sites/regions of historical significance, the PAS also offers a wealth of information to the public – especially me! As an amateur metal detectorist, I’m constantly consulting the database to check if what I’ve found is some lost treasure! Hard luck so far. Maybe one day I’ll hit the jackpot and find something rare and interesting. Until that day, though, it is important that people volunteer to help to get as many weird and wonderful finds onto the database as possible.