On 14 November, six University of Portsmouth academics start a 3-year marine heritage project, ‘UNPATH’, led by Historic England Towards a National Collection, reshaping UK marine heritage.

by Dr Ann Coats

Working with Historic England, UK-wide institutions and Bangor, Bradford, Glasgow School of Art, St Andrew’s, Southampton, Ulster and York universities will enrich civic goals by publicising Portsmouth’s heritage networks. Drs Bailey-Ross, Coats, Inkpen, McBride, Scarlett and Teba met during Professor Choukroune’s 2019 Heritage Hub workshop; this success will advance Heritage Hub activities.

UNPATH will stimulate student collaboration in cutting-edge interdisciplinary projects, such as experimenting with hull scans and VR, and challenge them to work beyond their discipline to transform innovative research for public access.

‘UNPATH: Unpath’d Waters – Marine and Maritime Collections in the UK’ will address digital connectivity to wrecks. Collections are diverse, dispersed, in fragile physical, analogue and digital states and lack shared metadata standards, rendering interoperability and connections impossible. The cost of digitising myriad analogue documents is an obstacle. UNPATH will identify where digital trails end and why.

While people visit displayed wrecks, few can experience submerged wrecks. With experienced archaeologists, People and the Sea will discover how communities connect with collections and co-create shipwreck narratives.

CITiZAN engages community groups in Solent Harbours to survey archaeology and co-create low-tide trails and publish reports. CITiZAN will also work on public engagement with wrecks.

The Maritime Archaeology Trust will engage interactively with the maritime heritage around the Needles. An immersive viewer will combine data, images, videos and 3D modelling to explore interrelated wrecks, navigational hazards, people and stories. Community interaction will be tested through the Discovery bus, the Shipwreck Centre, online through the viewer and through education resources. Students can participate in digital data research, analysis, testing and delivery outputs to different audiences.

The Mary Rose Trust conserves and interprets the Mary Rose ship and artefacts, including archaeological remains on the seabed. It also provides virtual hull tours and a diver’s podcast .Mary Rose life stories will connect present communities with their maritime past. By interpreting the ship and its objects with collaborators, to develop experiences and public engagement tools, MRT will transcend time.

The Nautical Archaeology Society operates a dive trail for Holland 5, ‘the only surviving example of this type of vessel’ undersea. Holland 1 is displayed at the Submarine Museum, Gosport. UNPATH will combine scans of Holland 1 and 5 for VR.

Wessex Archaeology recently recovered a Solent WW2 torpedo bomber, mitigated archaeologically Portsmouth Harbour dredging for the carriers and supported NMRN curating HMS Victory and Alliance. Through public engagement, it will explore Contested Heritage and the Sea to identify and co-create local narratives.

People of the Solent and the Channel created collections through their lives and inland connections. Wrecks disclose their experiences tangibly and intangibly. UNPATH will increase digital accessibility with and for people who are passionate about their marine and maritime collections and people yet to become so.