Digventures, Flag Fen, and Crowd-everything archaeology

On 29th February 2012, DigVentures, a social enterprise dedicated to funding sustainable archaeology projects, launched a 60 day funding round for Europe’s first ever crowdfunded and crowdsourced excavation, on the iconic Bronze Age site of Flag Fen.

Archaeology has had a long history of relying on volunteers and patronage (whether individual or institutional) for support. The first excavation I went on, as a college student, was largely funded that year by the members of my class. $3000 a pop, as I recall. That’s a typical model in North America (running one’s academic excavation from fees paid by your crew), which I was suprised to learn was not the case in the UK, when I arrived at Silchester as a grad student.

Digventures is a new spin on the model. Led by Brendon Wilkins, Digventures is trying to raise 25 000 pounds through a crowdfunding model that allows participation at a variety of levels. From ‘inside looks’ at the process to full on dig experience, it’s a nice way of allowing differing access to the process of archaeology:

At whatever level people choose to support, they will be taking part in a groundbreaking, game-changing archaeological experiment as a key member of the team. Every ‘Venturer’ will receive a copy of the site report with their name acknowledged in the front, topped off with an invitation to the End of Site party, where the initial results will be presented.

I really like that everyone involved will receive formal acknowledgement. That’s something that should happen much much more often in archaeology. What I would also like to see happen is that the interpretation of the site be crowdsourced too. David Wilkinson a number of years ago wrote in the IFA’s ‘The Archaeologist’ (I think; pulling from memory here) wrote about the ways all of the experiences of archaeology, the stories, should be incorporated into the overall interpretation. Will participants on the project contribute their own interpretations, experiences, responses to the process? Will these end up in the final report? With digital media, there’s no reason why not.

Good luck to Digventures! You can support the project at http://www.sponsume.com/project/digventures-flag-fen-lives-1