We were very fortunate and grateful to have received some of Historic England's Covid-19 Emergency funding that has allowed us to deliver our first online heritage wellbeing project: Lost & Found: Treasures in the Archive.

Lost & Found is a project that takes its participants on a journey at a time when leaving your house, travelling and socialising, is restricted.  It has enabled participants to join Wessex Archaeology experts and together, embark on moments of learning, participation and discovery.

Visit the Museum of the Lost and Found here!

Individuals join each session from the comfort of their own homes, as we digitally connect with them to share archaeology and art and offer up opportunities for them to participate in a way that is meaningful and personal to them. They are also presented with a selection of home-tasks which engender moments for further creativity and self-reflection.

“Every participant shared their object in a creative way. Talking about it and how they came to it. What it meant to them. They gently revealed themselves by their story and connections to the item”.

The project begins with Erica Macey-Bracken, Finds Supervisor and Tom Westhead, Photographer & Videographer in the Finds Room at our HQ in Salisbury where we have over 8000 boxes containing objects and artefacts carefully recorded in our archive, objects well looked after yet hidden from public view.

Discovering treasures in the archive

It’s from these shelves and inside these boxes that participants get the opportunity to choose a selection of objects which will end up in a new, publicly accessible Interactive Digital Museum, The Museum of the Lost & Found.

Participants ask questions to our expert Erica as she shares with them a selection of objects, we’ve had flint, tins, beads, bells, gravestones, and pottery to name but a few. We’ve asked Who? Where? Why? What?! And been amazed by the answers and the stories associated with each object.

We follow our chosen objects as they end up with Will Foster, Illustrator & 3D Modeller who does a live demonstration of the 3D scanning process, answering all of our questions as he does so. We watch as our objects are scanned and put back together again on screen, marvelling in the detail of the process.

There is homework where we talk about artists who curate art from their own collections of lost and found objects.  Joseph Cornell, the self-titled ‘Armchair Voyager’ who created art to allow him to travel to places he could never visit other than in his imagination, and Mark Dion, a contemporary artist who explores the relationship between humans and environment and the human impulse to study and collect objects. Dion’s work enables him to explore archaeology, ecology, history and the natural world and to consider how this is presented to the viewer. 

We consider different ways of looking by thinking about the work of Picasso, Braques and Hockney and we marvel in the talents of our own skilled Studio team.

The Museum of the Lost & Found

Lost & Found arrived at just the right time, filling a gap for many of its participants and for staff as well. It has given people something to look forward to, a focus, a challenge and has created opportunity for social connections. It has also given a unique and personal insight into the work here at Wessex Archaeology, it has detailed the depth and breadth of our skills, via the objects, from field, to finds, to studio and out to the world. 

The project is still running and should complete by the end of the year, by which time we will have worked in a direct and meaningful way with 40 participants, but of course the reach of the work will be far greater than this as others start to engage with the museum.

One thing this has done is improve my self-confidence at a point when I really needed this. I was able to contribute as much as I wanted when I wanted which felt really important and something I very much valued - thank you!

I certainly feel inspired! Being involved with this has helped to find something I could expand an interest in and give me something to focus on that was none Covid related. I'm looking forward to seeing the virtual museum which I think others will enjoy accessing and using who wouldn't normally do so.

Lost & Found has allowed us to connect to each other via archaeology and creativity, it has reminded us of all that is important now; and where we may feel lost, we have found comfort in these stories that have brought us together.

Visit the Museum of the Lost and Found here!

By Leigh Chalmers, 

Heritage Inclusion Development Specialist