Listening to our past: Recording the History of Maritime Archaeology

In 2022 the Foundation launched a new initiative in collaboration with the Maritime Archaeology Trust – Listening to our Past: Recording the History of Maritime Archaeology. The aim is to collect oral histories from individuals who have contributed to the development of maritime archaeology as a discipline. We are also seeking to identify important personal archives that may not have a repository for their deposition and long-term care.

In 2019, the Foundation organised ‘Curating our own Heritage: Workshop on histories and archives of maritime archaeology’ at the Special Collections, Hartley Library. This workshop was intended to stimulate discussion about the development of a historically-informed strand to maritime archaeology as a discipline, practice and profession, rooted in secure and accessible archives and a scholarly approach to how and why maritime archaeology is the way it is.

The Listening to Our Past initiative is designed to build on the Maritime Archaeology Special Collections, the Soundings Project and the momentum provided by the ‘Curating our own Heritage’ workshop. The Maritime Archaeological archives already held at the Special Collections are a unique resource, providing important information to researchers and to students, as well as a resource for anyone interested in the discipline. Access to this material can help inform research, as well as provide a useful tool for public engagement. The Listening to Our Past initiative aims to build on this material and enable and encourage people to use archives to explore and examine the history of maritime archaeology, and to advance maritime archaeology in a manner that is reflexive and historically-informed (more information on the HFF archive fellowship can be found here).

It has been recognised that rapid transformations occurred in maritime archaeology from the 1950’s – 1980’s. Much of this change remains undocumented, however, there is still an opportunity to capture that information from the individuals who were involved. Physical archives which can also provide information about how the discipline developed, as well as recording oral histories from key individuals, both allow for a better understanding of the history of maritime archaeology. Over the course of the next 12 – 18 months the Foundation and MAT will begin to identify key individuals, undertake interviews and where relevant work with the Special Collections to add more personal archives to the Maritime Archaeology Special Collection. 

Want to get involved?

We would be delighted to hear from anyone that was active in the earlier decades of the discipline (and/ or is still active!) and would be happy to provide an interview about their background, experiences and the development of maritime archaeology. We are also accepting nominations from anyone for individuals that you think should be included within the project. Interviews can be conducted in other languages, if you are not comfortable being interviewed in English then let us know.  

At this stage we are compiling a list of interview candidates and are keen to ensure priority is initially given to those of more advanced years, however, we intend to deliver a rolling programme over the coming years, so we would like to get as many people as possible onto the candidate list.  

We are also keen to hear whether you hold personal archive which reflects the history of the discipline (letters, photographs, correspondence, draft papers) that does not currently have an archive identified for its deposition, and whether you would like the Maritime Archaeology Special Collections to consider your material for donation (this does not include artefacts).  For more information on what is considered a personal archive look at the existing archives held by the Special Collections here. 

While this project is not specifically looking at project archive material we are interested to know if you hold any material from past surveys or excavations that is not deposited and could be at risk in the future.  

 If you would like to be involved in the project, or you would like to nominate someone to be included then please fill in the initial questions below. When we receive your information we will contact you to arrange an interview and/ or to find out a bit more about the archive that you might hold (all information submitted in this form will be held in strict confidence and will only be used in relation to this project)

Contact Form

Please let us know whether you would either(Required)
If you are nominating someone please first add your details here
Please include country and area code
Please provide a brief overview of you/your nominated persons involvement in maritime archaeology. Including key dates and countries that you/they worked in.
If you are completing this form for yourself, please select yes or no from the drop down
If you select yes then we will be in touch to ask further questions on the nature of your archive
If you are completing this form for yourself, please select yes or no from the drop down
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