This article appeared in the Autumn 1972 (Issue #29) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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The Dover Experiment.
To the Rescue Archaeologist, whose usual contact with the public is chasing them off his site, good public relations is often merely a dream. It should always be borne in mind that to a large number of men-in-the-street, archaeology is extremely fascinating, whether due to intelligent interest, curiosity or just the satisfaction of watching other people dig holes. Without this interest, archaeology would become the accumulation of knowledge for its own sake and we would lose the intellectual excitement and lust for the past that accompanies the routine recording of man's past environment. One of our jobs is to present a diorama of what we are discovering to those who are unable to join us in the trenches. While this benefits the layman it is not all one-sided, for those sweating amongst the stratification do appreciate the gasps and envy of those standing above. Indeed, the public can be persuaded to support the excavation by various direct and indirect means.
When planning Dover 1972 it was decided that the time had come to try, for the first time ever, a full-scale public relations exercise, encouragement being found in the success of the previous year's efforts and the spectacular achievements at Horton Kirby. A great deal of money was urgently needed, both for the preservation of the famous "Painted House" and for the continued progress of rescue work by the CIB Archaeological Rescue Corps. Furthermore, we decided that one of the most important tasks in the immediate future is to educate the world in the need for rescue archaeology and there is no easier way than to demonstrate it actually in progress. After a deluge of preliminary publicity the Market Street site was opened to the public, seven days a week for a month, and a specialy recruited team of guides was provided to point out the discoveries as they appeared. An admission charge, a publication, aid souvenirs stall and a large donations bucket were present to drain the visitor's pocket.
The scheme meant various upheavals; the site had to be made safe, the visitors insured, signs, walkways, barriers, gates, steps and posters made. Part of the Painted House was disinterred, and the bulk excavation of the main site had to be carried out with visitors in mind (the public and large excavators -- whether mechanical or human -- do not mix well). All had to be prepared in a hurry, and even as the first guided tour stepped gingerly on to the site, the team were still rushing about, arranging last minute details. With the help of many, including Dover Corporation, the open days began, with the team not knowing what to expect and, indeed, not sure whether anyone would turn up at all. The initial trickle turned into a stream, then into a torrent and before we knew what had hit us we were celebrating our 10,000th visitor. In all, over 11,000 visitors paid to be guided through a unique experience -- that of being the first people ever to witness a real rescue excavation under way and to be given a chance to help in the raising of funds. The 20,000 who watched over the fence must also be mentioned!
The guides, who are probably still nursing their vocal chords, did a marvellous job, as did the intrepid ticket-sellers and "Review" hawkers. Most of the excavation team took their turn at conducting people around the site, but we must mention the tremendous efforts of Anne Houghton, Elizabeth Errington, Jackie Sofio, Joanna Brennan and Susan Carling, who made up the main team, lovingly supervised by Ralph Mills and Howard Davies. Also to be mentioned are Mrs Clitheroe, Jean Taylor, Gordon Hutchinson, Mark Errington, Duncan Peterson, Jim Williams, Alan Crump, Alan Gidlow, Frances Brennan, Mrs Hughes and Wesley Harcourt who all worked very hard during the open period.
The diggers got used to hearing twenty guided tours a day and, in fact, soon became fascinated by their wide variety. With skeletons changing sex hourly, the decorations of the Painted House becoming more and more fantastic and the numbers of spectacular finds multiplying in geometric progressions one could never become bored!
The publications stall broke all records by selling over 4,000 copies of the KAR, thousands of slogan-bearing ball-point pens, replicas of Classis Britannica stamped tiles, coin medallions, and car stickers, while the specialist publications such as the Faversham Abbey report sold in large numbers.
The donations bucket, a good indicator of the standard of the tours, was always well filled, and a good number of visitors became "Friends of the CKA."
Exhausted, we reached the end of our thirty-day period with a climatic day when so many people arrived that the queue was without end, and the idea of separate parties had to be abandoned! Such was the demand that we were forced to open again over the Bank Holiday period.
At the end of it all we had amassed not only a lot of money but, even more important, a great deal of goodwill and support for the ideal of rescue archaeology from 30,000 people from 20 countries. To these our work will never again seem the pursuit of khaki-clad academics or the secretive despoiling of sites hidden by high fences and hostile faces, but rather the dedicated saving, hour by hour, centimetre by centimetre, of our past for them and their descendants.
In concrete terms we grossed more than £2,000. This has meant a handsome contribution to the Painted House fund (Dover Corporation) and just enough for the CIB Corps to buy its much needed Land Rover for use in its non-stop rescue work and surveys over the County. We learnt a lot and so, we hope, did those who passed through "Dover 1972."