However, I’m still not particularly on the ball with things. The Archwilio app for instance is a classic. Launched just over a month ago, I was among those to be espousing the virtues of such a device, and naturally downloaded it on the day of release, and my new app sat proudly on the front page of my mobile phone...and there is stayed, untapped, unexplored, utterly redundant, for the following month. I can’t help wonder if this is the fate shared by many of our heritage downloads – can we effectively measure participation in relation to downloads? A question for another time perhaps. With the teaching year wrapped up, I have now had, at last, an opportunity to press the ‘A’ symbol on my phone, and finally give this app a proper run through its paces, and I was not disappointed.
Some context here is perhaps necessary. Archwilio is a collaborative effort between the four archaeological trusts in Wales. The project looks to make available a digital archive of all of the archaeological sites and listed buildings located in Wales. Accessibility is at the heart of this project, and this arguably unique endeavour should be celebrated on principle alone – to make the entire national archive freely available, through mobile phone technologies, is a concept that must be applauded.
The application is certainly promising. Again, I am no expert whatsoever when it comes to digital technologies. To the expert eye, this might be an utterly hackneyed effort at a mobile phone app, I simply would not know the difference (though I promise to expand my knowledge base on such resources over the winter period), but I have at the very least found it easy to use and make sense of, and, probably the most important result of all, I have learned about new sites because of it.
Walking around Caerleon and Ponthir today, I enjoyed scanning the landscape to confirm the locations of previous excavations and find spots. It is important to note that Archwilio is far from complete. Checking up on some sites, including those I have excavated, I found odd gaps in the archive. Still, it is early days, and the resource is, or should be, continuously updated. The capacity for users to suggest sites for inclusion, additional information, and site images, is equally important, and reinforces the sense that this is not a prescriptive resource, but a participatory one. In terms of my test run, I discovered new sites in Ponthir, a community I walk through daily. Even visually prominent sites, such as the nineteenth century Baptist Chapel, were new to me. Having found the site marked on my Archwilio map, I then immediately swung by to visit the site. This alone must be seen as some sort of success for the app.
The frustrated Pokemon collector in me would love to see some manner of check list, to tick off sites visited (after all, you gotta catch em all – excuse flashbacks to my youth), but this is far from essential. I’ll certainly be making generous use of this as I visit familiar and unfamiliar sites alike in the future. The potential of the resource is staggering and I would certainly encourage those with an interest in their surrounding landscape to at least have a look at Archwilio. It might not be the most polished app available, but as an open door to the archaeological landscape of Wales, Archwilio has no rival.
Archwilio can be downloaded from google play, with more information available at the homepage.