Coasts in Mind update: exploring archives

08/12/2023   |   Rebecca Tyson

Coasts in Mind is a people-powered project, growing out of the success of CITiZAN (the Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network). Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Coasts in Mind empowers members of the public to act on climate and coastal change.

During the development phase of the project, the Coasts in Mind team has been out and about exploring our changing shorelines with coastal communities across England. Back in June, we found them in East Kent, joining Timescapes Kent for memory walks around Tankerton Bay, and working with local artist Elspeth Penfold to develop specially designed creative sessions for East Kent Mencap and Lyndhurst Care Home. Project Manager Rebecca Tyson tells us what they’ve been up to since!

Exploring Archives

Coasts in Mind is a  really exciting project because we’re able to offer specially developed events that allow the whole community to get involved in archaeology and heritage, especially those whose voices are not often heard. Our archival workshops have provided opportunities for young people to highlight themes around coastal change that are important to them and their community, learn more about their local coastal heritage, and gain transferable skills.

In July we made our way to North Devon, where we met up with a group of local young people aged 16-25 for the first of our guided coastal walks. Even the heavy rain hadn’t put our participants off, and together we braved the elements for a bracing walk, showing them how to spot key features of the foreshore. Stories were shared of ships wrecked and run aground, the remains of their hulls still peeking out of the sand after more than 200 years.

With our imaginations fired up, we made our way indoors for the first of our training workshops. We explored the archives of North Devon Maritime Museum in Appledore, and the Bideford and District Community Archive. This was a great opportunity for participants to learn new skills, with an introduction to archival research, document types, and palaeography from the archive teams, before we were let loose to explore the records!

Exploring the Bideford and District Community Archive
Exploring the Bideford and District Community Archive

As well as equipping our participants with archival research skills, we were able to share how these records can be used to track coastal change across time. Creating a digital mapping platform for exploring coastal change is one of the key aims of Coasts in Mind, and this session marked an exciting start to our data collection for the Taw-Torridge Estuary.

"Lovely day, I learnt so much about the shipwrecks and the history of the village." - workshop participant


Diving into the RNLI archives
Diving into the RNLI archives

Our next workshop took place in October, at the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) Archive Library in Poole, Dorset. Here we poured over their wealth of records from their 200-year history with a group of local young people. We were all especially excited to spot records relating to the Titanic in their collections!

As well as getting up close with the RNLI records, the Lloyds Foundation team came along to introduce their digital archive. This includes the Lloyds Register of Ships, which dates back to 1764, and a treasure trove of other maritime records. Having records like this available online means that our participants can continue to develop their archive and research skills at home.


Luca Rapisarda from Lloyd’s Register Foundation introduces the digital archive
Luca Rapisarda from Lloyd’s Register Foundation introduces the digital archive


Here are some of the day’s activities that the group particularly enjoyed!


 “Looking at old blueprints and records to interpret information”

 “Learning about the rescues and weather conditions, and looking at old maps and photos”

 “How we were able to access different information about our local area” 


One of the best parts of the day for the team was getting feedback from the participants. As well as helping us shape future events, it showed that the number of participants who felt they had useful local knowledge had almost doubled, from 43% to 71%!

This is a really positive outcome, both for the young people who feel empowered to share their own experiences and understandings of coastal change, and for the Coasts in Mind project. In a future phase of the project, subject to successful further funding, we hope they will contribute to our Community Archive, using their local knowledge to inform policy and build resilience to combat the effects of future coastal change.

Rebecca Tyson, Project Manager (Coasts in Mind)


We would like to thank the National Lottery Heritage Fund for funding the Development Phase of the Coasts in Mind Project. We would also like to thank the North Devon Maritime Museum, Bideford and District Community Archives, the RNLI, and the Lloyds Foundation for welcoming us into their archives and so generously sharing their expertise.