Last week the Maritime Bus came to the Avenue Campus on a University Open Day to provide an insight into maritime archaeology for prospective undergraduate students, and to give current postgraduate students training and experience in outreach activities. The Maritime Bus is the only archaeology-themed exhibition of its kind in the UK. It was originally part of the Heritage Lottery Funded Engaging New Audiences project, which ran from 2009 to 2012, and has since then continued to bring maritime archaeology to thousands all over the country.
The Bus itself is filled with information boards, a collection of artefacts for handling, touch-screen computers, a microscope corner, books, mini-ROVS, mini-Airlifts, and lots of other activities. At the end of the day, everything packs away into the back of the bus – the roof folds down and the stage folds up – making it incredibly mobile.
I got involved with the Maritime Archaeology Trust, and then the Maritime Bus, several years ago after MAT staff visited my college for a talk about maritime archaeology, and after the talk I asked to be involved. A few months later I was invited to be part of the Maritime Bus Crew, and I spent the next three years volunteering on it whenever I could. The Maritime Bus went all over the country, and even abroad to France, the Netherlands and Belgium, to a range of schools, clubs, events and shows.
I now work for the Maritime Archaeology Trust, and the Maritime Bus is still one of my favourite parts of the job. Not only is it fun and unique, but it gives people the chance to really engage with maritime heritage in a very hands-on way. When I tell someone they’re holding a 16,000 year old handaxe, the reaction is one you simply don’t get if they were looking at it in a glass case in a museum. That’s part of what makes the Maritime Bus so special: the barriers are removed and with the help of staff and an enthusiastic cohort of volunteers, visitors are treated to an experience that is not quickly forgotten.
If you’re interested in volunteering with the Maritime Archaeology Trust – on the Maritime Bus, in education and outreach, research, fieldwork or diving – please email Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org.