Archaeology of the Ordinary


Part of the Peter Potter Gallery’s Lost Landscapes programme in 2011, this project took up the theme of farmers, their family history, and the role played by migrant workers in East Lothian, Scotland.

The inspiration came from Archaeologists David Connolly and Maggie Struckmeier. They had discovered hand written messages of Irish people from the early 1950s on the walls of a group of derelict cottages, during a job where they had to assess the archaeology value of these abandoned labourers’ cottages. Artworks always seem to start with conversations, and then following in someone else’s footsteps, so this project started with the Archaeologists taking me back to Papple Cottages, with them pointing out writing on the walls. One example includes a K Boyle inscribes “we left Papple Farm on Thursday the 30th September 1954”. How does an artist work with questions that archaeologists are left with once their job is done? As these cottages were about to undergo major refurbishment, how could artists, archaeologists and local people come together to investigate the importance of the Archaeology of the Ordinary?

Archaeology of the Ordinary, 2011

Graffitied wood door and panel wall, 2.4m H x 1.2m wide
1950s Kitchen dresser
Various found domestic and farming objects
Sound: voices of archaeologists and farming community members
Three studio portraits of ‘Irish couples’

David Connolly, “…graffiti to an archaeologist is a absolute treasure trove…” 1 minute 13 seconds audio extract, 2011

Maggie Struckmeier, “…we started finding more and more in particular parts of the houses…” 40 seconds audio extract, 2011

Maeve Jeffrey, “…in one bothy the women lived…” 55 seconds audio extract, 2011

Bernard Gaughan, “…the same people came year after year…” 47 seconds audio extract, 2011

Maeve Jeffrey, “…seven years muck, one year money…” 21 seconds audio extract, 2011

Related Resources

Kilpatrick, Kate. Archaeology of the Ordinary, Gallery Interpretative Essay, 2011

Black, Lauren. Run Away, Creative Writing Essay, Preston Lodge High School, 2011

Bird, Nicky. Archaeology of the Ordinary. In: How Do We Study Objects?, 8-9 May 2014, Helsinki, Finland

Photographs of Irish couples are from the Gordon Collection, Courtesy of East Lothian Council Archives & Records Management Service