our aims and objectives...

An overview of what we want to do...


In recent years, regional interest in the Durham River Wear Assemblage has been steadily growing. A series of talks and public lectures, to a diverse range of groups and institutions, together with local media interest has helped raise awareness of the objects, their importance to our local heritage and their potential to provide us with a new understanding of Durham's late- and post-medieval past.


One of the key aims of our work is to publish our research findings in volumes of a popular archaeology monograph series, plus papers in academic journals. Once complete, permanent public and academic access to the identified objects of the assemblage and their associated research will be achieved through placing object details on the Durham University Discover system. Public attention will be focussed on the assemblage though local lectures and exhibiting in a number of local museum venues.


The river forms a key part of the environment of the World Heritage Site of Durham and has significant research potential, especially for the post-medieval period (*Petts 2015, 66-68). This project will act as an exemplar to show how purely artefact based narratives can contribute a new understanding and interpretation of an urban past. The Durham River Wear Assemblage (DRWA) represents a chance to develop a novel artefact based account of Durham, an approach potentially applicable to other World Heritage Sites. Although other similar riverine assemblages such as the Thames foreshore collection and the Salisbury 'Drainage Collection' have only been partially published and with no coherent narrative of the past drawn from them - we aim to publish the thirteenth to eighteenth century objects.

(* Petts, D. 2015. Durham World Heritage Site - WHS Research Framework .pdf).

In order to achieve our key objectives...

The project will:

1) Adopt an interdisciplinary and thematic approach to record and research the thirteenth - eighteenth century objects of the DRWA using Department of Archaeology, Durham University students and artefact specialists.
2) Use crowd funding donations (monitored and moderated by the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland (AASDN)) to finance artefacts research and to commission object illustrations and photography.
3) Apply for match funding with public grants or private sponsorship to secure publication and other costs (i.e. the printing costs associated with a publication designed not only for those professionally engaged in small finds research, but also those with an amateur interest in history and archaeology).
4) Publish the medieval and post-medieval objects of the assemblage together with an artefact based narrative of Durham, in two volumes of a popular archaeology monograph series.
5) Developments in artefact typologies will be published in a popular archaeology monograph series. The use of unstratified assemblages as a research tool to describe historic social, economic and technical change will be published in an international journal.
6) Exhibit the assemblage in a number of museum venues and create a handling collection for loan to schools to enable the exchange of knowledge thus delivering civic, cultural and economic benefits.
7) We will make effective use of digital media to facilitate public and academic access to the whole assemblage through the Durham University Discover system.
8) Address new research questions exploring the survival, recovery and methods of presentation of artefacts in river beds.
9) To enlarge our contribution to the arts and deepen engagement with public and private partners, we will gift the entire Durham River Wear Assemblage to the 'citizens of Durham', thus ensuring the objects stay in County Durham under the stewardship of the Museum of Archaeology, Durham University.