by Gwynneth Pohl, student
Like many people hitting their 30s, I have long had a desire to find not just a ‘job’, but a career, something I would enjoy participating in, whilst at the same time giving back to the community. Also, like many people, I was fascinated by pirates as a child. Not just pirates, but anything underwater, particularly if it was related to archaeology – the myth of Atlantis, sunken cities, tragic tales of shipwrecks, and adventurous stories of discovery. Unlike most other people, however, this fascination has continued on into my adulthood, and affected the direction my tertiary studies have taken. I began my university career with Egyptian archaeology, but not being satisfied with that, tried my hand at what is termed ‘Public History’, which essentially teaches how to present history to the public (perhaps a better term would be ‘Historical Public Relations’). I found I was not diplomatic enough for such a career, and it was suggested to me that perhaps maritime archaeology would suit my interests better. I believe that person was right. Through my studies in the Master of Maritime Archaeology at Flinders University, South Australia, I have discovered that my fascination lies in the artefacts themselves; more specifically, in the conservation of these artefacts.
A couple of weeks ago I presented on this topic at Alice’s presentation afternoon. I pretty much stuck to what my methods had been as opposed to my results. Anyway, this semester is finishing and this is my last blog post for this topic.
My report was written with a focus on previous archaeological, anthropological and environmental studies in relation to the ten different locations of the SANTs Collection. Unfortunately there seems to be a dearth of such prior work within South Australia related to these locations. This is the case particularly in terms of environmental studies and to a lesser extent anthropologically.
South Australia seems to have a progressive repatriation system in place where a small collection such as this SANT Collections can be researched for the purpose of repatriation. Such research can be long and complicated (especially for larger collections) but it is only the first step in the repatriation process.
With the information identified within this report, particularly that of the Indigenous communities identified and repatriation options identified, communication should definitively be initiated with the Antakirinja, Kokatha, Andyamathanha and Bunganditj peoples. It is more difficult for the artefacts sourced from the South Australian Desert and Coongie Lakes, but perhaps communication should be organised with the Coongie Lakes Visitor Centre and/or the Wadlata Outback Interpretative Centre for these locations.
Hi guys. My directed study on this SANTS Collection has been focused quite a lot on repatriation and what options might be possible. To look into this I’ve done a bit of research into the situation of cultural material repatriation in Australia broadly and more specifically at South Australia. This is opposed to the repatriation of human remains which seems to have considerably more literature and attention. I have found Rachel Lenehan’s 1995 thesis on this topic of cultural material repatriation to be very helpful and interesting. I have considered an updated version (taking in the last 15 years) to be a possible thesis opportunity for myself.
I have included a short history on archaeology in Australia and its connection with indigenous communities and the paradigm shift towards community participation and a respect for other people’s cultural property. This history includes issues that have been raised for and against repatriation. As for the SANTS Collection, there are a few options available.
In my background research on cultural material repatriation I have looked at certain institutions and how they have behaved over time in particular repatriation instances. In particular I have looked at the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council (TALC) versus La Trobe, The Australian Museum and the South Australian Museum.
As you may remember my directed studies project is an assessment of the preservation and significance of the artefact collection PHR02. The most difficult part of this project has been developing a criteria in which to assess the preservation of the artefacts and the significance of the collection. Something I had to keep in mind while developing this criteria was the fact that the rest of the collection has been deaccessioned. With this in mind I felt conflicted, how can one assess the significance of a collection when the majority of it has been deaccessioned for some time? Is there any point in assessing this part of the collection without its context? I have decided to press on, judging solely on the preservation of the artefacts. The majority of the artefacts are iron materials, from the local blacksmith’s quarters, they were not originally assessed and included in the 2003 study because they are standard materials that are available to anyone and do not display ethnic characteristics.
So now I have to develop criteria to evaluate the preservation of these materials, where to start??!! Schiffer and Gumerman (1977) suggest that firstly, one must specify the type of significance they are dealing with: scientific, historical, ethnic, public, monetary or legal. Then the fit between the criteria and the resources must be evaluated. The overall judgement will be based on a weighting of the types of significance that have been considered. According to the definitions provided in Schiffer and Gumerman (1977) this collection is of scientific significance. With this in mind, I have to assess the preservation of the artefacts and its potential for future research. So to do this I am devising a checklist criteria which I will use to measure the preservation of each individual artefact in my collection. This criteria will rate the level of corrosion, form, function, etc. My checklist needs to be refined, my initial checklist was I think inadequate, so I am in the process of revising it, hopefully the new edition will give me a better understanding of the current state of preservation of these artefacts, and help me determine whether they are significant enough to keep at Flinders.
As part of my directed study, I will be working with the Flinders University Archaeology Department to examine the historic artefact collection PHR02, which has been kept in the archaeology lab for the past eight years.
For the past few years this collection has been regarded a complete mystery. No documents accompanied the box of artefacts and there was no information available in recent archaeology department records. Staff members could not remember what PHR02 meant, where it was from or who excavated the site. My task is to discover where this box of artefacts came from, who excavated it, catalogue and photograph the collection and assess whether this box is significant enough to be kept at Flinders, or if it should be deaccessioned in order to free up some space.
My first task was daunting. Where do I start? How do I find out where this box came from? I started with the obvious, staff, past students, archaeology records such as the photographic database, the collection log, equipment loan log. This led nowhere! At the same time I started sorting the collection, relabelling each individual artefact and recording diagnostic features as I went. The only information I was able to draw out of the artefacts was that they were excavated in 2002. My first break came when a past student put me into contact with the tech officer that was at Flinders in 2002. I contacted him and he gave me the information I needed.
PHR02 Stands for Polish Hill River 2002. This area was the subject of Katrina Stankowski’s 2003 Masters Thesis. Polish Hill River was a rural Polish community which settled in South Australia in the mid 1850s. Stankowski’s (2003) study aimed to assess whether a minority European culture living in Anglo-Saxon Colonial South Australia could be distinguished by the material remains. If so, what types of material remains could be used to determine Polish ethnicity?
I’m really excited to be assessing an artefact collection. I am a bit stressed about writing the report, but as long as I stay on top of things, I should be fine. Good luck to all the DS students this semester!