Tag Archives: South Australia

Developing A Guide for Recording and Conserving Aboriginal Heritage Sites in South Australia.

Hello everyone!

I am currently undertaking a practicum with the Aboriginal Heritage Branch of the Aboriginal Affairs Reconciliation Division (AARD) of South Australia. For those who do not know, the Heritage Branch is designed to improve administration and to ensure compliance with the Aboriginal Heritage Act (1988).

Within this blog, I am going to share with you some more of my experiences while working with AARD.  This practicum is the first time I have been actively involved with a government department who are in charge of the management of Indigenous cultural heritage sites in South Australia. Initially, I was not sure of what to expect from the practicum but I was assured the experiences obtained would be worthwhile.

One of my projects is to re-write a guide for recording and conserving Aboriginal heritage sites in South Australia., The guide is for the use of Aboriginal people and others interested in conducting archaeological site recording. The objective of this guide is to provide the necessary information about archaeological site identification, site recording and site management.

The guide I have compiled is an 81 page report consisting of a number of in-depth and captivating chapters complimented by images. The importance of why heritage sites should be recorded is the first section of this guide. The Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988, basic site recording, stone tools and how to use site cards are later addressed. The last part of the guide includes information on the conservation of sites, interpreting landscapes and how to access information held in the Central Archive by the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division – DPC (AARD) as required by the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 (the Act). A glossary, further readings and blank ‘A’ and ‘B’ site cards are also present at the end of the report. Copies of the report: A Guide for Recording and Conserving Aboriginal Heritage Sites in South Australia will soon be available through the Aboriginal Heritage Branch.

If anyone is also interested in reading or creating a guide for recording Indigenous sites in Australia, check out the following links:

QUEENSLAND Department of Environment and Resource Management



WESTERN AUSTRALIA Department of Indigenous Affairs


VICTORIA Department of Planning and Community Development


NEW SOUTH WALES Department of Environment and Heritage




Also, remember to read Burke and Smith (2004) The Archaeologist’s Field Handbook. This publication is a detailed guide for surveying and recording Aboriginal cultural heritage places and other archaeological sites

By Daniel Petraccaro (Master of Archaeology student).

“Oh, Audit my Audit”

‘Oh Audit my Audit’, Unley Museum Collection by Bronwyn Phillips

Post 5

Review of photographs

Over the last few weeks I have gone through some of the SAPs (South Australian Photographs).  SAPS are special plastic folders that contain the Unley Museum’s photographic collection.  Dr Elizabeth Hartnell (Museum Curator) and I decided it was impossible to go through the entire collection. There are over 10,000 items and  5,000 are photographs; we thought an audit of parts of the collection should give a good idea of its condition and what is in it. I need to asses the collections condition to rank items in urgent need of correct storage and preservation. If, as I have found with some photographs and early documents, they are not correctly stored, then their ‘significance’ could be lost forever as they deteriorate. As custodians of the museum’s collection it is our job to redress these problems sooner rather than later.

One of the other volunteers, Terrie, is systematically going through the storeroom. This is a room that is kept at a constant temperature of 19 degrees centigrade and houses most of the collection. This is the ideal temperature for the collection’s preservation. The air conditioner is kept on at all times, 24/7, and this could be problematic if there is a power or equipment breakdown. Terrie has been checking the collection shelf by shelf to make sure items are there and that they have numbers and  are accessioned. I have asked her to let me know if she comes across anything that is in poor condition and/or in need of restoration.

I started on SAP 25 which was full of interesting photographs of all manner of things, from old shops that no longer exist, old tram shots, and Art Deco buildings etc. The first tram was horse-drawn and electric trams came later which travelled down Unley Road.  Most of these photographs are in good order. There are some empty sleeves with notes in them. The notes say the photographs are away being digitized, however they have not been put back and this was some time ago. Those photographs could be anywhere. Some of them were in sleeves with inappropriate cardboard or tracing paper, which will need replacing with acid free paper at some time in the future.

CON 4 (Councillors) This folder contained the photographs of the Councillors from 1929 -1933. What a grumpy, gruff group of men. They were wearing groovy hats in the 20s and 30s. Still, in those days you were not meant to smile in photographs; it was serious business. Many of these photographs have been removed from old albums or frames and still have old glue on their edges.  The old glue is made from ground horses hooves. This will be professionally removed. Some had negatives in with them; they need separate sleeves. I then decided it might be wise to go through the earliest councillors’ photos (CON1) to see if they had the same problem and they did. Glue, bits of tape and paper and the old glue comes off and floats about in the sleeves, damaging the photographs.  I finished looking at the photographic collection in the following weeks.  The following are the albums I have looked at thoroughly. Nevertheless, I have looked at others as we are retrieving them for staff (council and volunteers) to choose one item or photograph for the coming exhibition “Silver Selection from our Collection”.  This is to celebrate 25 years of collecting at the Unley Museum.

  • SAP (South Australian Photographs) 18, 25, 26,19, 28
  • CON (Councillors) 4, 1
  • BUS (Business) 5
  • CHL (Children) 2
  • MIL (Military) 1, 2
  • CEL (Celebrations) 2.

Most of the collection I have looked at is in good order and there are some really interesting old photographs, especially the WWI pictures of light horsemen and Captain Harry Butler’s plane on Unley Oval. There are far too many to list and every one is interesting or connected to different aspects of Unley life. Many photographs  have connections  to each other but are not together or in order in the folders. I guess this is because the donating and accessioning occurred at different times. My next post will check the rest of the collection.

The research potential of the South Australian Museum Collections

By Sam Hedditch, Graduate Student

This is the second of my blog posts for the Cultural Heritage Practicum (read my first post here). In the past few weeks I have completed a variety of recording and labelling tasks with a number of different collections. While some of the materials are from recently excavated and less well known sites, others are from quite old and well known areas and their location at the museum stores is the best place for their storage and for further research.

Of particular interest so far has been the re-sorting of various excavations completed at Koonalda Cave in SA. It is hoped that working through the notebooks of the staff on the digs and the excavated materials that are currently at the museum may produce traces of organic material suitable for radiocarbon dating. This should extend the age of habitation of the cave well past the 20,000 BP that is currently accepted.

Shell artefacts from the Lake George collection. Part of a huge midden with many layers!

My most recent project has been re-bagging and labelling a collection of shells from an apparently enormous midden at Lake George, near Beachport in South East South Australia. A number of different shells occur in many of the units of the excavation and there was also a piece of very interesting glass near the surface of one site.

Some of the articles being rebagged from the Lake George collection.

Needless to say, there is a great potential for research by archaeologists interested at the museum. Going back over the old material donated and collected with a fresh approach or new techniques could be instrumental in revealing new information about the area or the people who lived there.

Until next time, I will continue patiently bagging and labelling! I am having a great time there is a wealth of information and relics on record here, sure to inspire the minds of many archaeologists (including me!).

The end is not the end! Working at the Unley Museum

This is Bronwyn Phillip’s last blog post about her practicum with the Unley Museum. We’d like to thank Dr Elizabeth Hartnell and the Unley Museum for supporting Bronwyn’s placement. You can read Brownyn’s other posts about her placement here!

The Colony’s first Fire Brigade 1919 (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

The Colony’s first Fire Brigade 1919 (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

My Practicum placement has come to an end but not really. It is continuing into a Directed Study placement which is great because I am really enjoying it and learning a great deal in the process. Fortunately I started volunteering at the Unley Museum at the beginning of the year, I had already been working there for four months by the time my placement started in May. This gave me the opportunity to become familiar with the workings of the Museum and some of the other volunteers. My Directed Study placement finishes in November and I will then create two ‘statements of significance’, with guidance from Dr Elizabeth Hartnell (Museum Curator). By then I will have been there for nearly a year and the time has flown by. This week I am tying up loose ends and completing any tasks I should.  The next steps for the Directed Study will be to:

  • August: Review collections and significant items. Relate that to the building and historical context.
  • September: Consult volunteers and curators about the collection.
  • October: Analyse collection’s condition and preservation priorities.
  • November: Create primary and comparative criteria and write statements of significance.
74th Infantry Band (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

74th Infantry Band (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

I will start by collating the answers to my survey to deduce what are the most important things in the collection. At least I will know what the volunteers and others connected to the Unley Museum think are the most important parts of the collection. Whilst going through people’s answers I have noticed that each person thinks the most important part of the collection is the area which they work in personally. I guess this makes sense. I know the two Mayor’s robes that I accessioned earlier in the year seem important to me (see picture, below). They were just gorgeous, made from the finest red wool cloth, with black velvet silk bands on the hem and sleeves and a mink collar of course. The oldest robe,  by Ede and Ravenscroft Ltd (founded 1689), London, the tailor for the Queen’s and Parliamentarian’s ceremonial robes.

The second Mayor’s Robe (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

The second Mayor’s Robe (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

Overall this has been a most pleasurable experience and I would recommend to any other student considering a Practicum placement to go right ahead.  It is so good to work in a real working environment. You cannot help but to learn many new skills including research, people skills, team work, individual work, computer skills and other expertise related to the particular placement. You meet new people and have a laugh in the process.

Orchard’s Draper Store (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

Orchard’s Draper Store (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

Another Step on the Road to Signifcance

This is the second post from Graduate Student Bronwyn Phillips about her experiences volunteering at the Unley Museum. See her other posts here

The Unley Museum is inside the first South Australian Fire Station and revolves around the local history of Unley. The Unley Museum has over 10,000 items.  Its collection pertains to the history of Unley and its people including documents, textiles, maps and objects of all descriptions and over 5,000 photographs.

Unley Fire Station (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

Unley Fire Station (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

One of the first tasks in developing a ‘statement of significance’  is to conduct a comparative study of other museums in South Australia and to look for similarities and differences to the Unley Museum (see my earlier post about my project here). This gives an understanding of where the Unley Museum sits in the relation to the other museums.  What do they have that we do not have and what do we have that they do not have? We wanted no more than six comparitive museums and selecting them initially involved looking at the www.community.history.sa.gov.au/museums, the Government History Site where many of the regional and local museums are listed with information about them and their collections. This is a very useful site. I made a list the most likely candidates and their similarities and differences and initially had a list of eight.

Exhibition Unley Town Hall 1900 (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

Exhibition Unley Town Hall 1900 (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

The Unley Museum funds are from the  Unley Council and much of the work conducted there is done out by the volunteers, some of whom have been there since its inception 26 years ago.  Therefore the search involved looking for museums or research/heritage programs that fulfil some of the following criteria; funded by Councils, housed in old historic buildings, museum collections revolving around local history and culture and museums with photographic collections.

Duchess of York, Queen Mother 1927 (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

Duchess of York, Queen Mother 1927 (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

I made telephone calls to the various Museums, Research and Heritage Centres on the list to find out if they had a ‘statement of significance’. I asked them a number of other questions about their collections, collecting policy, funding and to see if they would be willing to share information with us. I talked to people ‘in the know’, sometimes the Curator and at other times I talked to whomever could answer my questions. This was  a lengthy process as some people were away, not available, on holidays etc. Most were very helpful and several sent me extensive information about their policy statements and collections. Finally Dr Elizabeth Hartnell (Unley Museum Curator) and I settled on the five institutions below.

27th Battalion Football Team 1922 (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

27th Battalion Football Team 1922 (photograph from the Unley Museum Collection)

The  five museums chosen are:

  • Bay Discovery Centre and Holdfast Bay History Centre,
  • Mitcham Village Research Centre,
  • Strathalbyn Branch of the National Trust,
  • The Norwood, Payneham
  • St Peters Cultural Heritage Program and the Hindmarsh Fire and Folk Museum.

Finally I set up an excel spreadsheet with all the similarities and differences and then compiled the answers that I had been given to my questions. If you wish to know more about the collections or the similarities and differences check the website address above or contact me for more information.