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Kate Giles (BA, MA, PhD, York) is a buildings archaeologist with a specialism in the recording, archival research and theoretical interpretation of historic buildings. She is particularly interested in the relationship between people, places and possessions and in the archaeology of pre-modern 'public' buildings, such as guildhalls.
Kate trained as an historian and art historian and had a brief spell as an archivist at the Borthwick Institute for Archives, before discovering buildings archaeology at the University of York, where she did her MA and PhD. Since 2000, she has been the York Minster Archaeology Research fellow, and since 2002, a full time member of staff in the Department at York. As Director of the MA in Archaeology of Buildings, she is passionate about the potential of buildings archaeology and buildings history to enhance understanding of the significance of historic buildings, and to inform their management, interpretation and display to the wider public. This approach is evident in her own research, and that of her research students who work on a wide range of historic building types and research issues. She is always interested in hearing from potential students or collaborators about future projects or ideas.
My PhD and subsequent research has focused on the archaeology of 'public' buildings in pre-modern England. These are principally the guildhalls constructed by religious fraternities and craft mysteries in the provincial towns and villages of late medieval England. My research adopts an interdisicplinary approach, combining archaeological survey and dendrochronological analysis with archival research, and setting these within a theoretical context to explore the changing meanings and experience of these buildings over time. This has led to a series of systematic survey projects in York, Boston (Lincs) and Stratford-upon-Avon (Warwickshire).
More broadly, my research is concerned with the relationships between people, places and things, exploring how buildings are used to structure social identity and status, and more recently, how the decoration, fittings and fixtures of buildings were also deployed to structure meaning within buildings. This has led to a number of projects which seek to reconstruct the appearance and experience of buildings over time through virtual reality modelling, and the construction of 'building biographies', and to collaborative research, such as the CDA project with the Centre for Medieval Studies, described below.
I believe strongly in the potential for academic research to add value to commercial and public archaeology. I work closely with colleagues at York Minster stoneyard and Vistor Department, and with commercial units such as Field Archaeology Specialists Ltd. (York), on research council, EH and HLF-funded projects to disseminate research findings in an accessible and engaging manner, through a variety of media platforms.
Collaborative research with Field Archaeology Specialists Ltd (York) involved the extensive archaeological survey and historical interpretation of St. Mary's Guildhall (Boston), in advance of the redevelopment of the building as the town's municipal museum. £1 million funding was provided by a consortium of Boston Borough Council, The Heritage Lottery Fund, East Midlands Development Agency, Lincolnshire Enterprise, Lincolnshire County Council and Museumaker. Our survey work shed important new light on one of this internationally significant religious guild, and on one of the most important provincial guildhalls of late medieval England and St. Mary’s guild, an was an internationally-significant religious fraternity. The project pioneered heritage-science initiatives, combining dendrochronological dating by Robert Howard (Nottingham) with thermoluminescence by Ian Bailiff (Durham) pushing the construction date back to c.1390 and making Boston one of the earliest securely-dated brick buildings in Lincolnshire. Analysis of the building and surviving inventories informed the interpretation and presentation of the building to the public thorugh the use of VR technology. The Museum was subsequently voted
Another collaborative project with Field Archaeology Specialists Ltd (York) has provided a detailed archaeological survey and buildings history report for King Edward VI Grammar School, Stratford-Upon-Avon (Warwickshire), to inform an HLF bid designed to enhance the understanding of, and facilitate wider public access to Stratford's important complex of medieval guild buildings. The survey has revealed important new information about the date of the Guildhall and adjoining Council Chamber (c.1427), Pedagogue's House (1502-3) and Guild Chapel (c.1496). Once again, heritage-science is being used to inform and enhance this understanding, including dendrochronological dating by Robert Howard (Nottingham) and the development of 3d computer-generated models with Geoff Arnott of Heritage Technology Ltd. Current research is focusing on the Guild Chapel and the adjacent almshouses, which may preserve the remains of one of the oldest surviving schoolhouses in the country, and in PhD research by Ollie Jones, examining the use of the guildhall by the travelling company of players, the Queen's Men, in the late 16th century. The results of this research will be presented to the International Shakespeare Symposium in Stratford in August 2010. Research outputs from this project include a monograph, 'The Guild Buildings of Shakespeare's Stratford', to be published by Ashgate in 2011 and an article on the guild chapel in Internet Archaeology.
I am part of a collaborative project, led by Dr Sarah Rees Jones, of the University's Centre for Medieval Studies and Dr Ailsa Mainman, of York Archaeological Trust, to explore the use of domestic material culture in the city of York through a series of 3 collaborative doctoral projects. I am supervising the work of PhD student Gareth Dean working on a project entitled 'Neighbourhood Assemblages'. This seeks to use GIS as a resarch tool to bring together the archaeological evidence of buildings and artefacts excavted by YAT in the areas of Swinegate and Petergate, in York, with historic data derived from maps and property deeds, in order to understand the changing character of these neighbourhoods over time. The project is funded by the AHRC, and the preliminary results of Gareth's research were presented at Leeds International Medieval Congress, July 2010.
As York minster Archaeology Fellow I have been involved in several projects designed to inform understanding and conservation strategies in this internationally-significant cathedral. Past projects include work on the Chapter House Vestibule (2006) and the reorganisation and assessment of the Minster's archaeological archive. Current projects include the ten-year programme designed to conserve and enhance understanding of the significance of the East Front (funded by the Dean and Chapter and the HLF). AHRC funding has been secured for a PhD on the repair history, archaeology and stone conservation of the East Front, by Alex Holton, which is nearing completion (2010). With Dr Karen Wilson (Chemistry, Cardiff), Giles is also supporting an EPSRC Science and Heritage project on the analysis of weathering, historic mortars and coatings of York Minster's East End. These projects have already informed York Minster's Conservation Plan and will feed into a range of research and public outputs from 2011 onwards.
In the Yorkshire Wolds, I am currently working with Dr Melanie Hind of the University of Manchester to record farm graffiti found in the High Wolds Farms of the Birdsall Estate. This graffiti provides an important record of the period of agricultural revolution, mechanization and social change, for which important oral histories survive. The results of this research have recently been published. The project also led to collaboration with York colleague Dr Jon Finch on an SPMA conference on Estate Landscapes, published in 2007.
Co-ordinator, Historical Archaeology Research Group
Co-ordinator Buildings and Conservation Research Group
I am interested in hearing from potential Phd students working on a wide range of historic building types and resarch issues, particularly late medieval-early modern buildings and the impact of buildings archaeology on conservation practice and public understanding of the past.
I am currently supervising students working on the following topics: