The Future Of The Past

Project: MicroPasts

A new site is attempting to put the enthusiasm and knowledge of amateur archeologists and historians to work on current archeological projects, with the help and guidance of professional academics.

MicroPasts, a joint project of University College London, the British Museum, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, is a new hybrid site combining citizen science and crowdfunding under one umbrella.

“MicroPasts is a web platform that brings together full-time academic researchers, volunteer archaeological and historical societies and other interested members of the public to collaborate on new kinds of research about archaeology, history and heritage,” according to the site’s coordinators, including Chiara Bonacchi, Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, Andrew Bevan, and Daniel Pett. “In particular, we want to improve how people traditionally distinguished as ‘academics,’ ‘professionals,’ and ‘volunteers’ cooperate with one another (as well as with other people out there who as yet have no more than a passing interest).”

Current citizen science projects include “photo masking,” or outlining images of artifacts for the purposes of 3D modelling and printing, and helping to transcribe the contents of a very large card catalog of British prehistoric metal artifacts discovered in the 19th and 20th century. Work on the latter project would help to digitize the largest national database of prehistoric metal finds in the world. The records will be publicly available at the Portable Antiquities Scheme website at

On the crowdfunding side, there are currently four projects available to which you can contribute, all with very modest goals: the most expensive project only requires a total of $2600 USD. One project seeks to understand life at a medieval abbey in Chiltern Hills, while another seeks to better understand the tidal Thames river.

More projects are forthcoming, and the site will accept new project proposals from any individual so long as they involve at least one professional and one member of the general public. The site isn’t restricted to projects in the UK either – you can list projects that take place anywhere in the world.

To participate, you can sign up at For more information, check out the About page and the FAQ. There’s also an in-depth explainer at this page.

Chandra Clarke is a Webby Honoree-winning blogger, a successful entrepreneur, and an author. Her book Be the Change: Saving the World with Citizen Science is available at Amazon. You can connect with her on Twitter @chandraclarke.