Vindolanda Roman Fort to have live updates
World famous as an important Roman fort near to Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, Vindolanda is both a major tourist attraction and an archaeological work-in-progress. Each Summer, a team of archaeologists drawn from across the globe carefully uncover its story and conserve its artifacts, making it a permanently ‘live’ dig.
Director Dr Andrew Birley is the third generation of his family to make this site the focus of his life’s work. As well as the excavating, the team work hard at developing the interpretation and the visitor experience. Andrew saw the potential for Info-Point to provide a cost effective and reliable method of delivering the latest news and interpretation to visitors at the site via their smartphones, even as excavation is progressing. Each year discoveries of great significance are made. Some are unique, such as such as well-preserved Roman swords, and examples of the earliest cursive handwriting, including a personal letter written by the Commander’s wife to a friend.
Following site tests an Info-Point unit was supplied, along with external antenna and a support package so that it arrived ready-branded and structured for Vindolanda staff to upload the content. Dr Birley commented on their plans: “We have many international visitors, and have commissioned professional video, so it’s great that our Info-Point unit will enable us to deliver sophisticated multi-lingual multi-media content to any visitor, and we can update it day-by-day if we wish. We are able to house the Info-Point unit securely in a building, from where the Wi-Fi signal covers the whole of the fort area.”
Community archaeology with 24/7 public information
Oakham Castle is a Norman motte and bailey castle that has survived in the centre of a small town, but been much altered over the centuries and much of its former structure is unknown.
In 2018 University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) and Rutland County Council carried out a Heritage Lottery-funded community dig to explore further some tantalising glimpses of stone walls that had been found during a 2012 Time Team programme.
Oakham Castle is an open public site in the centre of town, so there are always people passing through. During the two-week community dig an Info-Point unit was used to provide 24/7 visitor information about the background to the dig and updates on what it was being discovered in the two trenches. The public were informed of the facility by waterproof ‘plastic paper’ posters with a QR Code to access information on each specific trench. During the 10-day dig there were almost 1,000 page accesses, with a substantial number outside the hours of operation of the dig.
Project Leader Matt Morris of the University of Leicester said, “The Info-Point enabled us to present the historical context to the steady stream of visitors, and to easily upload photographs and video of finds as things progressed. I watched people of all ages using it and they seemed comfortable with the smartphone technology. It helped us to improve the presentation of information, and suited the outdoor environment of a dig better than other means. We even included some interactive games.”
Interpreting archaeology on a Scottish mountainside
The National Trust for Scotland were wrestling with the problem of how to provide interpretation of an archaeological site in a harsh outdoor environment on the lower slopes of Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve. Then an Info-Point leaflet arrived.
Info-Point’s Wi-Fi ‘local web’ proved to be the answer. Manager and Senior Ranger Naturalist Helen Cole says, “We wanted to provide interpretation of an archaeological site where there is no visitor infrastructure other than a layby on the road. Using Info-Point with solar power enables us to provide something that’s modern and interesting, but also durable in the Scottish outdoor climate.”
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Landscape Partnership Opens Up Industrial Heritage
The North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and UNESCO Global Geopark is a stunning landscape of open heather moors and peatlands, attractive dales and hay meadows, with intriguing imprints of its mining and industrial past.
As part of its HLF funded Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership Scheme, the AONB Partnership staff team had identified two important industrial heritage sites in the Allen Valleys that were on the Heritage At Risk register and ideal for 24/7 digital heritage interpretation - a difficult task given the outdoor nature of both visitor areas.
As part of a major heritage development, the Partnership engaged specialist heritage designers Differentia to produce detailed artist’s impressions and specialist outdoor signs. Both teams worked with info-Point to develop the mobile digital offering that was uploaded and is updated on an ongoing basis by the Landscape Partnership staff and volunteers.
Scheme Manager, Andy Lees, comments:
"I saw Info-Point some time ago and realised that it answered some of our specific needs that could not be met otherwise. The on-site demonstration and test proved that it could do the job, and the track-record of the product reassured me that it was robust enough for our environment."
Conservation Assistant, Steven Lipscombe, who worked hands-on with the content said:
"With the flexible help of the Info-Point technical support we were able to do exactly what we wanted with the system. These units are now in place and operating well. There has been an excellent reception to them and the community are keen to make more use of them and explore their capabilities."