A Crash Course in Media

On the very first day of this module – well, I say first day, it was actually during the second week, but it was the first day that we’d met together as a heritage module rather than with our classmates on the excavation module – our module leader Sara had us write down things that we wished to learn during this module. I remember one thing immediately popping to my mind: media.

I’m not someone who’s naturally good at social media. As one of the mature students, I’m slightly above the age of most people who easily use things like Twitter and Instagram. I used to side more with the people who couldn’t understand the need to spout out every thought to faceless strangers on the internet, and I even used to be a selfie snob.

I’m very happy to say that I’ve since seen the error of my ways. Social media is actually a very powerful tool in terms of networking and advertising. It’s a way to connect with people across the planet, to access new work and new ideas – and yeah, sometimes it involves spouting those 3am thoughts to faceless strangers on the internet, but that’s not inherently a bad thing. The world is changing, the world of heritage is changing, and this is one of the areas it’s growing in rapidly.

As our Breary Banks project began to wind down, we turned our attention to the exhibition, and we were divided into two teams: the exhibition team and the media team. I have to admit, the skills I already have would have been perfect for the exhibition team, but I was thrilled to be put on the media team (no doubt Sara remembered my initial learning goal when she drew up the teams!). I didn’t have any skills in this area, no experience whatsoever, and that was both terrifying and exciting.

When we were dividing up tasks, I offered to take charge on the text of the press release. With a bachelor’s degree in English already under my belt, I’m fairly comfortable with words – whether informally such as in our blog posts here, or in more formal writing, such as essays and theses. But I had never even fully read a press release, let alone written one. It seemed like a good challenge.

And what a challenge it was. I looked at press releases from past years, taking cues from them in what exactly it should include, and when I felt I had gotten all I could out of it, I sat down to write. I put on my never-fail writing playing (the Torchwood soundtrack, still inspiring even after all these years) and banged it out in about an hour. It was far from perfect, but it was a good start. A few tweaks from Sara later, and they were ready to be sent out.

You can access the final version here: PressRelease-Digital

But my job as a media team member wasn’t done yet! Sure, I’d gotten to grips with the more formal aspects of media, but what about the all important social media part? As we were discussing our tasks, I confessed to my group that I was trying to learn Twitter, but I still didn’t quite get hashtags, and Hermione, our project manager, immediately said, “right, that’s what you’re going to be in charge of. By the end of this, you’ll be our hashtag queen.”

I can’t say that I’m there yet, but we did come up with a hashtag for our event, one that we’ve been using in all our social media promotions and I (and a few others) have been using in Tweets as we post about our progress. Maybe not a queen, but I think I’ve at least earned my tiara in social media.

– Written by Ashley

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Thinking back

Now as our project is drawing to an end, as a group we have begun to think back on the past 6 weeks, reflecting on our time together. As in any project we have stumbled on some problems, such as how the environment may impact on the use of our audio guide and brochure, and issues with the annoying white border making us rethink our brochure layout. However, we have become a strong team, working together, listening to one another, playing to each other’s strengths, and the overall outcome of the project is everything we could have asked for. Despite the long hours and days, we have enjoyed every single moment and this project has certainly taught us the vital skills of team work and collaboration. The skills we have gained and the friendships we have made will certainly be carried along by us for the rest of our lives.

The group was asked a few questions on their overall thoughts and feelings on the module, and we wanted to share this with all of you who have been following our project.

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What do you consider to be the main learning outcomes of the module? What will you take away with you after completion of the module?

Ashley- “I believe the main outcomes of the module are to introduce us to the practical side of heritage practice, mostly by throwing us into the deep end, not unlike the excavation module. This has given us hands-on experience and at the same time, has given us some theoretical background into why we do what we do and how we can grow in it.”

Hermione-  “This module has been so fast-paced, each week being completely different. I’ve developed my creative skills in a team setting, which is something I haven’t done before. Also, learning about the world of heritage in so many ways has been so fascinating, such as digital heritage and heritage presentations! I’m so pleased to say how much my time management skills have improved in such a short time!”

Eliza-  “In my opinion this module was created in order to increase our knowledge about heritage. During the different weeks we had opportunity to take part in variety of tasks. We have learned how to use programs such as Audacity and Photoshop.  However, for me as a person this module helped to develop my confidence and improve quality of my English. Writing the posts for our blog has reminded me how much writing gives me a pleasure and maybe in the future I would like to create my own blog. But the most important advantage is fact that I got the opportunity to meet great people. Those who have a lot of background with heritage but also those who just like me are at the beginning of journey with heritage. Now when my first year at the University is almost at the end, I would like to say that this module was the most interesting and engaging from the all which I had.”

Tongtong- “This heritage module was designed very differently from the excavation module, which is focused on the process of post-excavation and how to present the archaeological results. Therefore, according to its target, I was taught a lot in terms of media representation, such as photoshop, audio recording and editing, creating blogs and so on. Apart from the academic skills, I also got the chance to take part in the project of Breary Banks, which is very useful and practical, and it has shown me how involved media and archaeology are as subjects, and how they can be combined to present an exhibition.”

Emmeline – “At first I would say that the main learning outcomes were expanding my digital skills with audacity and photoshop, as well as gaining experience with wordpress, learning how to plan and curate an exhibition and increase my skills for the professional world. I’ve also increased my  archaeology skills just by being present at the excavation and understanding the stories behind the facts. Indeed this module means that I could apply for the internship at TFTV over the summer because I have the skills that I can use to develop. But when I start to think about it, I have learnt a whole lot more. I’ve learnt how to work successfully as part of a team and adapting myself to the demands of the outside world. I’ve furthered myself as a person by listening to the feedback of others throughout the course and taking action on those points. Yes, I’ve acquired more skills that I can put on my CV, yes I’ve been part of successful project to create an audio guide, but I think that what I will take away from the module are the friends I’ve made along the way and how I, as a person, have changed for the better.”

Jess-  “At the start of the module I certainly felt I had no skills to bring to the project, however over the past weeks I feel I have flourished, developing new skills every single day of the project and I have learnt the importance of positivity, and to always encourage others in the group to insert their skills into tasks.  I feel that although the main obvious outcome of the project was to learn about the heritage sector and how heritage works in the public sphere, I also feel that the most important outcome was personal development in all senses, in terms of confidence, team work, all sorts of skills like photography,  organisation, passion for our work, photoshop, audio editing and blog writing. Overall we will always remember this experience.”

Steve- This model has changed the way I look at promotion of Heritage to a wider audience.”

 

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Do you think the field school (heritage project) has had an impact on how you understand heritage? How?

Ashley- “The field school has absolutely had an impact – I didn’t have a real concept on what heritage entailed, other than ‘the bridge between archaeologists and the public’ but this has shown me not only the bigger picture of heritage but the details that go into everything. There’s so many different facets to it, and no matter what you’re good at or interested in, there’s always a million other things to learn and try and grow in.”

Hermione- “The 2016 Heritage field school has completely transformed my view of heritage. I knew very little to begin with. However, now after a matter of weeks, presenting to Leeds Museums and Galleries, working with marketing and IT professionals,  I feel confident in my newfound knowledge. I could certainly get to work with confidence, on another heritage project!”

Eliza- “The field school had a huge impact on my learning. Before this module, my knowledge about heritage was really small. Now after a few weeks of hard but really enjoyable work I know more about heritage. I know that heritage is not just like Ashley said ‘the bridge between archaeologists and the public’  but is something more. This sector offers plenty of ways in which we young students may develop in the future. I also realised that this field is still developing and even if I spent my whole life on expanding knowledge about heritage I would never know everything.”

Tongtong- “The heritage fieldschool contributed the way I understand this subject, which I barely knew anything about at the beginning of the module; and now I have many thoughts about it. I realised how important social media is in terms of representing heritage, and it is not only about presentation, but there is something deeper that a heritage presentation also needs to express the emotion. And by doing this, a comprehensive range of skills across different subjects, such as archaeology, media, and history will be used.”

Emmeline- “The field school has cemented how I understand heritage, especially how you get the public/audience to get involved with the history and how there is more to heritage than just facts. I like the fact that as a heritage practitioner I have the ability to understand the stories behind the facts and I think that that is what brings facts to life.”

Jess- “The field school has taught me that there is much more to heritage than meets the eye. There is lots of hard work and time that goes into heritage projects. However, I have found that it is such a rewarding sphere of work. Meeting and working with different types of people such as curators in Leeds Museums and Galleries and people from the Nidderdale project has allowed me to gain the all important practical experience of the world of heritage. This has been an unique opportunity that I wouldn’t trade for the world, and made allowed me to develop and flourish as a heritage student.”

Steve– “Before this model I thought of heritage as the preservation of buildings. I have now learnt that heritage covers a wide range of subjects!”

 

 

we chose one word that we felt described our experience of the module

INTENSE!!

 

Enlightening

 

Engaging

 

Practical  

 

Mind Blowing

Fulfilling!

hectic 

 

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This photo of the group sums up the days spent as Breary Banks- COLD AND WET. Photo by Ashley

Everything is possible

Nowadays we life in a world with so many technological options which allow us to make the journey from Poland to England just in 2 hours. Today the sentence: ‘this is impossible’ is treated as a challenge to prove that everything is possible. It is a time for ambitious people to cross borders that previously seemed impassable. I would like to say that international students are these ambitious people, who cross borders every day. In this case, I don’t mean that we only cross the borders of our countries but also the borders of our capabilities.

Here we share with you opinions of our international students in the Department of Archaeology who took part in this project:

Eliza:

As an international student I really often thought that the fact that English is not my first language would be for me a huge problem. To be honest, during my first months at York it was a problem for me, but now I know that the problem was just in my head. This project helped me to realise that language is not such a big obstacle when we are creative enough. In some cases it is good to try to express ourselves even if sometimes we sound a bit silly, since making mistakes is the best way to learn. It was fantastic for me to see how much progress I made during this module.

Of course, this module helped me not just to develop knowledge about heritage, and to improve my English, but also gave me a quick look on a British tradition. In this case food. But let’s start at the beginning. It was a beautiful day, birds were chirping, the sun was shining. I was sitting and thinking about prosaic things, and then one of my colleagues said the magic sentence: ‘I want fish and chips’.  Happiness and delight appeared on my colleagues’ faces who unanimously agreed: we are going to get fish and chips. Yet, there are two kinds of people. Those who love Oreos and those one who hate them. I think that the situation with fish is quite similar. There are people who love fish and others who hate it. Unfortunately, in these two cases, I’m a person who hates Oreos as well as fish. But after long consideration, a thought appeared in my mind: wait, you are in England, in place where fish and chips are a tradition, you have to try it. So resigned to my fate, I went to the bar. While I was waiting to make my order, on my left side I saw the magic text which said: ‘CHICKEN NUGGETS FOR £1.7’ and then I knew that for me fish and chips are a thing of the past.

Tongtong:

I’m also an international student on this course. Taking part in the project has brought me confidence. While I’m still not a professional archaeologist, I’m content with what I’m doing right now. At the beginning of the year, when people asked me what I’m studying at university and heard my answer, they would always be surprised at first, because many Chinese students like choosing business as their degree. Then, their next reaction would be like: WOW! That’s amazing! And did you dig something out? I was quite uncertain about my choice of doing heritage, because I do not excavate and I felt like maybe I was not doing the right thing, and maybe I should follow other people’s expectations.

However, as we got the chance to participate in the Breary Banks project, I realised that archaeology is not just about excavation, but it’s also the matter of displaying the past through different media. This realization changed my view on the relationship between archaeology and heritage. I remember that it was quite hard in the beginning. I was very lost during the lecture because of the speed and the accent of the lecturer. I found it interesting that when we were deciding in class whether or not to have a narrator with a very strong northern accent, my colleagues were discussing who has the most northern accent in the class, but actually, I feel like they all speak in exactly the same way, with very strong British accents. I couldn’t tell any difference!

Written by Eliza and Tongtong

Ten top tips for audio-guide narration

Ever wanted to do a bit of narration? Looking for a career in radio, voice-overs or audio stories? Then this guide made by the narrators of the Breary Banks audio guide is for you.

Tip 1. Drink a lot of water
If you don’t drink water your voice gets dry and you end up coughing, which doesn’t sound good on the recording.

Tip 2. Do a lot of lip drills before starting
If you don’t, you stumble on your words and say things like shoulders instead of soldiers….

Tip 3. Read the script over once before recording
It lets you know where the traps  in the script are, such as ‘battle training trenches’….

Tip 4. Make sure you don’t sound like a robot
If it’s the fourth time you’ve recorded the same section, take a break, go for a walk, have a drink of water…

Tip 5. Turn off all other electronic devices that are in the room
A mobile phone ring tone on the audio recording doesn’t sound that authentic. And you don’t want your phone conversation to be recorded do you?

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Emmeline recording the narration for the audio guide. Photo by Ashley.

Tip 6. Try to avoid b and p….
xAfter a while Breary Banks becomes Preary Panks

Tip 7. Never read ahead
If you do, you’ll end up inventing new words, like Potatews…(any guess what that means?)

Tip 8. Don’t swear during the recording
It’s very hard to edit out

Tip 9. Don’t charge your laptop during recordings
The microphone will pick up the sound of your laptop charging and you’ll have fun editing the 90Hz  hum out of the recording (noise reduction and equalization are your friends if this ever happens to you)

Tip 10. Have fun
If you don’t, this job is not for you

 

 

Market Research and Field Testing

We had established through brainstorming in the first few weeks that a majority of people visiting the site were either relatives of people associated with the Leeds Pals, military history enthusiasts like myself, or ramblers following one of the many Yorkshire Dales walking guidebooks. With this in mind, we decided to do a general history of the site.

Testing our audioguide took place with a mixture of students, staff, and local enthusiasts and historians.

Testing our audioguide took place with a mixture of students, staff, and local historians.

Market research is vital for both commercial and community projects. After a meeting with curators from Leeds Museums & Galleries, it was suggested we carry out focus group surveys on site, the problem was the logistics of getting a group to the site. Using local school children was suggested, but we would have had to carry out risk assessments for health and safety, which would take up too much time. Our fellow undergraduate students were already on site carrying out the excavation, so we tried out our questionnaire on our peers. We took into consideration the problem of using students who might be reluctance to criticise their fellow students too much. Due to pre-excavation briefing and an archaeologically trained eye, some of the features we pointed out in the audio guide the students already had prior knowledge of.

As a mature student who has worked in both photojournalism and as a voluntary tour guide, talking to complete strangers comes naturally, this skill has proved very useful on our field trips to Breary Banks. My first contact with visitors was on our first trip to Breary Banks, as our team stood at the memorial a car pulled up. As the couple left the car, I approached them. I decided the best approach would be to ask for their reason for visiting the site, this would establish any history or involvement with the site, e.g. family history with the area or Leeds Pals or just visiting while out walking, or curiosity. The gentleman, like myself, was a military history enthusiast from Bradford, he was visiting out of personal interest and would not be interested in our audio guide but thought it was a good idea to help the remembrance of the Pals battalions.

My next adlib market research was also on a field trip. Several cars arrived and people suitably attired in walking clothing started to gather. I approached them and engaged in a conversation, the group was from the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty World War One volunteers research group, they were on site to look at the excavation. However while conducting our survey with the students, a couple following a walk from a guidebook appeared. I asked the usual questions and they showed me the guidebook, which did not have much information about the history of the area. On our return to the dig site they stopped me to ask about all the features in the landscape, so I incorporated a mini guided tour with some market research questions and an explanation of what we were trying to achieve as heritage students. The couple were impressed and said that an audio guide and leaflet would add to their day out on the hill.

~Steve