My professional background includes some 20 years working as a peripatetic field archaeologist, mostly on rescue projects, which included supervising the excavation and recording of challenging and complex threatened heritage ranging from Hadrian's Wall to Dover's Roman forts, during which I acquired extensive experience and advanced skills in field archaeology. Latterly I have focused on a more academic approach to historical archaeology, obtaining both an MA and PhD. My interwoven commercial career has complemented my archaeological and academic interests by involving research, communication, writing, editing, IT skills, desktop publishing public relations, marketing and photography.
ORCID reference: rcid.org/0000-0001-9566-4915
Skills and experience:
Archaeology: supervision of first-class excavation under challenging rescue conditions. Whole site and feature recording (site plans, feature recording, surveying, finds illustration and photography). The safe and effective leadership and motivation of large teams of volunteers and professionals. A natural communicator, responsibility for public engagement; guided tours, open days, displays, lectures, posters and leaflets.
Writing: communicating lucidly and accurately with all audiences and all print media, specialising in presenting complex technical information in a reader-friendly manner that attracts and retains readers. Successful interaction across continents with stakeholders, colleagues, clients and contacts from the shop floor to CEOs and top civil servants.
Editing: Turning the raw materials of communication into attractive, meaningful end-products. Copy and sub-editing of everything from children’s books to scientific journals.
IT: significant experience of desktop publishing, web site creation, office programs and image manipulation software.
Volunteer management: Having been involved in volunteering since my teens, I am a natural, committed leader, able to enthuse and motivate others to achieve goals safely and effectively.
- PhD student: 2012-2017:
- Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design, (MIRIAD), Manchester School of Art. My research topic was Objects of Delight: An investigation of miniaturisation focusing on nineteenth century mass-produced miniature objects in working class contexts.
- MA Tutor, University of Salford: 2015
- Working one-on-one with two Heritage Studies MA students to mentor completion of their dissertations. Both achieved distinctions.
- MA student 2009-2010:
- Historical Archaeology. Department of Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Leicester.
- Writer/Editor (freelance) 2007-present:
- Director: ConBrio Associates Ltd. I co-own this marketing communications and business management consultancy that doubled its turnover in only three years. Researching and writing complex technical features for lay readerships. Report research and writing. Web copy and access consulting.
- Marketing and Communications Manager: 2004–2006:
- Ergo Computing UK Ltd, Nottingham: Led the UK marketing team in a medium-sized IT manufacturing company. Created new department and team. Managed upgrades of marketing functions, exhibitions, print materials and web site.
- PhD: Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design (MIRIAD) Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University, January 2017.
- MA (Distinction) Historical Archaeology: University of Leicester, August 2010.
- BSc (Hons) ARCS, Zoology (2:2): Imperial College, University of London, July 1970.
Mills, Ralph (2018). 'A chimney-piece in Plumtree-court, Holborn': Plaster of Paris "Images" and Nineteenth Century Working-Class Material Culture. In Paraphernalia! Victorian Objects. Kingstone, Helen and Lister, Kate (Eds). London: Routledge, pp 99-121.
Mills, Ralph (2016). Everyday Magic: Some Mysteries of the Mantelpiece. Public History Review. Vol 23, pp 74-88.
Mills, Ralph (2015). The prosaic platter. In Brown, Steve, Clarke, Annie and Frederick, Ursula (Eds) Object Stories: Artifacts and Archaeologists. Walnut Creek CA: Left Coast Press, pp 139-146.
Mills, Ralph (2015). Material Culture in Miniature: The Historical Archaeology of Nineteenth Century Miniature Objects. In Brooks, Alasdair (Ed) The Importance of British Material Culture to Historical Archaeologies of the Nineteenth Century. Lincoln NA: University of Nebraska Press, pp 243-273.
Mills, Ralph (2014). Why your trash is an archaeologist's treasure. Popanth January 6th.
Mills, Ralph (2010). Miniatures in historical archaeology: Toys, trifles and trinkets re-examined. Master’s thesis, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester.
Italian Image-sellers, Plaster of Paris and Working-class Mantelpieces. The International Conference on the Image, Venice, Italy 2017.
Images of Taste: The nineteenth-century working-class mantelpiece - plaster parrots, Napoleons and Venuses de Milo. The working class at home symposium. London: Geffreye Museum 2017.
Cats, parrots and Napoleons: the global materiality of the nineteenth century working-class mantelpiece. All Things Victorian: Exploring Materiality and the Material Object conference, 2016. Portsmouth: University of Portsmouth.
"Buy My Images! Very Pretty, Very Cheap": Image Matters conference, Manchester School of Art, 2015.
A Little Vertical Archaeology: Strata conference, University of Birmingham 2016.
"Buy My Him-a-ges!" Victorian Border Crossings symposium, University of Wolverhampton, 2016.
Material Memories and Spirit of Place: Art of Cultural Mapping conference, Coimbra, Portugal 2014.
Some Mysteries of the Mantelpiece: Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Conference, Quebec 2014.
Saudade: In Search of Material Memories: Design for Desertification conference, Idaha-a-Nova, Portugal 2013.
Bric-a-brac: Bad Things on the Mantelpiece: Good and Bad Things symposium, Nottingham Trent University, 2013.
Mischief on the Mantelpiece: Performative Mischief symposium, Loughborough University, 2013.
£0.99 Archaeology: Contemporary History and Archaeology in Theory annual conference, York 2012.
Poster: Paraphernalia! Victorian Objects symposium Leeds Trinity University, 2015.
Poster: Manchester Metropolitan University postgraduate conference 2013.
Volunteer activities and interests:
Volunteering: Leader, Waterway Recovery Group Canal Camps; MIRIAD Student Representative, MMU Graduate School; Vice-Chair, MMU Mature Students Society; curatorial volunteer, Nottingham Industrial Museum; other volunteer activities have included chair and secretary of allotment committee, Canadian Cancer charity, Douglas College language mentor etc.
Interests: music (oboe/cor anglais; performance – classical, folk); photography; running; hiking; cycling.
Social media: Twitter: @archaeologyman; LinkedIn.
Last updated 1st February 2018
As a writer and communicator I specialise in feature articles, case studies, company profiles, corporate communications, online content and technical writing. Over the last 40 years I have written for trade magazines, corporate publications and newspapers. I have edited children's books and scientific journals, and created reports, manuals, guides and newsletters as well as marketing and training materials.
My areas of interest include the environment, technology, transport, mining, education, archaeology and industrial history.
IT-literate, I am experienced in Mac-based desktop publishing and image manipulation.
I've been involved with the web pretty well since it began, so I have a good grasp of what an online presence can mean.
Editing and copy enhancement:
Poorly written copy and grammatical errors create confusion, frustration and bad first impressions. They result in loss of reader interest and can communicate the wrong messages. This is as true of a press release as it is of a technical manual. If, as a business or individual, you want your important copy to be read, then it usually benefits from editing by a "critical friend." This can be achieved quickly and with absolute commercial confidentiality.
I also offer a value-added service that I call Shoot on Site. If the commission doesn't demand the work of a Cartier Bresson or a David Bailey, I'll provide a set of imaginative digital photographs illustrating what I write. Shoot on Site avoids having to send a second, often-expensive professional, or having to rely on the sometimes doubtful skills of local sources.