Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Interview with Carly Hilts

Wednesday was an exciting day for the social media team as we got the chance to have a conversation with Current Archaeology’s assistant editor Carly Hilts.

For those of you who have not been lucky enough to meet her, let me assure you, Carly is pretty darn cool. With a degree in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, she’s worked on Time Team, Horrible Histories and even helped develop an Egyptian themed computer game. But while such an impressive career might initially seem intimidating, we all thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Carly after lunch, and were reassured, if not a little star-struck, by her openness and generosity.

Site supervisors Stuart Prior and Mark Horton gave Carly a tour of the trench and of the castle and Carly provided only positive feedback about the site! Apparently our paddock trench looked “tremendous” and she compared the rich time span visible in the archaeological record there to a “3D text book”. Indeed, with finds unearthed ranging from Anglo-Saxon buildings to Civil War musket balls, the work we’re doing at Berkeley Castle definitely has a lot it can teach us!
Dr. Stuart Prior, Mr. Denis Burn, Prof. Mark Horton & Carly Hilts
We in the social media and public engagement team were able to gain some advice from Carly based on her experiences. She agreed that outreach is important, and empathised with us in the challenges presented in showing “hard archaeological information in a fun and accessible way”. According to Carly, silly games, archaeo-poetry and fun hashtags were her favourite ways to get engaged in what could otherwise seem to be quite a dry subject. This might be the reason why she enjoyed her time spend researching on Time Team so much. She described the experience as “SUCH fun!”, comparing the team to a close knit family. (And in case you were wondering, no, Carly reassured us that the characters we see on screen were not put on!)

It was reassuring to hear from Carly who, like the current writer, felt herself to be “more of a scribbly girl than a spade girl.” She explained that through university she loved the history and archaeology, but always wanted to combine these interests with writing, outreach and story telling. Perhaps this inspired her in her research for the Quest History educational video game set in Ancient Egypt. She explained that while school kids are playing the game, engaging with it and enjoying themselves, it was important that everything in the background was realistic and telling an accurate story – so all the food, clothing and buildings that they encountered in the game were authentic. Talk about combining story telling with archaeology!

We concluded our chat by asking Carly which archaeological site she would teleport to right that second if she had the chance. Laughing that she felt like a bit of a “traitor to [her] medieval training” she said that her “little dream” would be to hop over to Vindolanda. She explained that while many excavations today are relatively short rescue digs, it is really exciting to follow the findings of a long-running project like Vindolanda. Plus, she reminded us, the writing tablets found preserved by the waterlogged conditions of the site, were the oldest handwritten documents to be found in Britain!

Thanks again to Carly!

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