Fathoming the Future

Fathoming the Future

Between 2022 and 2024 the Maritime Archaeology Trust delivered the Fathoming the Future project, which was funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, made possible by money raised by National Lottery players. The project focused on the MAT’s archive and collections which were used to tell new stories for a variety of audiences through exciting digital resources. These proved to be successful at attracting a more diverse range of people to maritime archaeology and heritage. We were particularly interested in involving underrepresented groups – young people, women, and older ages – as well as the whole of the general public to increase access to heritage, while also providing a range of volunteering opportunities.

The role of volunteers

The project aimed to provide volunteers with new digital skills that they could use in their everyday life, this included producing highly interactive content for the promotion and dissemination of maritime archaeology. Volunteering took place both remotely and in person, with tasks including digitising and cataloguing archival material, undertaking research, and creating digital resources. Training was provided in groups or in one-to-one sessions.

During the project 78 different volunteers, 52 of whom were new to MAT, contributed an impressive total of 714 volunteer days.

Digitising the MAT Archive

Using MAT’s archive of record sheets, drawings, photos, slides, videos and 3D models recorded from a wide range of archaeological sites over the past 30 years, it was possible to tell diverse stories. Volunteers read through the paper archives, including diving logs, archaeological record sheets, site drawings, and excavation notes. They then selected those requiring digitisation while also identifying information to help tell new stories. A total of 995 plans and documents were scanned and catalogued.

Our volunteers were also involved in logging and describing the content of our vast archive of analogue anddigital photographs. A total of 3,805 slides were scanned and catalogued, together with a further 1,963 analogue photographs. They also catalogued and digitised our VHS, Mini DV and High8 tapes. These videos included many underwater wreck videos as well as material documenting work on Prehistoric and intertidal sites. Volunteers also helped with reviewing the content, logging and describing the large number of digital videos from our archive. The ‘best bits’ from the videos were used in new promotional material. A total of 33 video tapes were digitised and catalogued, and 258 digital videos were catalogued.

Telling diverse stories

Project outputs used the archive to inspire story telling through digital resources, these included themes such as how Prehistoric people lived at times of lower sea level, the career, loss and investigation of British and international ships, as well as seafaring and life at sea. The project also looked at the techniques and methods used by archaeologists to work from the depths of the underwater world to conducting detailed laboratory analysis.

Volunteers also used resources produced by MAT in previous years – such as PowerPoints, exhibitions panels, leaflets and publications – along with the newly digitised archive material to help develop new digital resources. As a result, the outputs highlighted  underrepresented groups, including young people, women from history and BAME stories.

Creating digital resources

A huge number of fantastic resources were produced, which encouraged engagement by audience these included:


The project also took resources on maritime archaeology out to the public to encourage engagement with maritime and underwater archaeology by a diverse audience. A total of 12 outreach events were delivered with the Discovery Bus, engaging a total audience of 3,200 people. We also held 2 Open Days at the Shipwreck Centre, during which we welcomed a total of 720 visitors. In-person talks for a range of groups and organisations reached over 500 people.

The Discovery Hub

The ‘Discovery Hub’, a new tool to explore maritime archaeology, was launched on MAT’s website. It brings together our vast archive of education and outreach materials and makes them available for everyone to access, whether for general interest, or by students, parents, teachers, and educators to include underwater cultural heritage in their studies.

Interested to see what digital resources that we have available already?

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