New direction

by Philip Crummy, director of the Colchester Archaeological Trust

 

Time and technology wait for no man or woman as they say – or at least they could do. The world has changed a lot since 1987 when we published the first issue of The Colchester Archaeologist. Being 32 pages long in full colour, the magazine represented a big step up from our original twice-yearly newsletter. The latter, a relatively modest offering called Catalogue, was first published in 1976 and was black and white and only twelve, in some cases sixteen, A5 pages in length.

The Colchester Archaeologist featuring the discoveries of the Roman Circus (no 18) and the Fenwick Treasure (no 27).
The last two editions of Catalogue, published in 1986 (no 19) and 1987 (no 20).

The Colchester Archaeologist and Catalogue before it were aimed at members of the public interested in archaeological digs in the Colchester area. But sales have dwindled in recent times as have outlets in the town able to sell it. So with a deep breath, we have decided that, after almost 30 years, it is time for a change and time for a new direction. In other words, issue Number 28, published last year, is the last of the run.

The fortunes of the print industry tell it all. Sales of national magazines have slowly shrunk over the years with a 6% decline in 2016. Local weekly circulation figures have been falling, 11% on average the last year alone, while nearly all newspapers suffered a drop with only a couple showing any improvement. With a few exceptions, even newspapers which are given away were similarly hit.

And it’s all down to the internet of course. Everywhere people are using smart phones and the like – in the street, at work, in schools and in their homes. Go on a train or on the London underground and you can see that people are not reading magazines or newspapers in the way they once did. Nor are they are talking to each other or even staring into space. Yes – they’re reading their phones and laptops instead! Thirty per cent of our readers already visit our site with their mobile or smart ‘phones and the figure can only continue to rise….

So what are we to do? Well, no surprise but the plan is to offer an online alternative in part of our website (also called The Colchester Archaeologist). The website will continue to be as now, that is wide open with new content continually added, but there will also be an area for registered users only. Each month, a magazine-style news article will be published here to make twelve every year. Together these will provide an amount of content roughly equivalent to what would have been published in each edition of our printed magazine.
*** Please use the tab LOGIN FOR MORE CONTENT on the menu bar on the home page of this web-site, and this will take you to our new Visitor’s Corner login page, at www.thecolchesterarchaeologist.co.uk/special-visitors-corner/ .

On top of these monthly articles, there will be an occasional extra such as an annual review of excavations as well other things we think might be of interest to readers. Hopefully the content will also appeal to a wider readership so we plan to gradually make each of the articles accessible to all a year or more after their publication.

Although access is free to the restricted area, we do ask visitors to register. We are doing this because we would like to inform subscribers of events we plan which we think might be of interest to them such as talks, exhibitions, and special events here in the Roman Circus Centre. But don’t worry, the number of emails we send will be very limited and of course we most definitely won’t share email address or other details with any party.

The Friends of the Colchester Archaeological Trust is a key organisation for us. The area for registered users which we have now created on our website is to an extent a replacement for the magazine which the Friends were instrumental in founding and supporting through their annual contributions towards production costs. If you are a member of the Friends, we very much hope you will want to register soon. We would have issued you with a username and password but we thought that you might prefer to choose your own.

So what now? Well, the first two monthly articles have already been uploaded. You can read them via our Visitor’s Corner if you would like to subscribe. For November 2017, there is an article about the impressive collection of 17th- and 18th-century pottery recovered during excavations at Fenwicks on Colchester High Street and for December, we have a piece about Great Chesterford, Essex’s other walled town, where we have been carrying out a series of investigations ahead of various redevelopment projects. The next article will be uploaded in January.

The Colchester Archaeologist has turned out to work like a useful diary recording what we were doing each year. That was never the intention but this is how they have worked out. Over the years covered by the Catalogue and The Colchester Archaeologist (ie since 1977), we worked on over 1500 projects. All the big ones figure in the pages of those two publications as well as many of the smaller ones.

The printed page is a great tool which can work well against the odds. As an example near to home, only 200 copies of Philip Morant’s major book on Colchester were printed yet some of them still exist despite being over 200 years old and despite the very low print-run.

If you want printed copies of The Colchester Archaeologist, most of the issues can be bought very cheaply at the Roman Circus Visitor Centre. However, you can also download copies of them (and of the Catalogue) for free from here: https://focat.org.uk/the-magazines/ and https://focat.org.uk/the-catalogues/ . Most of these are also published online in the Trust’s online archive at http://cat.essex.ac.uk/all-reports.html .

And this brings me to why online publication is so great. Over half of the world’s population is said  to be using the internet and the online community is growing fast. This means that billions of people could in theory access our content from all round the world at any time of the night or day. Naturally billions won’t want to do so and the numbers that will ever want to will be miniscule but you get the point I’m sure! You could, however, set the ball rolling and register yourself, of course….

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The featured image of an antique clock is published online at https://thegraphicsfairy.com/ and used here with thanks to the Graphics Fairy.

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