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DigVentures Ltd
Industry Heritage/Archaeology
Founded 2011
Headquarters Registered Office:
4th Floor, 27-33 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, London E1 6LA
Key people
Managing Director:
Lisa Westcott Wilkins
Project Director:
Brendon Wilkins
Fieldschool Manager:
Raksha Dave
Community Manager:
Maiya Pina-Dacier
Products Digstarter; Digital Dig Team;
Dirty Weekends
Number of employees
Website www.digventures.com

DigVentures is a social enterprise organising crowdfunded archaeological excavation experiences. It is registered with the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA), and is a CIfA Accredited Field School.[1]


Headquartered in London, DigVentures works globally with a network of regional partners to raise seed capital for, and increasing participation in, sustainable archaeology and heritage projects worldwide. The organisation was formed in 2011, responding to the challenge of austerity and lack of opportunity in the heritage sector.[2] By adopting a crowdfunding and crowdsourcing approach,[3] DigVentures have sought to address this by using digital and social media to build audiences, increase revenue and find new ways for the public to participate in archaeological fieldwork.[4]

Crowdfunding model

DigVentures projects are coordinated through an online multicurrency crowdfunding platform (DigStarter) designed to connect heritage sector managers and archaeologists (project owners) with a worldwide crowd of interested and actively engaged participants.[5] Project owners choose a timeframe and target-funding goal, selling non-monetary rewards and experiences linked to their projects through their social networks. This has enabled the public to financially support interesting archaeology projects as well as to join in, learn new skills and contribute to internationally important research. Heritage projects using this model on the DigStarter platform include Flag Fen Lives, Leiston Abbey, Save the Welsh Streets, Researching Roman Southwell and Chiltern Open Air Museum.

Digital Dig Team

In 2014 DigVentures received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop its Digital Dig Team.[6] This has been described as a ‘Community Management System’ for archaeology projects.[7] It is built onto a cloud-based, open-source software platform enabling researchers to publish data directly from the field using any web-enabled device (such as a smartphone or tablet) into a live relational database. Once recorded the born-digital archive is accessible via open-access on a dedicated website, and published to social profiles of all project participants.[8] Beta tested in the field at Leiston Abbey in 2014, early results have shown that the Digital Dig Team system can enable archaeologists to build audiences (through immersive storytelling), generate revenue (through crowdfunding), enable public participation (through crowdsourcing) and improve research by making results available to a networked specialist team in 'real time'. A children's version of this system has also been developed, based on a ‘Cyber Dig’ simulated excavation for use in schools or family events.


Flag Fen Lives

In 2012 DigVentures ran the world’s first crowdfunded excavation, raising £30,000 to enable a three-week excavation at the internationally significant Bronze Age site of Flag Fen, near Peterborough.[9][10][11] The site had experienced a 50% decline in visitors since the large-scale English Heritage-funded excavations finished in 1995; the project’s remit was to help revitalise the heritage attraction, whilst providing detailed scientific information on the preservation of the waterlogged timbers.[12] The project involved around 250 members of the public from 11 countries, supported by a specialist team including partners from the British Museum, Durham University, Birmingham University, York Archaeological Trust, University College London and English Heritage to assist in the scientific investigations.[13] Of the members of public, 130 individuals received hands-on training in archaeological techniques on site and visitor numbers increased by 29% from the previous year. Francis Pryor, who discovered the site in the 1970s, was supportive of the initiative and wrote afterwards: "happily, it was an experiment that worked: the participants had a good time, and the archaeology was professionally excavated, to a very high standard".[14][15]

Leiston Abbey

Leiston Abbey was the first crowdfunding campaign to run on the DigStarter platform in 2013, and has since raised more than £36,000 over two seasons. The project is ongoing and is currently entering the third year of five proposed digging seasons.[16] Its wider rationale has been to breathe new life into Leiston Abbey, providing opportunities for visitors to join in with the excavation, and to integrate the heritage attraction with the artistic and musical life of the onsite music school, Pro Corda, who manage the site for English Heritage. Fieldwork has so far focused on characterising undefined earthworks and settlement evidence in three different areas of the site, with a programme of remote sensing used to target thirteen small-scale excavation trenches aiming to identify settlement evidence indicated by geophysical anomalies or extant earthworks.[17][18][19] Additional work included a photogrammetry survey to produce a metrically accurate 3D digital elevation model of the Abbey Church and a low-level aerial photography survey using kite mounted cameras and UAVs (drones) to assess structural evidence for absent buildings associated with the eastern range.

Dirty Weekends

DigVentures also runs short taster sessions and masterclasses by experts in their respective subjects.

  • 2013: River Thames Foreshore, working with the Thames Discovery Programme (2 weekends)[20]
  • 2013: As part of the two-week summer dig at Leiston Abbey; classes in geophysics and archaeological photography.
  • 2014: As part of the two-week summer dig at Leiston Abbey; classes in post-medieval pottery and archaeological photography.
  • 2015: Poulton, near Chester, opportunity to work with The Poulton Research Project on their large multi-period site.
  • 2015: As part of the two-week summer dig at Leiston Abbey; classes in post-medieval pottery and archaeological photography.

Further reading

  • '2015 Leiston Abbey crowdfunding campaign launched, Apr 2015'
  • 'DigVentures in Current Archaeology magazine, May 2015: "The 'Real-Time' Team" (pdf)'
  • 'DigVentures website'
  • 'Digital Dig Team: Leiston Abbey'
  • 'BBC News: Leiston Abbey dig: Earspoon' and evidence of 'mill' uncovered, Dec 2014'
  • 'BBC’s ‘The One Show’ "Black Shuck", Oct 2014'
  • 'BBC News: "Leiston Abbey dig unearths 'poker chip' and curse tablet", July 2014'
  • 'Guardian Interview with DigVentures’ Projects Director, Mar 2014'
  • 'Leiston Abbey 2014 Evaluation Assessment Report (pdf)'
  • 'Leiston Abbey 2014 Updated Project Design (pdf)'
  • 'Leiston Abbey 2013 Evaluation Assessment Report (pdf)'
  • 'Flag Fen Lives on BBC Look East'
  • 'DigVentures in Current Archaeology magazine, Nov 2012: "DigVentures at Flag Fen"'
  • 'Digventures interview with The Archaeologist magazine, Summer 2012'


  1. ^ Chartered Institute for Archaeologists website entry, "DigVentures Ltd" Retrieved on 19 March 2015.
  2. ^ Knowles, Kitty. "Britain must dig deeper to save its archaeology", The Independent, 13 July 2014. Retrieved on 19 March 2015
  3. ^ Palmer, Jason. "Flag Fen archaeology idea brings in public to dig deep", BBC News website, 1 March 2012. Retrieved on March 19, 2015
  4. ^ Wilkins, Brendon & Westcott Wilkins, Lisa. "The things we think and do not say: the future of our business", Presentation given at Institute for Archaeologists conference, Glasgow, April 2014. Retrieved on 19 March 2015
  5. ^ Heritage Alliance website entry, "DigStarter" Retrieved on 19 March 2015.
  6. ^ Westcott Wilkins, Lisa. "DigVentures, HLF and the ‘Digital Dig Team’ at Leiston Abbey", DigVentures website, 1 April 2014. Retrieved on 19 March, 2015.
  7. ^ Wilkins, Brendon. "Digging the Crowd – The Future of Archaeological Research in the Collaborative Economy", Transcript of keynote speech given at the Digital Pasts conference, Swansea February 2015. Retrieved on 19 March 2015.
  8. ^ Wilkins, Brendon & Westcott-Wilkins, Lisa. "Paranoid Android? The future of archaeological research in the collaborative and digital economy", Presentation given at the Theoretical Archaeology Group conference, Manchester December 2014. Retrieved on 19 March 2015.
  9. ^ The Moment magazine. "The Resurrection Of Flag Fen", The Moment magazine website, undated. Retrieved on 19 March 2015.
  10. ^ Baker, John. "Reporter digs time in Flag Fen trenches", Peterborough Telegraph website, 27 July 2012. Retrieved on 19 March, 2015.
  11. ^ Palmer, Jason. "Flag Fen hosts 'crowdsourced' Bronze Age archaeology dig", BBC News website, 13 August 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  12. ^ Wilkins, Brendon; Bamforth, Michael; Britchfield, David. "Flag Fen Lives: Project Design for an Archaeological Evaluation", last revised 1 July 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  13. ^ Westcott Wilkins, Lisa. "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: DigVentures and Flag Fen Lives (Updated Version)", Presentation given at Institute for Archaeologists, November 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  14. ^ Pryor, Francis. "Flag Fen, 30 years on", 'In The Long Run', 14 November 2012. Retrieved on 19 March 2015.
  15. ^ Baker, John. "Francis Pryor on Flag Fen’s discovery and future", Peterborough Telegraph, 26 June 2013. Retrieved on 19 March 2015.
  16. ^ DigVentures website. "Digital Dig Team | Leiston Abbey" Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  17. ^ BBC Suffolk website. "Leiston Abbey dig: 'Earspoon' and evidence of 'mill' uncovered", 28 December 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  18. ^ Harris, Paul. "Is this the skeleton of legendary devil dog Black Shuck who terrorised 16th century East Anglia?", Mail Online, 15 May 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  19. ^ BBC Suffolk website. "Leiston Abbey dig unearths 'poker chip' and curse tablet", 19 July 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  20. ^ Cohen, Natalie. "Dirty Weekends: Good Clean Fun!", Thames Discovery Programme website, 12 November 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
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