Meet the Volunteer: Meghan

A very cold day in Northumberland

Tell us about yourself

I started volunteering for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in October 2017, a few months after graduating with an MA Archaeology degree at Newcastle University. My undergraduate degree is also in archaeology, and both my dissertations involved looking at archaeology from the 20th century. Since graduating, my aim has been to gain more practical experience with artefacts and within museums.

What does your role involve?

The role involves identifying, photographing and recording finds brought in by the public on the PAS database. Interacting with the public is an important aspect of the role, helping to collect, organise and then return finds after recording, particularly on finds days.   

What areas of history/archaeology are you most interested in?

While studying at university more modern archaeology interested me as it gave me a chance to explore artefacts in a multidisciplinary manner. For example, for my masters dissertation I produced an archaeological typology of Tupperware and discussed the brands social history, including oral history and museum collection based research. Since starting volunteering for the PAS, however, I have developed an interest in coins, particularly medieval silver pennies. I have even started to enjoy recording Roman coins, with the help of some training, which is something I would not have considered in university. 

Why did you start working for the PAS?

I enjoy encouraging people to become involved and interested in their local archaeology and I think the PAS is a great way to do that. The database is also an excellent resource for archaeology that may not have been found or recorded previously. I am also really interested in the finds that people bring in, as an archaeologist it is an amazing opportunity to handle and record such a wide range of artefacts.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering for the PAS?

I most enjoy developing and using my archaeological knowledge to help research and identify finds brought in by the public and working with people who have a passion for archaeology. I have also enjoyed realising that I have an interest in a wide range of material culture from multiple time periods.

What is your favourite find from Derbyshire that has been recorded on the PAS database and why?

Post medieval posy ring
Post medieval posy ring (DENO-D6D3EA). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. Licence: CC-BY

One of my favourite finds from Derbyshire is DENO-D6D3EA. It is a posy ring, which is a type of artefact I discovered recently while recording a similar ring on the database. I like that while wearing the ring it would appear as a simple band however it has an inscription on the interior meant only for the wearer of the ring.  Posy rings may be quite a common find on the database, however I like the sentiment of these rings and that they were often given as a gift. 

Meet the Volunteers: Sophie

Sophie holding a medieval gold ring.
Sophie with a medieval gold ring. Copyright: Sophie Mander. License: All rights reserved.

Tell us about yourself.

I have been a volunteer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Derbyshire since October 2016. I am currently on a gap year after finishing high school, where I studied History for A Level, and next year I will be studying English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick.

What does your role involve?

As I volunteer, I record and identify objects found by members of the public with the help of the Finds Liaison Officer for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, Alastair. I also photograph objects, post information about the PAS in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire on social media and assist at outreach events at Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

What area of history/archeology are you most interested in?

For a few years my area of interest has been medieval English history, particularly the Wars of the Roses. Thanks to the PAS, I am now also interested in the history and archeology of Imperial Rome and early medieval Europe.

Why did you start working for the PAS?

Volunteering for the PAS gives you a hands-on approach to history, and has shown me how much understanding the past relies on using individual, often ordinary, objects to discover how people used to live, work, eat, drink, spend money, trade goods, wear their clothes and perform other similar tasks. The PAS and its network of FLOs and volunteers is vitally important in contributing to the global effort of preserving these little yet crucial pieces of history from being lost forever.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering for the PAS?

The detective work of figuring out the identity of an object from a variety of sources.

What is the most exciting find from Derbyshire you have recorded so far?

This post-medieval pipe tamper (DENO-0C6CC4) dates to around AD 1700-1900, and is shaped as a devil-like figure.

Pipe tamper in the shape of a devil standing on one foot.
Pipe tamper in the shape of a devil standing on one foot (DENO-0C6CC4). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC-BY.

What is your favourite find from Derbyshire that has been recorded on the PAS database and why?

This gold ring (DENO-0B1431) dates to the 15th century and bears the French inscription “en bon desir”, which translates as “in good desire”. I find this ring interesting as it offers a glimpse into the perceptions and practices of romantic love during the medieval period.

A 15th-century posy ring with the French inscription "en bon desir", which translates as "in good desire".
A 15th-century gold ring inscribed in French (DENO-0B1431). Copyright: Derby Museums Trust. License: CC-BY.