Thames Discovery Programme: Riverpedia

Gustav Milne, UCL Institute of Archaeology

Our Innovation Seed grant is being used to set up the Riverpedia Community Research Database, an interactive website devoted to the study of the River Thames, in which the entries will be researched and compiled by London residents, but supported by UCL's Thames Discovery Programme team.

The Thames Discovery Programme (TDP) was initially developed as a response to the gradual loss of archaeological sites exposed on the open foreshore, threatened by the daily scour of the tidal Thames. A monitoring programme is being established in which key sites will be systematically surveyed on a regular basis.

This recording work will be conducted by the new Foreshore Record Observation Group (FROG), the members of which are all London residents, many with no previous archaeological experience. The first set of volunteers have already started their training for this task, under the supervision of the professional TDP staff, based with the Thames Estuary Partnership in the UCL Environment Institute, and in association with the UCL Institute of Archaeology.

We are now extending the scope and depth of the programme, building on the community fieldwork project summarised above, through the development of a complementary community research project. This will be focussed on a new web-based river-related database, Thames Discovery Programme: Riverpedia, initiated by the TDP and funded by the Innovation Seed Fund, but ultimately compiled by the public.

This website, supported by TDP expertise, will foster the creation of a river-related database by communities and interest groups outside the University, but in close collaboration with it. We will be encouraging as many new authors as possible to undertake basic research (initially on a detailed suggested agenda) in local libraries and study centres, on museum and private collections, at the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (Museum of London) or the Greater London Sites & Monuments Record (English Heritage). They will then submit entries to the new Riverpedia database. These entries will range from basic fact-sheets to summaries of new research.

We are fortunate in that our outreach officer has already built up a contact list of some 300 interested London residents within the first three months in office, while her TDP website has had a staggering 19,841 unique visits thus far. Consequently, we already have a sizeable audience, with a wide geographic spread and range of differing abilities and expertise. Indeed, the whole Riverpedia project is in essence a response to the desire of the FROG members to become more involved in the research programme.

One of the great virtues of the proposed project is that the audience can engage with it at various levels, from passive searching for information, to the submitting of basic entries relating to their own expertise (working with supplied templates), to the authoring of more challenging thematic reports: indeed we will be encouraging all of our readers to progress through all three stages.

The more members submit entries, the greater and wider the sense of ownership of the database becomes: therein lies the key to its longevity and sustainability, well beyond the fixed term of the TDP itself.

Page last modified on 25 apr 13 15:10