Crowdfunding the past: is this the future of archaeology?

DigVentures crowdfunding

Crowdfunding the past: is this the future of archaeology?

DigVentures launches new archaeology crowdfunding platform

The rise of crowdfunding in the United Kingdom has taken another step forward as UK-based DigVentures launches the world’s first archaeology crowdfunding platform.

DigVentures was started in 2012 as a response to the dwindling of traditional sources of funding for archaeology. The organisation’s ‘social contract archaeology’ model is a whole new way of funding archaeology, which puts the public in the driver’s seat as both the funders, as well as the participants in excavations.

Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular way of funding projects through multiple, often small, ‘grass roots’ investments, helping to finance innovative projects from widgets to movies, music, public spaces and even medical care. This alternative funding model appears to be here to stay, with estimates predicting it to be a $6bn worldwide industry in 2013.

Crowdfunding has historically been associated with generalist platforms like Kickstarter and Indie-go-go. However, now, for the first time, archaeologists have access to a crowdfunding platform specifically designed to meet not only their funding needs, but also provide consultancy on how to build and sustain a successful crowdfunding campaign.

According to Lisa Westcott Wilkins, DigVentures Managing Director, ”Crowdfunding is a perfect solution for archaeological projects that need funding, but that are also committed to sustainability. Raising funds through our platform isn’t just a quick fix – it will put projects directly in touch with an international community of interested consumers.’

And it isn’t just about the money. A crowdfunding platform aimed specifically at archaeology and heritage makes sense, because, as Westcott Wilkins says ‘Kickstarter and the other big sites operate on volume. With so many products on the big sites site vying for attention, it can be difficult to break through and get the profile your project deserves.

“We think that offering a niche service is absolutely the best way forward – after all, we understand the product, we have years of experience doing it ourselves, plus the necessary strategic expertise to help projects build and market themselves better, with a focus on sustainability.

‘We have discovered through our own successful work that crowdfunding and crowdsourcing are extremely powerful, and empowering, community-building and engagement tools – which is just as important to what we do as the funding.’

DigVentures ran the world’s first-ever successfully crowdfunded and crowdsourced archaeological dig in 2012 on the Bronze Age site of Flag Fen, near Peterborough in the UK. This innovative project raised over £27,000 in just three months, involved over 250 people from 11 different countries as both digital and excavation participants. And the team is doing it again, with the first project on their new platform, ‘Saints & Secrets: the Lost History of Leiston Abbey’ already over 50 per cent funded just two weeks after launching.

Raksha Dave, Field School Manager at Dig Ventures and former Time Team archaeologist, adds ‘We hear from people every day, from all over the world, who want to have a go at digging on an archaeological site, or just being a part of fantastic research. Our platform will help them find projects that need support, and also need diggers, researchers, and all sorts of other help.’

Archaeology in the UK faces a harsh financial reality, with budget cuts biting deeper and local authority budgets increasingly constricted, commercial archaeology tied to a sluggish construction market and universities adjusting to decreasing applications and cuts to research funding. Says Westcott Wilkins, ‘Crowdfunding isn’t the only answer, it isn’t right for every project and it certainly can’t stand alone. But it can be part of a set of creative solutions, and DigVentures wants to work alongside organisations like the HLF who are committed to promoting greater sustainability and visibility in archaeology and heritage. We’re in this for the long haul.’

  • The DigVentures crowdfunding platform is a benefits-based, ‘keep it all’ model, which means that upon completion of a campaign, project creators will receive all of the money that has been raised, even if they have not reached their goal. It’s free to apply, and project backers are not charged. DV charges project creators 4% of the amount raised when projects reach their funding target.
  • The platform is open and ready to accept applications from all types of archaeology and heritage projects. More information about criteria and how to apply is available here.

Love archaeology?

DigVentures crowdfunds archaeological projects that everyone can be part of, in the UK and overseas. With help from people all over the world, we investigate the past and publish our discoveries online for free. Become a DigVentures Subscriber and be part of great archaeology - all year round!

Lisa Westcott Wilkins

Written by Lisa Westcott Wilkins

Co-founder and Managing Director of DigVentures, Lisa makes sure the boxes are ticked, the diggers run on time, and that everyone has a *really* good time along the way. She is responsible for the Americanisms, ridiculously strong site coffee and early morning DV dance parties.

Read more from Lisa Westcott Wilkins +

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