Tag Archives: Archival research

Rippin’ Report

Hey guys, for the next couple of weeks I’ll be writing blog posts about a research report for my University degree, but before I go into too much detail I better introduce myself for those who don’t known me. Hi, my name is Nicole Monk and I’m currently undertaking a Directed Studies topic in my Graduate Diploma of Archaeology at Flinders University (this topic gives students the chance to complete research to better prepare themselves for the workforce and to work with industry partners). After looking through a list of potential areas to study, provided by the department, I decided on researching Highbury’s Torrens Linear Park, a location that I had never been to or heard about.

A few days after confirming my choice I received an email providing me with contact details of my industry partner and a template for my research, which would involve an archival study of Highbury’s Torrens Linear Park to determine the significance of the local area and the rockshelters located within the park.

After a few more days I eagerly drove the 40 minutes to meet my industry partner, Lea Crosby, at the Florey Reconciliation Task Force to find out what was expected from the research and to seek out any information that was held in the office. The information that I was given at the office was minimal, as many would know in the archaeological field, information regarding Indigenous people is often limited, and having too much information would have made the study pointless. At the conclusion of the meeting Lea and I organised to go on a tour of the Park so that I could have an understanding of the overall shape and scope of the study, which will be in my next post.

Following this meeting I was rushed out the door because it was a Friday, and let’s face it who doesn’t want to leave early on a Friday?

Tugging at the Heartstrings: ST Yelta, Port Adelaide

By Cassandra Morris

Yelta was built in 1949 by Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Co., Sydney for Ritch and Smith, Port Adelaide. Yelta spent its active life guiding vessels in and out of Port Adelaide, making local headlines on more than one occasion. Originally coal fired, the tug was converted to oil in 1957. After a busy life on the Port River, the tug was retired in 1976, purchased by the Port Adelaide branch of the National Trust of South Australia. Left moored outside the CSR Refinery at the ‘Sugar Wharf’, the vessel was left unattended with little maintenance performed for nearly a decade. Put up for sale again, the South Australian Maritime Museum made a bid for the historic vessel and, in 1985, added the tug to their collection as a floating museum. Volunteers were asked for to help restore Yelta to its former glory. After extensive restoration and refitting, including preparing the vessel to modern safety standards for staff and passengers, Yelta was relaunched. Currently Yelta sails the Port River several times a year, allowing passengers to experience a piece of Port Adelaide’s history, the Port River itself, and life onboard the vessel.

Yelta, thought to be in Cockatoo Docks while being constructed. (Pre 1964)

After 27 years in the SA Maritime Museum’s collection, Yelta still holds many secrets. In an attempt to broaden current knowledge of the vessel, research was recently undertaken to investigate questions often asked and facts confused by newspaper articles and photographs. Aspects of concern were the colour scheme, historical presentation of the vessel, and general life of the tug and its crew. To uncover the truth of these concerns, slipping reports, requisition reports, monthly maintenance reports, museum documentation and log books were consulted, in addition to newspaper articles and photographs. Two interviews held with former crew members were also undertaken, providing a personalised view of the tug and its working life.

Yelta steaming, before deck changes (Pre 1964)

Through this research, a timeline was successfully compiled. From 1948 to 1953 Yelta featured in newspapers across Australia, linked with the movement of many vessels in and around Port Adelaide. Slipping and requisition reports follow, from 1956, providing details on maintenance and changes made to the vessel. These reports also allowed for the correct colour scheme to be implemented with confidence; red below the waterline, black hull above the waterline, green or red decks, and white deck structures. Two major changes to deck construction occurred in the mid-to-late 1960s. Yelta’s wheelhouse was overhauled in 1964, downsizing the cabin and adding starboard and portside entrances. Furthermore, in 1967, the Crew’s Accommodation entrance was changed from a hatch to a deckhouse. These two major changes assisted in the approximate dating of photographs held by the museum. Information about Yelta’s movements are commonly known from 1976 onward. Retiring from service in 1976, the vessel was purchased by the National Trust of South Australia and later the South Australian Maritime Museum in 1985.

Yelta after deck changes. Note changes to the wheelhouse and the addition of a deck house aft. (Post 1967)

This is the results of my internship with the South Australian Maritime Museum. When first entering the position, I was assigned to work on the HMAS Protector research focusing on creating a Flickr group and contacting the public to gather further information. However, this was where my first lesson was learnt: you do what your boss thinks is important. So I was moved to work on confirming information on Yelta; discovering whether the colours it was currently painted were the correct ones, what the general history of the vessel was and conducting interviews with members of its previous crew. While I was not immediately excited about the task at hand, I launched myself head first into all the records kept by SAMM—and Yelta grew on me. Discovering that all the images of Yelta were undated (I later discovered a handful that had dates associated with them) led me to look for something that had changed at some point and that could be seen in the images. This led to many hours of reading and making notes on the tug’s slipping reports. From these reports I was also able to trace the changes in paint colour across the entire vessel for almost its entire working life. However, answering all the questions left me with one last task: interviewing some of the previous crew.

Yelta outside the CSR Refinery. The tug can be seen here painted many colours, occurring after its retirement. (Post 1977)

Conducting interviews was not something I had any experience in beforehand, and with only a vague idea of what I wanted to achieve I set off with a camera in hand. Two previous crew members were available to be interviewed at the time. Both of these I conducted slightly differently. With a short list of prepared questions, I took both interviewees, on different days,  for a tour of Yelta to refresh their memories. The first interviewee I filmed on the vessel, allowing for their memories to be caught with the corresponding background. While this produced a wonderful choice of memories for use in a 5 min clip (the desired end result) the film was fraught with bad lighting and minor sound problems. Conversely, for the second interview, after the tour of Yelta I filmed the clips within the SAMM offices. While this fixed the sound and light issues, there was less material to record without the visual stimuli. Between the two interviewees there was also a difference in personality and their comfort levels while being filmed. This would have been the biggest learning experience I undertook while with the museum, and has made me a fraction more comfortable with directing and filming questions, asking someone “can you repeat that?” endlessly, and realising that not everything planned is going to work.

Yelta as it can be seen today.

My time with SAMM showed me a different side to museums. While I began with an interest in collections management and producing exhibitions, I was given the opportunity to work on the research aspect of these interests. My research may in future lead to a small exhibition on board Yelta, focusing on it history within Port Adelaide and has already led to the development of a poster for the upcoming ASHA/AIMA Conference in September/October of this year. In future I hope I can work further with SAMM and with other museums and collections in Australia.

Photos are courtesy of the SA Maritime Museum.

Photography with Tindale

By Adrian Fenech, Graduate Diploma, Archaeology student

This practicum involves working in the South Australian Museum Science Centre adding new indexed information to the online archives. I am analysing photographic slides taken by the well-known Australian ethnographer Norman Tindale.  Tindale travelled around Australia documenting Aboriginal languages, clan or language group territories and material culture (Tindale 1974: 121 and 164). The indexed information I document will be made available to the public. However, some access limitations exist in relation to the materials listed in the index mostly due to cultural sensitivity provisions.

The 35mm photographic slides were taken by Norman Tindale on his many trips around Australia and elsewhere. The information regarding these slides will be available in the online archives and will include information such as the location and a description of the slide subject. These slides can be useful for research purposes, either general interest or academic because the slides can be linked to one of Tindale’s numerous journals. They can also be of great interest to Indigenous communities who may be the subject of the photographs.

Entering slides into the database

As noted above, not all slides will be available in the archive because some were removed by various Aboriginal representatives due to the fact that they contained sensitive cultural material. A few other slides are still physically in the material archives but have been labelled as restricted. Some indexing information has, however, been allowed on the online archive, at least enough to give a general idea of the slide, for example when and where the photograph was taken.

You can look through the Tindale Archives at:

http://www.samuseum.sa.gov.au/archives/collections

References

Tindale, N.B. 1974, Aboriginal Tribes of Australia. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Blog Post #4

Hey Everyone,

The semester is finally drawing to a close and for my final blog post I just wanted to talk about what I have learned or what I have gained from doing this directed study topic.

First of all is the greater appreciation that I have for historical research and the history of European settlers in Adelaide. Coming into this topic, I must admit that I was not totally interested in historical archaeology and I thought that it would not be as an involving project as it eventually turned out to be. Continue reading

Directed Study- Randell Park

Hey Everyone,

I have been thinking a lot about time lately, and as time goes by I have found that my stress levels regarding my project are rising. Nevertheless, even if my worst fears are realised and I end up crashing and burning, I will limp away with a vital lesson learned. That lesson is that there is a big difference between extensive research and effective research. Furthermore, I have gathered that time, or to put it more correctly, limited time, only magnifies this difference.

To demonstrate this, examine the following equation:

Tp = Tr + Tw

Where Tp is the time allocated for the project, which is equal to the sum of the time for research (Tr) and the time to write it all up (Tw). If Tp is constant, then the values of Tr and Tw are dependant on each other.

I began thinking about this in the first week of the mid-semester break, when I went to the state archives and there spent two days recording all of the tenders that were accepted by one of the past owners of Randell Park, the piece of land where I am conducting my survey. I was pleased with my results, as I had gathered a lot of information.

On the Wednesday of that week, I presented the results to my industry partner, like a cat with a dead mouse. while it was remarked that the information was useful, I was reminded that I only had a limited amount of time for the project, and if I was to conduct all of my research in such a manner, I would simply have no time left to collate it all and produce a coherent piece of work.

With a project of this nature, you have to find a balance so that Tr does not end up equal to Tp.

Thanks. Will Hocking.