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Following a dig in Cambourne, Cambridgeshire, Oxford Archaeology East (OAE) wanted an interactive map to share their findings

Based in Cambridge, OAE operates primarily across the East of England from the Thames to the Humber. Most archaeological work is carried out in advance of the development. Oxford Archaeology is one of the leading service-providers in this field, with thousands of clients who recognise them as experts in excavation and heritage management. They cover all aspects of the historic environment, providing everything from archaeological excavations and survey, landscape and buildings studies, complex geospatial data management, to heritage consultancy services.

Moving from print to digital

OAE share the results of fieldwork as widely as possible. This has traditionally been through printed media but is increasingly through digital means. Studio 24 were asked to create an interactive map that would give OAE a user friendly, accessible way to share their findings both with the Cambourne community and beyond.

The goals were to:

  • Present findings in a digital format so they are accessible to a wider audience
  • Use an interactive map so the points of interest will resonate with communities in which OAE have been working
  • Make the site engaging and easy to use so it can be enjoyed by members of the public and schools as well as archaeologists and academics
  • Engage with the Cambourne community so they can discover and enjoy their archaeological heritage.

We approached Studio 24 as a local company with experience of bespoke map design for archaeological contractors. They immediately understood our brief to make a clear, fast and scalable map of archaeological finds aimed at the residents of Cambourne. They were always helpful, creative and professional in helping us to achieve this. It has been a pleasure to work with a team as excited as we were about the potential of this tool.

Clemency Cooper, Community Archaeology Manager, Oxford Archaeology

Building the map

Studio 24 have a strong track record in map work. HS2 said we are ‘the best in the business for dealing with maps and related geo spatial user experiences.’ OAE had seen our HS2 ‘Near You’ map, and then approached us with a proposal for a stand alone website that was entirely map-based.

Studio 24 created a custom map to meet the client’s specific requirements. We used Leaflet and Mapbox to create a beautiful front end and the sophisticated back end admin area was powered by Laravel.

We always put accessibility and user experience at the heart of our work and design for mobile first. This was important as OAE wanted the Cambourne Community to be able to access the map whilst visiting the various points of interest.

When the user enters the site they see a 2D map which has been designed to resemble familiar map experiences, so the user can feel comfortable and confident with the functionality.

OAE had carefully compiled all the data from the dig including what was unearthed and where was it found (the geo location). Using this data we were able to develop the following key features:

  • Search for points of interest by area (e.g. postcode or street), type (e.g. ceramic, bone) or time period (e.g. Victorian)
  • The map is localised to Cambourne so users can’t lose the focus of the dig and search outside of the map
  • Toggle between 2D map and satellite views
  • Present information about points of interest as photographs and/or sketches, and text
  • Zoom functionality for when points of interest are in clusters
  • Layers for different time periods so the user can, for example, look at all points of interest and boundaries from the Victorian era.

We created a custom backend where OAE can add new data from the Cambourne dig or transfer the same technology to a completely new site. Although the backend is bespoke for OAE, we designed it with care so that it has the same look and logic of a regular CMS to give the client confidence in using it.

Studio 24 has a passion for GIS and maps. We are proud of our nerdy credentials in this area. We are especially pleased with our work for OAE. The site has a clean design with lots of powerful features – including a bespoke admin system that gives the client flexibility to use the technology for digs at other sites.

Matt Buckland
Matt Buckland, Studio 24