Nautical Archaeology can be a fascinating and wide-ranging subject encompassing many different environments and sites of interest. Such as underwater excavations, intertidal surveying of shipwrecks, archival research into a downed plane, and.... Project Management? On the surface of it, one of these activities doesn’t seem quite as ‘exciting’ as the others, however, management skills are never something to overlook. As we were introduced early on in the Archaeological Project Management course, every day we undertake projects of our own- planning which shop to go to for food, how to get there, what to purchase when you are there etc. In a sense we all have experience in project management, but more on that later...

Just like suddenly remembering you’ve forgotten your phone charger as you set off on holiday (what a bygone time!), I’ve always been haunted by a nagging question when assisting or managing an archaeological project- that is, “what have I missed?”. The answer to this is unique for each and every project. Is it disseminating project results in a more accessible way? Is it engaging more with the community? Should I have brought the 2m folding measuring bars instead of the 1m? Or a particularly bad scenario- have I got the health and safety form signed by the diver currently in the water? It was for these worries and the sense of being overwhelmed by the many tasks on a project, that I jumped at the opportunity to take part in the online Archaeological Project Management Course.

Led by Ian Cundy of the Malvern Archaeological Diving Unit, he first started by suggesting that we don’t take notes for the day, as the training was to be recorded, and instead to listen and learn. Brushing aside my notebook and rainbow myriad of colour pens, I made myself comfortable and was treated to a whole day of thorough and extensive archaeological training. The course really ought to be renamed “Project Management: Absolutely everything you need to know; thought you already knew and long-ago forgot”. A few too many characters there though.


Course Tutor Ian Cundy leading a morning briefing 


It seemed a simple start to the course as we were told a project can be divided into four stages- Design, Planning, Delivery, and Review. As the day progressed however, these four categories expanded into many subsections, almost mirroring the biological Tree of Life, and Ian led us through without me getting lost at any point. In fact, it reminded me very much of an archaeologically themed bingo! I would think of situations I had been in before that were discussed (such as the importance of a “Plan B” day) or would make a mental note of a situation I had not previously considered. We were given an extensive run through in assessing and managing risks by using a matrix- something that had previously not made me leap with joy and excitement, yet suddenly seemed so straight forward and dare I say....enjoyable? I never thought I would say that about Risk Assessments.

In times such as these with all of us stuck at home, and all sorts of archaeological groups hosting webinars, this training session did lend itself well to being hosted online. For those considering an ​  alternative to a project management qualification, this was the perfect course which was also specifically tailored to archaeology (and didn’t cost an arm and a leg!). During the course of my career so far, I’ve learned what to do before, during and after an archaeological project, but never really  how  to manage one and to measure my success. By following an almost step-by-step process outlined during the course, I feel that my skills and knowledge have greatly benefitted from attending. I found the day extremely well-organised, engaging and above all, I now feel more confident in working independently and managing an archaeological project.

According to who you ask there are many different versions of the so-called “P’s of Project Management”. The overall takeaway from the course, even for those who didn’t attend, should be that “Proper Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance”. Next time you go to the shops, ensure you’ve sufficiently designed, planned, delivered and reviewed the trip. Oh, and make sure your health and safety forms are complete!

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