Salisbury Museum Festival of Archaeology

Peter Ginn was part of the Waterloo Uncovered team who took part in the Salisbury Museum Festival of Archaeology. He gives us a behind the scenes account of the event…

Rain didn’t stop play.

The French country side passed by in a blur as Major Charles Foinette put his foot down. He had only one mission; to get myself (Peter Ginn), Mike Johnson from L — P : Archaeology and the legendary Phil Harding to England. We had enjoyed our productive two weeks at Waterloo in Belgium but we had to miss the backfilling as we had a date with the Salisbury Museum’s Festival of Archaeology.

Phil was doing a live dig in the grounds and Mike and I were going to present the project in the form of a pop up museum which I would man and a virtual tour of the battlefield that Mike would undertake, along with a demonstration of ARK, the L — P : Archaeology finds database. As Charles’ Audi sped through the Garden of England, I clutched the box of artefacts that contained both regular examples of battlefield finds from Hougoumont farm from the past three years along with our latest selection of small finds from this year’s dig. As Phil said in Salisbury “show me another archaeology project that is as hot off the press as Waterloo Uncovered.”

Before long I was driving a rented white van destined for the West Country with Phil in the middle and Mike riding shotgun. It was then the rain came down. The water fell from the sky in biblical proportions and was still coming down hard as we dropped Phil off at the pub. This did not bode well for the festival.

The festival was outside in the grounds of the Salisbury museum on the Saturday and Sunday (the 22nd and 23rd of July) from 9am till 5pm each day. We thought on the first morning of the festival, as we set up our stall and cabled together the projector and the huge TV we had managed to borrow at the last minute from one of Mike’s friends, that we had seen the last of the rain. The sky was blue, the air was warm and there was a light breeze to cool us off.

  • Mike on the Waterloo Uncovered stand

    Mike on the Waterloo Uncovered stand

  • The QR code used for our virtual tour of Hougoumont

    The QR code used for our virtual tour of Hougoumont

  • Our setup for the virtual tour of Hougoumont

    Our setup for the virtual tour of Hougoumont

However, by the time we had finished setting up our stand and had drunk our first coffee the sky was beginning to darken as the museum opened its doors. The museum itself is a historical building. It was originally built as the Bishop’s palace and has had various alterations over the years (Phil’s excavation was intended to find the footings of a gatehouse that once stood at the entrance).

The first few drops of rain began falling at 10am. By 11 everything was wet and by about midday the rain started to get heavy and didn’t stop. The historical drains in the courtyard couldn’t cope. Luckily our stall had been moved from its original intended location. We were only 3 inches underwater at the back of the stall but our neighbours who had taken our spot were in places a good foot underwater.

Day 1 the museum had just over 600 visitors to the festival, down from the previous years 900. However, day 2 numbers were up. Sunday was no different in terms of weather. Rain lashed down but it didn’t keep the crowds away and our virtual battlefield tours were standing room only on the Sunday. Perhaps next year a live battlefield tour? Watch this space.…