Author Archives: nicho1987

My Contribution to Indexing the Tindale Collection at the South Australian Museum Archives

Blog Post 4

Jonathan Nicholls

In the 80 hours that I have spent working at the South Australian Museum Archives I have entered a total of 996 35mm colour slides from the Tindale collection into the museum’s database. The slides came from four different albums.The following albums have now been entered into the database:

  1. Series AA338/43 – Australian Anthropology – Slides Volume 16
  2. Series AA338/44 – Australian Anthropology – Slides Volume 17
  3. Series AA338/45 – Australian Anthropology – Slides Volume 18

In addition to this 75 slides from Series AA338/46 Australian Anthropology – Slides Volume 18 have been entered into the database.

Series AA338/43 and Series AA338/44 have been uploaded to the South Australian Museum’s official website, and can be viewed by clicking on the following links:

During the practicum I gained an idea of what is and what is not of a sensitive nature to Aboriginal peoples. Things such as ceremonies, certain items used in ceremonies, arranged stones, paintings, and human remains can all be of a sensitive nature, and therefore required restricted access or viewing. Certain items, such as bull-roarers, seem to only be of a sensitive nature if they are being used in a ceremony. Another example is that of a stone knife used in circumcisions – this did not need to be restricted as it had not been used.

The practicum also reinforced the importance of keeping accurate and detailed records throughout the project. By keeping a logbook, which was not dissimilar to an archaeological field book, I was able to double check slides which caused issues when they were being entered into the museum’s database. One of the most common issues I encountered was where part of the writing on the slides was illegible, which I had to double check later on.

Placement to Paid Employment!

Blog Post 3

Jonathan Nicholls

The time I have spent working with the South Australian Museum Archives has given me the opportunity to place my studies into a broader context. It has allowed me to apply the skills that I have acquired during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies. The placement has also given me the opportunity to gain additional theoretical and practical skills, as well as an appreciation of the roles, values, responsibilities, priorities, judgement and work methods of the industry placement provider.

The placement has also led to an offer of paid work. In particular, the South Australian Museum Archives has offered me the chance to do more database entry work as a part-time worker. As a student about to complete my studies, this offer is too good to refuse! This work also shows the value of practical work placements as part of a student’s studies.

“This item is restricted” – Or how to deal with sensitive slides in the Tindale Collection

Blog Post 2

Jonathan Nicholls

There are slides in the Tindale Collection which have restricted access due to what is shown in the slides. Hypothetical examples would include slides which show secret men’s sites, secret women’s sites, and rituals being conducted. There are, of course, many other types of activities and locations which would be sensitive and therefore restricted in terms of access, but the aforementioned examples suffice for now.

While these slides are restricted, it is important that the appropriate Aboriginal people have access to them. As such, a minimum amount of information is given for restricted slides.

For example, rather than listing the title of the slides as Tindale himself labelled them, the restricted slides are labelled “This item is restricted”. Any academic journal referenced on the slides is included in the database entry for the slide as per usual, as is the date, and the relevant Aboriginal Tribe (to use Tindale’s terminology). All other information which would normally be entered is omitted.

“This item is restricted” is not the only title a sensitive slide may be given. A slide may be titled “senior men only” if it is deemed to be a more appropriate course of action. It all depends on exactly what is depicted. Norman Tindale did a very good job of labelling the slides; as such it is not necessary to actually look at the picture to see what it shows. Simply reading the information on the slide is enough.

Industry placement with the SA Museum Archives

Blog Post 1

Jonathan Nicholls

The South Australian Museum Archives contains records relating to the State’s cultural and natural heritage, collected from a variety of scientists, collection managers, directors and curators since 1856. One of the major collections in the Museum Archives is the collection of legendary archaeologist and anthropologist, Norman Barnett Tindale. It comprises the collated empirical data collected from numerous expeditions which culminated in the 1974 map and accompanying catalogue ‘Aboriginal tribes of Australia, their terrain, environmental controls, distribution, limits and proper names’. Tindale determined that the Aborigines of Australia were not wanderers without territories, but had ‘Tribal Boundaries’ a concept which was first introduced to Tindale by Maroadunei, a Ngandi songmaker from Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, on his first expedition to Groote Eylandt in 1921-22.

While there is a wealth of information in the Tindale Collection for archaeologists, ethnographers, and Aboriginal peoples, the archives are difficult to access, and generally not open to the general public. To remedy this situation, the staff at the South Australian Museum Archives and a number of volunteers are working to digitise the Tindale collection, with the intention of having the collection hosted on the Museums official website when it is completed.

I will be working on an album of 35mm colour slides (Series AA338/43 – Australian Anthropology – Slides Volume 16) and will be entering the slides into a database, along with any information which is written on the slides. This will form the basis for what will be eventually uploaded to the Museum’s official website.


South Australian Museum 2012a South Australian Museum Archives. Retrieved 20 May 2012 from

South Australian Museum 2012b Tindale, Dr Norman Barnett (AA 338). Retrieved 20 May 2012 from

Tindale, N.B. 1974 Aboriginal tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits, and Proper Names. Berkeley: University of California Press