Tag Archives: Student Placements

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.

Working at the South Australian Museum Collections

By Sam Hedditch, Graduate Diploma in Archaeology Student

This is the first of my four blog posts in regards to the Cultural Heritage Practicum topic at Flinders. I will briefly describe what type of work I will be completing while under the employ of the Museum.

My predominant focus in the practicum will be lithics, or stone artefacts, which are a great interest of mine. I am working for Dr Keryn Walshe, Head Archaeologist and Researcher for the South Australian Museum. Keryn has done some amazing work in documentation and in archaeology in general. Her book, Roonka: Fugitive Traces and Climatic Mischief, is evidence of her skills and knowledge in Aboriginal cultural material. I consider myself to be very privileged to be working for her in this program and I am sure to learn a great deal.

I am principally working at the Hindmarsh store of the SA Museum. This was recently taken up by the museum having previously been used as an old state library storage space. There are an astounding number of artefacts and papers regarding archaeological work and material that are stored here. Many of the items currently at the store are donations from benefactors and are yet to be accessioned. Going through this material will form a large part of my practicum at the museum.

Canoe at entrance to State Library Building.

Correctly recording and cataloguing items is a very important job at museums and is the only way to account for the whereabouts of so many types of artefacts.

In some collections I will give a rough description of the type of artefact, the raw material of the artefact and any noteworthy features. The goal is to store the items appropriately so that they are more readily available for analysis in the future. Many challenges occur in this process as the paper, tape or marker used to note the artefacts may have worn out since its original collection by the benefactor and their interpretations of the type of artefact may differ entirely from current conventions.

Shelves at Hindmarsh store. My workspaces is on the left.

I have met a number of other researchers and volunteers at the store, and have been lucky enough to work closely with some on certain collections. They have a great deal of knowledge about their respective topics and working with such people will benefit my overall educational experience throughout my placement. I have already seen some rare and stunning examples of pre- and post-contact artefacts and can’t wait to see more.

Until next time, it’s back to the shelves for me!

Sugar is useful in archaeology

By Adrian Fenech, Graduate Diploma in Archaeology Student

The directed study I am working on involves reanalysing material excavated by Mick Morrison from Weipa in northern Queensland and uses sugar to aid the ‘floatation’ lab technique. I’m doing this because previous research projects on shell mound sites in northern Australia suggests that they contain very few faunal materials other than shellfish remains. The aim of this work is to find if the low recovery rate of faunal materials in samples is due to taphonomic or sampling technique biases. I am going to use chemical floatation to assist the sorting and faunal identification processes.

The chemical floatation process involves dry sieving the archaeological material and then immersing it in water that has been treated with some kind of chemical (Ross and Duffy 2000, p 33). This is designed to change the specific gravity of the water to separate materials that have different weights. For reasons of personal safety and economy, sugar will be used, hopefully the lab technicians, John and Chantal will not think that I am cooking in the lab.

A secondary process I am considering is defloccation which involves swirling archaeological materials around in a solution of water and some form of cleaning agent. I will be playing this by ear until I can see if the floatation cleans the material in any way.

Dry sieving

References

Ross, A. and R. Duffy 2000, Fine mesh screening of midden material and the recovery of fish bone: the development of floatation and deflocculation techniques for an efficient and effective procedure. Geoarchaeology 15(1): pp. 21-41.

Vale, D. and R.H. Gargett 2002 Size matters: 3mm sieves do not increase richness in a fishbone assemblage from Arrawarr 1, an Aboriginal Australian shell midden on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, Australia. Journal of Archeological Science. vol. 29: pp. 57-63.

Public interpretation and the Port Adelaide Community Archaeology Project

By Rikke Hammer, Graduate Student

This blog post is the first in a series of seven reflecting on various aspects of my four week industry practicum with post-graduate student Adam Paterson at Flinders University. Adam is doing his Phd research on understanding how public participation in archaeological research can contribute to and improve management of cultural heritage. The research forms part of the Port Adelaide Community Archaeology Project and is funded by the Australian Research Council. Also supporting the project are the South Australian Department of Environment and Heritage, the South Australian Maritime Museum and Archaeological and Heritage Management Solutions (Paterson n/d).

The Port Adelaide Community Archaeology project has involved several excavations around Port Adelaide, an area unique for its buried landscape of 19th century buildings and artefacts resulting from continuous deposition of sediment material to prevent against flooding. One of these excavations, the site of two 19th century working class family homes in Jane Street, excavated by Susan Briggs in 2003, will form the basis of a public archaeology event to be held during the Port Festival in Port Adelaide on 8 & 9 October 2011. It was  preparations for this public happening that occupied my time during the first week of the practicum. The event will be executed as an interactive “meet the archaeologist” event and will include opportunities for people to test their archaeological illustration skills as well as explore the practical and interpretive aspects of archaeology through learning how archaeologists read the soil and its contents. One idea for the event is to reconstruct the stratigraphic profile of two separate sections of Briggs’ 2003 excavation trench that illustrate different aspects of the site and the archaeological process and to incorporate authentic artefacts from the excavation. Plates 1 and 2 shows the sections selected for reconstruction.

Plate 1 Section one, collapsed wall.

Plate 2 Section two, brick, stone and cobble floor and vertical stratigraphy of yellow sand lenses underlying grey beach sand.

As part of the public outreach program heritage posters will also be produced. My task specifically, was to identify the stratigraphic contexts and artefacts found in the sections of Brigg’s trench that Adam wants to recreate based on photographs and site records. A second task involved reading up on interpretive archaeology focusing on tiered communication and interactive presentation strategies.  My next blog will focus more on the topic of public archaeology and the latter two concepts that are core to a well-designed and successful interpretation program.

References:
Paterson, A. n/d Port Adelaide Community Archaeology. Retrieved 12 August
2011 from http://www.flinders.edu.au/ehl/archaeology/research-
profile/current-projects/adam-paterson.cfm.

Industry partners:
South Australian Department of Environment and Heritage: http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/
The South Australian Maritime Museum: http://www.history.sa.gov.au/maritime/maritime.htm
Archaeological and Heritage Management Solutions: http://www.ahms.com.au/

Assessing Significance at the Unley Museum

This is the third post from Graduate Student Bronwyn Phillips about her industry placement with the Unley Museum. You can see Bronwyn’s other posts here

Another step in the process of finding the ‘significance’ of the Unley Museum’s collections was to find out what the local community thought about the Unley Museum, its role in the community and its collections. What did they think were important parts of the collection?  Many of the locals would not know what is in the collection and many do not even know there is a museum in Unley. I decided to survey the volunteers, curators, some Councilors and Council staff with knowledge of the Unley Museum and its collection. These were the people with more extended knowledge and a better idea.

First fire engine, 1919 (coutesy of the Unley Museum Collection)

I needed to design a survey and I decided not to make the survey too long, around 20 questions. I had to rack my brain to remember how to devise a survey. Having studied Festival and Event Management some years ago I knew that it was a good idea to have open and closed questions, to ask personal information at the end, and put any tricky questions in the middle. I came up with the questions and showed them to Dr Elizabeth Hartnell (Museum Curator) and she made a couple of minor alterations. The survey was sent out and not conducted face to face.  I wrote a covering letter so that people would know why and what it was all about. We printed up just over 40 copies and Antoinette Hennessy (third year archaeology student and volunteer) and I folded and put some of them into stamped envelopes. Elizabeth printed off sticky labels with people’s names and addresses which saved me time writing them all out by hand. I placed the ones for the current volunteers in their pigeonholes, sent some over to Council and the rest we posted. We have 17 current volunteers, 6 resigned but still interested volunteers, 7  earlier Curators, one current Curator and a number of Councilors and Council staff   involved with the Unley Museum.

Floral Pageant

S.A. Centenary Floral Pageant, Sept 18 1936 (Ladies Committee) (Photo courtesy of the Unley Museum Collection)

Most of the volunteer’s responses highlighted different aspects of Unley Museum services and activities. Most responses were positive in regard to the value of the collection, its purpose and its relationship to the people of Unley.  Most people thought the Unley Museum profile could be raised in the public arena. Every single respondent offered positive ideas, comments, suggestions and changes. When I collate all the answers, I will pass this on to Elizabeth, the Curator and they might be implemented.

Glen Osmond Quarry 1913 (Courtesy of the Unley Museum)

Glen Osmond Quarry 1913 (Courtesy of the Unley Museum Collection)

Chronicle of an exhibition

By Helen Cronin, Master of Archaeology Student
(With apologies to Carmel Schrire )

This semester I’m doing an internship with the Bendigo Art Gallery which is preparing an exhibition of artefacts from an excavation that took place here in Bendigo a couple of years ago. The internship is part of a Directed Study I’m doing as part of the coursework component of my masters.

The excavation
For around five weeks in 2009, every lunchtime I walked past an excavation going on just down the road from where I worked. I stood on one side of the cyclone wire fence watching the archaeologists working diligently on the other side. Forest Street, Bendigo turned out to be of “considerable significance” to both Bendigo and the state according to the DIG International report.

Archaeologist standing in a trench holding a bottle.

All the artefacts were packed up and disappeared into the Heritage Victoria warehouse in Melbourne, and the developer constructed a new commercial building on the site.

The exhibition
I’d met a local archaeologist who had been involved with the project and was passionate that such stories should be told locally. I agreed. When the new building opened earlier this year, the local newspaper published a supplement that included a spread about the “treasures” that had been unearthed. So I wrote to the paper suggesting that it was a shame the story wasn’t being told here in Bendigo.

Bendigo doesn’t have a dedicated European history museum (a subject of some interesting debate here), but we do have the Post Office Gallery – a satellite space of the Bendigo Art Gallery – that hosts temporary social history exhibitions. And they announced shortly after I wrote to the paper that they were planning an exhibition of archaeology from the Forest Street site.

I begged the curator to let me be involved somehow. So this semester I’m undertaking an internship with the Bendigo Art Gallery for my Directed Study. I’ll be doing the research for and writing the labels that will accompany the items.

In addition, I’ll be setting that in a theoretical context of museum archaeology. The challenge with any museum exhibition of archaeology is to somehow provide a context for an object whose main value inheres in the original context from which it has been removed. Add to that postmodern concerns about “curatorial authority” and representation/construction of the past and this should be fun.

The artefacts
Last Friday, I visited the Heritage Victoria warehouse into which the Bendigo “treasures” disappeared. Annie, the very generous Curatorial Officer, showed me boxes and boxes from all sorts of sites around Bendigo and let me go through all the artefacts that have been selected for the exhibition. It’s a strange feeling looking at the names on the boxes and knowing I ride my bike past them regularly.

Hedley Swain in An Introduction to Museum Archaeology observes that people are more excited about a find the closer they are to its source in time and space. “Being shown a relatively unimportant find that was found on their street yesterday becomes as important as a famous ancient treasure found hundreds of years ago in another country.”(p 270) I have to agree. I think I was more excited handling tea cups and figurines that came from the down the road from where I worked than if they’d let me handle Tutankhamun’s crown.

I have another day booked at the lab in early September and a lot of work to do on what I’ve gathered so far.

(Annie also suggested that there was plenty of work to be done on Bendigo assemblages fit for a masters or PhD thesis. And she was happy to help with research topics.)