PSP: What, where, why, who, and how?

What we are doing, and where

The Past Sense Project (PSP) aims to combines archaeological and psychotherapeutic approaches in exploring the significance of material culture (‘things’ – including ‘places’ created and / or used by people) to women* and children in and after situations of Domestic Violence and Abuse (DV), and Sexual Violence (SV), in the Home.

(Please note: PSP is unable to provide support or advise to victims of DV or SV; links to online resources are available at the bottom of this page.)

PSP is a voluntary project based in the East Midlands, UK, though will consider ways to extent participation throughout the UK – and perhaps beyond!

Current PSP research primarily focuses on mid-late 20th century domestic contexts, but the project will also consider the history of violence in the home from the 17th – 21st centuries. We are now in the process of determining appropriate methodologies to be tested through pilot studies, in order to produce a research design that will enable the study material culture in DV refuges in and around Nottingham and Derby.

Why we are developing PSP

Various studies, carried out within a range of academic disciplines, have examined the significance of material culture in and after DV and SV situations, and in the management of trauma. We anticipate that PSP will add to this knowledge by adopting methodologies used in archaeological studies, alongside therapeutic analysis and practice.

This interdisciplinary approach holds the potential to provide different perspectives, and more nuanced understandings, of the role and importance of material culture in these circumstances, as well as be of social benefit to our participants, and inform support agencies and social policies.

PSP may provide opportunities to establish participant networks that potentially evoke a sense of community for survivors of DV and SV. We will also consider ways to support survivors in maintaining and extend skills and knowledge through participation (such as in IT; maths; sciences; humanities: archaeology, history, geography, sociology and psychology; general research and analysis techniques; creative writing;  art, technical drawing and photography), in order to enhance rehabilitation and career development.

Who we are

The project is piloted by Kirsten Jarrett, an archaeologist (BA MA PhD CIfA) specialising in the archaeology of identity, and the study of historical material from the recent past; and Debra Jarrett, an Integrative Psychotherapist (MA UKCP), who specialises in complex post traumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD) and dissociation. We follow the ethical guidelines provided by the professional organisations with and by whom we are respectively affiliated and accredited: the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and UK Council for Psychotherapy.

We met several years ago, through Debra’s work; from our shared surname, we realised that we were related. This fortuitous meeting provoked questions surrounding whether, and if so how, it might be possible to develop therapeutic archaeologies of violence, bearing in mind previous interdisciplinary work between historians and psychotherapists. And as Debra’s particularly interested in inter-generational trauma, our shared ancestry provide opportunities to consider in detail the long-term effects of violence in the home.

PSP is currently an independent project, although we are exploring ways to establish links with external institutions and organisations, before extending the project beyond the pilot stage. We would be interested in hearing from scholars and support workers from a wide range of disciplines (ethnographers, statisticians, geographers, sociologists, psychologists, creative writers, artists, art therapists, historians – social, cultural, art, oral – and archaeologists, or anyone else who feel they might bring something to the project!) who might consider working alongside us voluntarily (project volunteers will be required to undergo full background checks).

How we will carry out research

Data collection and dissemination

Participants will contribute information voluntarily, with informed consent, working collaboratively with the project team. We are aware of the particular need for sensitivity, as well as safety in this research; we abide by legal requirements, and the regulations of host partners (such as refuge organisations). Personal data, such as names and locations, and personal sources (such as stories and photographs), will not be shared in the public domain without permission; contributed historical data will remain anonymous.


We will examine a range of historical sources alongside archaeological data and material culture (buildings, landscapes, artefact, and their origin, collection, discard and distribution – and perhaps even aspects of the human body, such as tattoos!), including written evidence (such as autobiographical texts, diaries, letters, and demographic data), and photographs. We will also explore the creation and incorporation of artistic work and creative writing.


This research will take place in the branches of archaeological studies called ‘Historical Archaeology‘ – the archaeological study of material dating to periods during which written records might be available; and ‘Contemporary Archaeology‘ – the archaeological study of material dating to the recent past. We have begun to consider the suitability of particular methodologies; once methodologies are tested, we will formalise our approaches, and outline them in more detail on this website.

We anticipate that fieldwork will include standing building investigations, surface surveys, and possibly ‘test pit’ excavations, adopting archaeological ethnographic and auto-archaeological approaches. Recording and interpretative methodologies may include narrative and phenomenological analysis; geographical techniques (GIS) will be used to examine and display the inter-relationships of sites in the landscape, considering whether the provisional working categories of ‘Sites of Violence’, ‘Sites of Respite’, ‘Sites of Refuge’, and ‘Sites of Restoration’, may be of use.

Theoretical frameworks will include approaches that have been previously tested, such as those adopted in identity and post-/colonial studies (incorporating Practice Theories to analyse the impact of political and economic change upon the individual, regional, and local). We will also consider the suitability of Forced Migration and Displacement Studies, and Discard Studies.

Particular areas of research to be explored by PSP is Archaeologies of Emotion, Archaeologies of Identity, and Archaeologies of power and resistance (exploring approaches adopted within post-colonial studies). While we will use ‘factual’ descriptions, we recognise that different people find different ‘meanings’ embodied in even the same set of data.  We are therefore interested in the ‘sensations’ evoked by object and place, and how and why this may change over time, affecting memory and identity; and we will explore creative forms of interpretation, dissemination, and expression.


*We acknowledge the high numbers of male and LGBT survivors of DV / SV, and would be interested in exploring the possibilities of collaborating with male and LGBT participants in the future. However, please be aware that at present there are no male or LGBT members on the project team.


PSP and DV / SV support

PSP is unable to provide support or advice to victims of DV or SV; support and advice may be found by clicking on the links below:

NHS Choices ‘Getting help for domestic violence’

This is

Rape Crisis


Victim Support

SV support in Derby and Derbyshire: SV2 Supporting Victims of Sexual Violence

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