The discovery of the Newport ship generated widespread popular interest and a vociferous local campaign which led to the ship's rescue. This popular interest has been maintained over the decade since the ship was excavated through a variety of approaches. The original Save Our Ship campaign group has evolved into a community-based group, the Friends of the Newport Ship, which supports the project through regular newsletters for its large membership, attendance at public events, arrangement of a winter lecture series, and production of popular publications. Heritage Lottery funding allowed establishment of learning and outreach activities associated with the ship, delivered through the Newport Museum and Heritage Service which continues. Beneficiaries include schoolchildren, volunteers and workplace students. Project team staff organise regular open days at the Newport Ship Centre, and deliver frequent public lectures. Previous AHRC funding has allowed research into the ship's original shape through innovative construction of scale models and associated display at the Newport Ship Centre. Present funded research is exploring how digital models of the ship may be used to communicate research findings to a wide audience through use of new multi-touch interfaces.
The Newport ship project has therefore established a substantial, non-academic audience and strong community support. Newport City Council has recently announced its intention to develop a new museum in Newport to exhibit the reassembled ship and associated collections. Synthesis and interpretation of research undertaken on the ship over the last decade, and it's deposition in an accessible archive will greatly assist in the development of this museum which is now seen as a key driver in urban regeneration of Newport City.
The Newport Ship is the most substantial medieval ship found in Britain in modern times. Its discovery triggered academic and wider interest and a vigorous, popular campaign leading to its rescue for study, conservation and display. Over the decade since its excavation, a substantial programme of documentation and research has been undertaken at a dedicated ship centre. With conservation under way, and plans for a new museum to exhibit the ship recently announced, authoritative publication of the ship is timely. The intention is to produce a substantial publication telling the story of the discovery of the ship and its original construction, life, and demise, in a form accessible to a wide audience reflecting the level of interest shown since its discovery. Recording the thousands of timbers and other objects associated with the ship has produced an unparalleled archive of three-dimensional drawings and laser scans, photographs and other digital assets. In parallel with traditional publication, this digital archive will be submitted to the Archaeological Data Service, making it available to all researchers via the internet.
The ship represents a rare survival of a clinker-built ship of the late medieval period, constructed on the Atlantic seaboard. Over 25m of the original ship was recovered with the dismantled timbers recorded in detail using three-dimensional digital recording technologies providing an unparalleled opportunity to understand arguably the most complex machine in use during the medieval period. Publication brings together the documentation and analysis of the ship itself, and associated assemblages of rigging, rope, leather, textiles, metalwork and other artefacts and environmental material. Given precise dating of the ship's arrival in Newport through dendrochronology, it is possible to place the ship in its particular historical context in the late 15th century.
The innovative use of digital technologies in this archaeological project raises challenges with traditional publication while offering opportunities to exploit new modes of dissemination of research through accessible digital archives. The publication of thousands of ship timbers as two-dimensional drawings and formulaic text descriptions would not be appropriate, or sustainable, and degrade the quality of the three-dimensional record produced during documentation. By including these in an accessible digital archive, researchers can access and interrogate the original data in ways not possible through traditional publication, and digital visualisations such as animations can be viewed to enhance interpretation and dissemination of research findings. As such this project seeks to address the highlight notice digital transformations, exploring how engagement with the digital environment, requires adaptation in the ways we hold, share, and present knowledge and research.
The synthesis of this research represents a sustained collaboration between the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and the Newport Museum and Heritage service. The integrated publication and archive proposed form an essential stage in the development of a new museum where the ship will be reassembled, displayed and interpreted alongside Newport's other collections.