First steps in Photogrammetry

Ok i’ve given in, i’m finally learning to use Agisoft Metashape (Photoscan as was) in a more professional and applied way. I’ve been thinking a lot more about objects, digital objects and 3d prints as a result of my fellowship at the Fitzwilliam Museum (more here). This has recently starting me thinking about the process of making digital objects and how we use and talk about them.

I promise I won’t get obsessive about the size of my point cloud.

But I do want to think a bit more about the capture and processing of these models following on from a series of conversations with Dr Dav Smith while we were away for the Elizabeth Castle Project. The joy of photogrammetry is that it is, at least from the outside, fairly straightforward to undertake (like laser scanning) but how much knowledge and skill is required to capture more complex models, how will this affect research or datasets and more importantly how much does it all matter.


So here is my first (in the recent past) attempt at producing a model. It is the Minoan Head by Barbera Hepworth on display at Fitzwilliam Museum. In hindsight I wish I had started with something less mono-chrome and with a bit more geometry but at least it came together! I want to reprocess it a few times to see how it might change.


New paper & podcast: The Sound of Debate in Georgian England

Tweet from the Economist

Tweet from the Economist

On Monday I had a new paper published in a special issue of The Journal of Parliamentary History and has been edited by the amazing Dr John Cooper and Dr Richard Gaunt . The paper discusses some of the work we’ve been doing on the acoustics of the historic House of Commons.

Probably due to the somewhat (understatement) chaotic nature of British politics at the moment it was picked up by The Economist to feature on their Science and Technology podcast. So if you want to hear me talk and can sit through a 30 second advert jump to 16.30.

Job hunting: tips for employers

We all know job hunting is miserable. Filling out job applications forms with the same information for different institutions, carefully crafting covering letters, tweaking CVs. Then there’s the short lift of pressing send before the agonising wait to hear back. The depressing emails telling you you haven’t been shortlisted, or the funding bid hasn’t come through. It’s all a bit sad. I want to highlight a few things that I think could make the process slightly less emotionally draining for candidates.

I have after a month of unemployment I have landed some more post doctoral work, I had started to apply for roles in May 2018 as the post I was in was coming to an end and really started applying in earnest from July. A very short teaching contract in October saved my bacon, but the first half of December I was losing the drive to keep applying. During this period I was shortlisted for four academic roles, one job I applied for disappeared, I wasn’t shortlisted for four or five more, I also interviewed for two commercial role (one of which offered me a job), and I didn’t get shortlisted for some other types of job.

Email of job rejection letter

Email of job rejection letter

These points aren’t meant to be about me bemoaning my lack of employment but a few points that I think could make the process slightly better. Obviously nothing is going to remove the sadness and not getting a job but I think we could all be a bit kinder.

Send out rejection emails when you shortlist. Most of the systems are automatic and given that shortlisting happens quickly there is no need to wait over four weeks to let a candidate know they are unsuccessful.

Let short listed candidates know as soon as possible that they have not been successful. The most positive post-interview experience I had (other than getting a job) was being called on the day of the interview to tell me I had not been successful. The worst experience was waiting over two weeks, which included a number of follow-up phone calls, to confirm I had not been successful. If you are interviewed your emotions do run very high until you hear back. The sooner you know the easier it is to deal with the stress. I also believe that its polite to call shortlisted candidates, I know it takes time but usually there aren’t very many people on the list and it does make you feel a tiny bit valued. If not a personal email. Given the candidates have often travelled a distance and at their own expense I would consider this a courtesy.

If you are interviewing via Skype check that all parties can be heard and understood. One interview I attended involved a panel spread across three locations with multiple interviewers in one location and the microphones did not pick up one of the voices very well. Interviews are high stress environments this adds to that stress.

Linked point, check the tech works or you know how to use it. For example screen sharing.

If you are asking candidates to give a presentation make sure you are consistent with the brief. A mini lecture to students and staff is not the same as presenting to a room full of predominantly male academics who are all significantly more experienced than you.

Linked point: gender balanced panels are helpful.

Make sure the directions you provide are accurate and up-to-date.

Possibly more relevant to commercial companies but if you are interviewing a candidate for a permanent post its pretty mean to offer them a fixed term contract instead without any discussion of the changing role.

I refuse to believe that any of the jobs I applied for were offered to internal or preferred candidates on anything other than the candidates own performance at interview or superior experience. Though if your shortlisting someone with significantly less experience you should question why you’re doing so.

Please not another Ingold reference

Actually I draw on Ingold’s work quite heavily, and don’t want this to be a criticism of that in anyway. The title of this blog is based on a response myself and a friend and colleague reached towards the end of a long conference. Our complaint revolved around the male dominance in the work being cited. And at this conference Ingold could have won you key word bingo.

I mostly work in two fields which are generally considered to be male dominated; Digital Archaeology and Castle Studies. During a Castle thing I pointed out that all the current experts the group called on were male, and was told that that was the nature of the discipline. A rather wonderful thread on twitter points to this being incorrect. While Digital Archaeology I think has a bad recent history, at least CAA have taken a strong approach to combating this stereotype.

Recent work has suggested men tend to get cited a lot more. In fact not only do men tend to cite themselves more  we also know that women in general tend to be cited less. We have seen they tend to dominate departmental seminar series, and then there is “manels”.

The current state of affairs

This has been a subject on the rise in recent months with various people asking if any journals have any guidelines that encourage a diverse bibliography. I also understand that presenting appropriately diverse reading lists has also been under discussion in the History department at York. But I’m not sure I have seen a formal way to move forward.

Changing our practise

I was recently asked to peer review a paper for the SPMA. While going through it I was surprised to note a couple of (female) authors I was expecting to feature were not present. It struck me that actually I had no idea how diverse the bibliography was as first names were shortened to initials. I realised my working practise had to change and spent a painstaking hour googleing citations trying to predict gender (though this methodology isn’t concrete a better working practise is discussed here), until I was satisfied that there were enough women featured within this list. I also pointed out in my comments that the papers I was expecting to see weren’t cited.

This might not change the world.

I know that me taking the extra time to explore this within a single paper context might not seem like it would change the world. However, we should be critically reflecting on who we are citing, and further who other people are citing as part of our review process. If the trends mentioned above continue in an academic world focused on h-index’s and Impact, then the current bias observed in senior university roles will continue.

The morning after the day before IWD2018

It’s the morning after International Women’s Day and I want to take a few moments to reflect. In 2016 and 2017 I spent time preparing blogs celebrating my colleagues and women who led the way in my field. I could be writing about the “Women of the Ventilator” who choose to carve out a space in the House of Commons. I could be writing about my incredible colleagues in archaeology, the Audiolab, History, or commercial archaeology. I could celebrate the achievements of my friends who have done amazing things this year; securing jobs at 30 weeks pregnant, escaping controlling relationships, forcing change in government policy to name a few. I should be celebrating the these things, reflecting on the drive towards social change this year seeing #metoo #timesup the calling out of manels, the gender pay gap.

I come from a privileged background, there is no escaping the fact I’m a white middle class woman with the “right” accent. Not only this I was also raised with a strong belief that I could pursue any career I choose and my gender would not hold me back. This came from both my home life; a mother who worked as a computer programmer, a grandmother who taught maths, GP’s, PhD’s to name a few. But also my school, yes the local comprehensive, which while not offering particularly helpful career advice did not put forward any suggestions that I should or should not follow any particular road.

But this year I’m struggling. For the first time, at age 29, I’m really struggling. For the first time someone has directly suggested that the combination of my age and gender would mean they wouldn’t employ me. For the first time I feel my own agency has been taken away and my body is being policed. Because at 29, recently married, I’m high risk because I *might* want to start a family.

2018 is about believing that what i’m doing is the right thing and that change will happen. I need to renew my energy for the fight, because i’m struggling to see progress at the moment and we need to see those changes. I need to believe that what i’m doing now will lead to a career and I will not be sidelined because of my body or gender.

Guest blog at Castle Studies Trust

Bodiam Castle is well known in castle studies; whether it was a fortified structure or built to display the status of the owner. This debate has been explored elsewhere, particularly by Professor Matthew Johnson[1]. Traditionally the building has been considered from the exterior, with a few notable exceptions[2], further until recently only ground floor plans…

via Bodiam Castle and the exploration of space — Castle Studies Trust Blog

The Virtual St. Stephen’s Project — Allen Archaeology

In Spring 2016 we were subcontracted by University of York to convert a visual model of the pre-1834 House of Commons, St. Stephen’s Chapel Westminster to an acoustic model. The work was commissioned as part of the Virtual St Stephen’s Project, an AHRC-funded research project and was a collaboration between the departments of History (Dr…

via The Virtual St. Stephen’s Project — Allen Archaeology

The Archaeology A Level

On Wednesday the AQA decided to scrap the A Level in Archaeology, and unsurprisingly the Archaeological world has responded.

As an Archaeologist I think this is a terrible idea to lose this qualification. As others have highlighted, there is a shortage in Archaeologists. Further, having a degree should not be the only gateway into a career which doesn’t have to be academic. Beyond encouraging people to start a career in archaeology there are a host of other reasons as to why archaeology is a great subject and others have written about them far more eloquently than me.

Before I continue, I have signed the petition, and I do think you should to.

However, I’m concerned with how the A Level is being discussed. It must offer a fantastic grounding for those wishing to begin their career, I don’t know because I didn’t have the opportunity to study it at A Level. It wasn’t offered at my 6th Form (the local comprehensive). You could argue I could have gone to an institution which did offer it or possibly studied it as an evening class. I possibly could have attended a different HE, but it wasn’t really an option. I’m not convinced there was a route via public transport and if there was it would have involved at least two buses and a journey winding through rural Wiltshire for over an hour in each direction. The argument with evening classes is the same, no buses ran out of my village after 6pm.

If we are being totally honest neither of these is the real problem. If I had really wanted to do an A Level in Archaeology either at a college or in the evening my parents could have taken me. I’m a white girl from a middle class background growing up in a village in the Cotswold’s with parents who have supported me through 10 years of education.

But that’s the point really isn’t it. Not everyone has that option.

When I started my degree 10 years ago I came straight from school with A Levels in Chemistry, Geography and Maths. I had done a bit of volunteering at a museum and had the standard long term love of the past. At every interview I had attended to get my place at university I was informed that I wouldn’t be any worse off for not having an A Level in Archaeology, History or a related subject. However, when I started I did feel behind my peers who had a stronger grounding.

I currently work for a commercial unit. A high percentage of our staff have a degree, but not all of them. Some staff have worked on commercial sites since they were 15, others have come into the company via our trainee scheme after they finished Further Education. Would the A Level have set them up any better for their career?

The opportunity to study, and now work in archaeology has been fantastic and I have loved every minute of it. I do not want to see that lost, and A Level’s particularly at colleges offer a fantastic gateway for people of all ages to engage with the subject or start their career. I would have loved to have taken it, I think I would have achieved better results and been more engaged with the other subjects I studied. But can we be clear that having an A Level in Archaeology is not essential or crucial, and it isn’t the only way to begin.


(Written in haste and trying to not whine)