A chance to learn something new every day

Amongst the public engagement undertaken by Wessex Archaeology, the provision for volunteers to work in the Salisbury Office’s Find’s Department is one of the most hands-on provided. Attracting a weekly group of regulars, helping with finds washing and various other tasks, the environment created is one of curiosity and interest, with some volunteers having attended regularly for years. For me working alongside the Finds Department and the volunteers was a rewarding experience, as the depth and breadth of personal experiences and practical information is incredible. This environment led to the question of ‘what is so special about volunteering with Wessex Archaeology that makes people return week after week?’

Firstly, why did the group volunteer in the first place? Everyone has their own reasons for volunteering, from wanting something useful to do while retired, to talking with Wessex Archaeology staff at museums and libraries and becoming fascinated with the company’s work, to having a love for archaeology and heritage since a young age and getting the chance to work on a lifelong passion. The volunteers’ engagement with the material is infectious, even the very recent arrivals having stories and fantastic moments to share. Some of the most memorable of which were their first days, getting hooked on working with finds and archaeology in general. A new volunteer was pleased to find how helpful and friendly everyone at Wessex Archaeology was, she ‘asked a lot of questions, and got a lot of answers!’ While another spoke passionately about how comprehensive and wide-ranging the company is, with a large number of specialists all helping her put what she was working with into context.   

The volunteers have a wide-range of interests and favourite parts of their work. The sizable prehistoric presence near the house of one volunteer led her to pursue more information during her volunteering, and her work in the Finds Department has provided key context and engagement with her everyday environment. Several volunteers spoke very positively about the opportunities Wessex Archaeology provides for its volunteers, including site visits and seminars on a variety of topics. It is this variety and environment of ‘constant learning and enhancing education’, where volunteers ‘learn something new every day’ that keeps them coming back and helping Wessex Archaeology uncover more of our heritage every week.    

By Finn Cresswell