Maritime Archaeology Field School 2014 – Phillip Island, Victoria

Flinders Technical Officer and Dive Coordinator John Naumann dutifully watching over student divers on a shipwreck site.

Flinders Technical Officer and Dive Coordinator John Naumann dutifully watching over student divers on a shipwreck site.

 

This year the Maritime Archaeology Field School run by Flinders University’s Maritime Archaeology Program is held on Phillip Island, Victoria from 2-15 February, 2014. As part of the continuous assessment requirement for the field school, students from around the world and Australia write team blogs about their experiences and research as they near the end of their first week in the field. The students are divided into four teams (red, blue, green and yellow) and each team is responsible for contributing to the data recovery and the recording of the various maritime cultural heritage projects. Projects that students are able to undertake include underwater shipwreck surveys, foreshore surveys, and geophysical surveys. All work is done in cooperation with Heritage Victoria. Besides having daily work plans and data processing, students also attend lectures by industry professionals, local historians and avocational archaeologists on various topics and projects within Victoria. The students in each team have different experiences and involvements during field school and their unique perspectives are captured in their separate blog posts as a way for them to reflect and learn from their experiences as well as practice public archaeology through the dissemination of project details. Over the course of the next few days, each team’s blog post will be published on Flinders Archaeology Blog for public viewing.

Applying Archaeology to Ardtornish Estate

As I have mostly recorded Indigenous sites during my undergrad, recording the interior of an historical site was a bit frightening. Remembering the Historical Archaeology subject from several years ago, and studying up on recording techniques from the Archaeologist‘s Field  Handbook, (Burke and Smith, 2004) the task seemed (slightly) less daunting!

Armed with a measuring tape, camera, photo scale and the handbook, I arrived at the house thinking, ‘what have I got myself into?’ Apprehensive at conducting this recording solo, the homeowner was very easy going and quickly put me at ease. Moving room to room with him and his pet dog, the bottom floor was recorded first.

ardtornish dog

Assistant archaeologist on the ground floor level.

This particular level has barely been touched since it was first built, and was exciting to record. When you first walk in you get a great sense of what it would have been like in the 1840s. Excited to be there, I began measuring (with the owner’s help!) the different features of the room. However, when I began to photograph these elements I saw the dreaded sign that no one wants to see: low battery!

It became clear that to record efficiently would take a bit more practice, although, by the end of recording the bottom floor, it became easier. However, if I was to do it again I would conduct my recording completely differently by recording more methodically, and bringing spare batteries!

The recording highlighted the importance of having the owner’s knowledge, as well as knowing the background to the site before recording it.

Reference

Burke, H. & C. Smith. 2004 The Archaeologist’s Field Handbook. Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin.

The Catalogue: A Must Have in Museum Health

By Sarah-Anne Martin

It could be said that within the body of the museum the catalogue is the heart; the museum lives or dies based on its health. Through my directed study project at the Adelaide Masonic Centre Museum, this concept has become very real to me as I work through the collection of 300 plus Past Masters Jewels assigned to me. The reality of my task is that the work that I do now may set the precedent for future cataloguing projects. This, of course, has encouraged me to do my very best and to perform my cataloguing task with accuracy and in a concise manner that could be followed and replicated. I fear that one day I’ll look back on my work as a much more experienced and seasoned heritage professional, and cringe at what is now the very best I can do. Through all this I cannot help but reflect on the process and how tough it can be, especially for small museums, to meet what might be considered ‘best practice’ in collections management.

Figure 1. The Adelaide Masonic Centre Museum’s new heart: the cataloguing program ‘Collections Mosaic’

The Community Museums Program Handbook (Walsh and James 2008), provided to small museums from History SA, has the following to say about museum collections:

Good museum collections are those that are put together with meaning and purpose, rather than those that are created and allowed to grow in an undirected way (Walsh & James 2008:116).

This statement could be considered the idyllic model for museum collections. It seems straightforward enough: collect with purpose and do not let your collection grow without meaning. Granted, this would be ideal, however, for the small museum, this may not be so easy in reality. This could be for a number of reasons:

  • The lack of a functional cataloguing and accessioning processes.
  • The level of computer literacy required to use cataloguing programs.
  • The fear that not accepting items may alienate visitors or offend donors.
  • The lack of knowledge or understanding about historical significance.

For the small museum these factors are huge considerations because funds are limited, visitors are sporadic and many of the workers are volunteers and therefore may have varying skills and experience.

On top of all this there is also the consideration of time. This is the first of the cataloguing projects in the Masonic Centre Museum and it will hopefully not be the last, but these things take time. While volunteers are obviously dedicated to the museum, you cannot necessarily ask them to give up the mass of hours necessary to successfully catalogue an entire collection. All of these factors must be considered and balanced carefully. From my perspective this is why working on this directed study project at the Adelaide Masonic Centre Museum is so important, because it is the beginning of addressing these issues and establishing ‘best practice’ for the museum. Before long the museum will be in the best shape of its life.

References

Walsh, K. and A. James 2008 Community Museums Program Handbook. Retrieved 10 August 2013 from http://community.history.sa.gov.au/cmp-handbook.

A handful of archival research, a dash of archaeology, and a pinch of stress.

To me, compiling all the information that I’ve gathered is the hardest part. Where do you start? What information do you add in, and what do you leave out? These are questions that we all ask ourselves at some point.

This report was particularly tough to write, as there was little background information that I could incorporate. With information in several secondary sources, and a handful of old newspaper articles, the report strongly relies on the links and contradictions between the sources.

In order to fit into the word limit of my directed study, I had to focus on certain elements. In particular, I felt that it was important to discuss Angus MacLaine in relation to the house. MacLaine was not only the man who built the house in 1843, but he also quickly became a prominent part of the community.  Establishing Ardtornish School through a government grant, and donating a portion of his own land, MacLaine was viewed as a philanthropist. By discussing his standing in the community, the report enables the reader to see how wealthier people lived in the Modbury area in the 1840s.

In addition, the archaeological assessment was interesting in itself with the appearance of copper strips in the walls.

DSCF1111Copper strips (green lines) evident in the walls of the ground floor or the house.

As seen above, the copper strips are quite evident in the walls. When discussing this with the owner, he suggested that it was an old wive’s tales to do with salt damp prevention. It is an interesting discovery that still has me wondering how many, if any, other houses incorporated this into their building design.

Ardtornish, Dry Creek, or Modbury? Locating Ardtornish Estate’s place in history

Ardtornish Estate was established in the 1840s, and the land and the dwelling was the first to be established in what is now the Modbury area. The area was not originally named Modbury, but Ardtornish, and in the following years the area would be referred to as Ardtornish, Modbury, and even Dry Creek. Each name coexisted until the rapid expansion of people in the 20th century, when the name Modbury became prominent.

It became clear when doing the archival research for this Directed Study project that it was not going to be easy to locate the background history of this site. Not only are there limited sources, but the information from State Records, libraries and relevant websites focus predominantly on Angus and Gillian MacLaine, the first Europeans to buy the land under England’s colony expansion.  Having different names for the  general area also made my task a lot longer, and more tedious than anticipated. However, I did learn one thing: always double check if the name of the suburb has changed over time!

triiiiiissssssssss

   Angus MacLaine, courtesy of Ardtornish Primary school. Date unknown.

40,000 years ago, Archaeology says nothing happened at this site.

Reading these other blogs I wish I had some great pictures to show you, or even report that I got some sand between my toes. But alas, my directed studies topic “Archaeology and the development boom: an analysis of professional ethics and standards in Australian archaeology’’ involved less adventurous, but I hope as revealing, telephone interviews.

So interviews done, surprises aplenty, but perhaps some only from my inexperienced point of view. It seems, despite a very small sample (two one-hour interviews with CHM practitioners) that Dr Mick Morrison’s belief that a research project awaits, is well founded.

One surprise would seem to translate across the field of archaeology, even to my untrained ear. CHM has potentially discovered Indigenous artefacts with a date of 40,000 BP, yet the results may never be subjected to academic study or even recording. That would seem to pose a significant problem.

The details: So the entirety of my question to the second anonymous subject, based on criticism in the literature, was: “How often during survey work have you recommended the need for follow up specialist academic investigations (e.g. excavation, dating, detailed lab work, conservation work) and have you encountered resistance to such work from the client: very often, sometimes, rarely, or not at all.”

The answer included (with potentially identifying comments marked with an x):

“I will give you one really good example. We just did some investigations just xxx near xxx and I have some basal dates associated with artefacts at 40,000 years. They only have a TL date and I don’t want to publish it and I don’t want to tell anyone about it because I can’t say positively that I’m happy that the association of the artefact with the age is the real one. Now I can’t get the proponent X … X to actually fork out to do more research. It desperately needs it but I just can’t get him to respond. It is probably one of the most important sites in terms of age in Australia it has got to be the oldest site on the XXXX.

Unless someone has some political will this is going to go on and on and on. And this guy is notorious for taking people to court so we really have to watch what we do. The answer would be in terms of specific research it is rare.”

For now I’ll leave it to far more experienced minds to judge the potential significance.

Miles Kemp

Digital Imaging using “Windows live Photo Gallery’ and ‘Image Concept’ for Rock Art in the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges

In this final blog I would like to share some of the photographic techniques that I found useful in digitally enhancing faint rock art motifs. These can be done on a desktop computer with available software.
The study involved illustration and photography of rock art motifs using colour negative film, digital photography and computer enhancement of faint images. Digital images were enhanced more effectively than colour print images by altering: brightness; contrast; colour balance and saturation. Many of the faint motifs recorded were further enhanced using software to reveal deeper red ochres and outlining that was not visible to the unaided eye.
This is illustrated in the central anthropomorphic ‘reptile-like’ figures at Pym’s Road shelter (see Figures 1, 2). Other faint images in a granite shelter near Palmer show connected anthropomorphic figures that also responded well to this technique (see Figures 3, 4). The digital photo imagery show features in natural daylight and computer colour enhancement of the same motifs. This method can also be used on scratched figures that overlie paintings to show the contrast between the two and the rock patina.
The steps to achieve this on Windows 7 are: Open a daylight digital photograph (preferable taken on an overcast day) in ‘Windows Live Photo Gallery’; adjust exposure (top tool bar on right hand side); click on ‘adjust colour’, displayed will be: Colour Temperature, Tint and Colour Saturation. Hold the mouse over the horizontal adjustment bar and manually drag to the right or left. I usually drag the colour temperature to the right a little, and then the saturation bar almost all the way to the right. You can edit the controls to give a brighter or dimmer view. Then make a copy to save in a safe location.
The comparison between the unaltered and enhanced image will give you a greater depth of ochre colours. The background surface will appear green to blue which contrasts the orange-red motifs at the other end of the colour spectrum.
Another method is to use image enhancing software that can be downloaded for a free trial, such as “Imaging Concept.” This software was developed at Charles Sturt University for medical imaging. It is possible to enhance imagery of Aboriginal rock art with this program by manipulating colour histograms via a look up table (i.e. numbers of pixels in specific colours) it makes it easier for the unaided eye to observe (Faith Coleman pers.comm. 2013).

Figure 1

Figure 1. Faint red ochre figures photographed in daylight at Pym’s Road Shelter.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Same image as above but edited with Windows Live Photo Gallery.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Faint red ochre motifs photographed in daylight in a shelter at Palmer.

Figure 4

Figure 4. Same image as above but edited with Windows Live Photo Gallery.