Engaging people with maritime archaeology across the globe



We are now just about ready to press go on the next run of the shipwrecks course.  This will be the third time we have run the programme, and it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on what we’ve learnt, what we hope to achieve in this next run and … to get feedback on what people think might be good to do next.

First, some numbers. With the next run of the course we will have reached over 19,000 people worldwide through the Shipwrecks course, a number that goes up each day with additional sign-ups still occurring.  This is a monumental achievement if we consider what might have been thought of as the slightly niche nature of maritime archaeology.

One of the joys of running the Shipwrecks and Submerged Worlds course has been engaging with those 19,000 people, and realising not only the breadth of interest out there, but also the depth of knowledge.  The comments sections for each of the steps that people complete have become a wealth of information, broadening out on what we could provide through the short videos and articles.

We have also learnt what people would like more of.  People have really engaged with the steps on the course that include activities, from looking at changing sea-levels around the world, through to identifying wrecks in bathymetric data.  This something that we think we could perhaps do more of, providing an entry point for people to access and understand freely available data – making heritage resources more accessible.  This is particularly important for us when thinking about submerged sites.  These are locations that the vast majority of the population will never visit (either because diving isn’t an option for them, or because access is restricted).  We can now help people to engage with these sites remotely.  As such, if there is an interest, this is something we could develop further.

19,000 people is not a huge number when compared to those who sign up to free language courses, or even the number of people who might visit a local museum.  However, it is a substantial number of people in terms of broadening access to maritime archaeology.  In the past our means of engagement have been more limited in terms of numbers of people who can attend (conferences) or require a financial investment perhaps only suitable for those with a distinct focus on the subject.  Being free, and globally available, the course has enabled us to see the demand that lies out there and help people gain access to resources for them to build their knowledge of our shared maritime heritage.

Behind the scenes putting on the course takes quite a bit of effort from a whole team of people.  As such, we’re interested to know what you think of our efforts, and, how you think we might continue to develop and open up resources for maritime archaeology.   If you are doing the course for the first time we would love to have your comments, and, if you’re returning to dig a little deeper, please do let us know about what the course has done for you (and what you think it could do in the future).

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