Oliver Cooper

In Focus

Olly's Gallery 

Olly taking part in NAAs Munro Challenge in 2007   Researching at the HER; an essential part of preparation for fieldwork  
BBC Radio York live interview on excavations at Scarborough Castle   Is there ever such a thing as a typical day? Oliver Cooper, one of NAA's Project Managers.  


Oliver Cooper

A profile of an NAA Project Manager

Oliver Cooper - or Olly as we know him - is one of NAA's five full time Project Managers. He has been with the company for eleven years, recently promoted from Senior Project Officer, and has particular responsibility, and skill, in the management of linear utilities and energy schemes, as well as a wide range of other fieldwork projects. He tells us a little bit about what drew him into archaeology as a career; what it is like to work in a professional heritage consultancy, and something of what might constitute a 'typical' day.

'My interest in archaeology began when I was a teenager, holidaying on the Isle of Arran in the Clyde Estuary. I was fascinated by the stone circles and chambered tombs, and invested all of my pocket money in 'The Book of Arran', an early 20th-century antiquarian study of the archaeological remains. Since then, a key part of any holiday has been the visits to archaeological sites. However, it was another lifelong interest in geology, which led me initially to qualify as a quarry manager. It was during my spare time in this period of my career that I first discovered the joys of volunteering on archaeological research excavations and wider research projects. This rekindled my old obsession, and after giving up quarrying, I re-trained as a professional field archaeologist. I started my new career as a site assistant on excavations with NAA's field team, and have gradually worked my way back into management where I have found that having that earlier experience in a different industry does give me a broader perspective and helps in providing advice to our clients.

As a Project Manager, I generally have several different projects running simultaneously. These can range in size from a one or two day watching brief to a major development requiring initial assessment, evaluation and excavation followed by a period of specialist consultation and the production of reports. Much of my work to date has been on large linear schemes on behalf of public utility companies such as National Grid and Yorkshire Water.

It is difficult to say what a typical day entails, as over a week it can vary enormously although unfortunately, these days I rarely have the opportunity to get my trowel dirty! Some days are spent in the office managing the co-ordination and implementation of fieldwork projects, dealing with client communications, preparing or editing assessment or excavation reports and helping to manage the post-excavation programmes associated with the schemes for which I have responsibility. Other days are spent out on site either attending progress meetings with the client, county archaeologist or English Heritage, or carrying out regular site monitoring visits to ensure work being undertaken by the NAA field team is being done professionally, safely and to programme. Whilst, occasionally, I might get the opportunity to undertake the background research at county archives and historic environment records as part of the preparation of desk-based assessment reports, it is an inevitable part of becoming a project manager that increasingly I am overseeing other Project Officers doing this under my direction, particularly for smaller, uncomplicated development schemes. I enjoy the work, although like all jobs it can sometimes get stressful particularly when having to meet tight deadlines, or when several fieldwork projects occur simultaneously, leaving us with little advanced warning to sort out budgets, health and safety, staffing, accommodation, plant hire etc. However, we work closely as a team at NAA and with inputs from the Office Manager, Directors and Project Officers we normally manage to get schemes up and running in accordance with clients' needs without too much effect on my naturally receding hairline!.

I like to retain my links with the kind of volunteer organisations which first inspired me to get into archaeology and from time to time take a local archaeology group on fieldwalking or research visits, as well as give illustrated presentations on the results of excavations associated with the various schemes I am responsible for. Similarly, as part of a client's ongoing public relation programme, I am also sometimes required to give interviews to the local press and radio, particularly when something interesting turns up on site!'