I have just returned on-island after two weeks holiday followed by a week in the NTS’s offices in Edinburgh and Inverness. I’m trying to think of things regular readers may not have previously seen or been told about so I thought I’d briefly talk about some of the Archaeologist's off-island work.
The St Kilda Archaeologist (SKA) post has existed for twenty years, and for the past fifteen years or so the job had been full-time all year round. Much, if not most, of the work of the SKA actually takes place off-island. Last week I was in the Trust’s office at Balnain House, Inverness, working with the ‘silent’ member of staff (in terms of the blog) – our manager Susan Bain, as well as long-time consultant to the World Heritage Site Jill Harden.
The summer field season for the archaeologist is really all about running to stand still – doing the huge amount of work it takes just to try to halt or manage change in the landscape. This is primarily monitoring structures and identifying repairs, supervising and taking part in conservation work, and generally working to conserve the structures on the archipelago.
Outwith the summer, the archaeologist works with others to improve and enhance our understanding and management of the WHS. Over the years, several major projects have been undertaken, such as twenty-year task of taking a complete photographic record of all structures in Village Bay. Some 27,500 images make up this formal monitoring set of photographs, and we have around the same number again of images of conservation work and research. Various SKAs have compiled dozens of research documents, academic papers, conservation statements, methodologies, and policies - some of which have been superseded, whilst others remain best practice.
Last week, we met with specialists in head office to discuss getting more of our information online for the general public and starting the process of developing a long-term research agenda for studying the heritage of the archipelago. Whilst the buildings and archaeology on the archipelago are managed so they hardly change as the years go by, the way the WHS is managed is constantly evolving and improving.
So, just because there are no updates about what is going on on the islands themselves does not mean that nothing is happening behind the scenes.
Àrsair Hiort/ St Kilda Archaeologist