Tag Archives: Student Placements

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.

Assessing the significance of the Unley Museum collections

By Bronwyn Phillips

During this last semester, my Practicum placement has involved working at the Unley Museum which is housed in the historic old Fire Station in Edmund Street Unley. The task I am researching and will eventually complete is to design a ‘statement of significance’, with the assistance and direction of Dr Elizabeth Hartnell.

Part of the current exhibition “Land of Cakes”

A ‘statement of significance’ can be for one object or a whole collection. It can be just a few sentences or half a page long. The Unley Museum needs two statements of significance, one for the collection as a whole and the other one is specifically for the extensive photographic collection. In order to develop two ‘statements of significance’ for the Unley Museum, a number of tasks need to be completed.

The ‘significance’ of an object or a collection is very important since if a Museum does not know why and what they are collecting it could lose direction. A collection’s ‘significance’ involves a process of scanning the whole collection and assessing its history, doing some analysis and conducting an overview of the collection. This is particularly important when the collection policy needs to be revised or re-written.

Old shopkeepers till

The process can be very useful for a number of reasons:

  • understand the significance of the collection as a whole
  • revise collection policy
  • identify significant objects for disaster preparedness
  • prioritise objects for conservation
  • review strengths and weaknesses for the collection
  • develop collecting strategies to redress imbalances and omissions in the collecting record

This enables the museum to accept or reject donations and to accession or de-accession objects.

Previous activity display at Unley Museum

There are eight key steps to conduct when working towards a ‘statement of significance’.

  • Collate the collection’s records and the museum’s archives.
  • Research the history of the collection and the museum.
  • Consult the community and record its ideas and comments about the collection.
  • Asses the relationship between the museum building and the collection.
  • Analyse the condition of the collection.
  • Compare the collection with others of similar scope or purpose.
  • Asses the collection’s significance by referring to the main assessment criteria and comparative criteria.
  • Write a statement of significance that summarises the history, themes, importance and meaning of the collection.

Hands on fun for children of all ages (This jigsaw of a cow shows children where the various meat cuts come from).

There are four main assessment criteria used in assessing significance: historic, aesthetic, and scientific/research and social/spiritual. Comparative criteria are provenance, rarity, representativeness, condition and interpretive potential. One of my first tasks was to do some extensive reading of various museum publications to get my head around just what ‘significance’ means.  This blog is heavily influenced by these readings.

Background reading and references:

Significance: A Guide to Assessing the Significance of Cultural Heritage Objects & Collections by the Collections Council, 2001.

Significance 2.0: a guide to assessing the Significance of Collections by the Heritage Collections Council, 2009.

Using Significance Assessment to make Acquisition Decisions by Linda Black, 2002.

Photographs from the Unley Museum site can be viewed here.

Archaeologists, Biologists and the Pied Piper

By Julie Mushynsky (MMA Student)

From May 16 to May 27, 2011 the South Australia Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) embarked on a Commonwealth funded project in the Investigator Strait off the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia.  Maritime Heritage Officer, Amer Khan and everyone’s favourite handyman, Ross “Mouse Whisperer” Cole of the Coastal Management Branch of DENR headed the project.  Two volunteer researchers on board included Shea Cameron, a Flinders University Marine Biology student and me, a Flinders University Maritime Archaeology student.  Kevin Jones, director of the South Australian Maritime Museum joined the group for a few days during the first week.  Lastly, Assistant Director for Maritime Heritage for the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPAC), Andy Viduka also joined the group during the second week.

Perimeter fixing. Photo by: Amer Khan

Continue reading

Printing the Ngaut Ngaut Interpretive Brochure

Finally, the Ngaut Ngaut brochures have been printed. This was not an easy task. I had originally planned to get the brochures printed by a professional printing company. However, after making some phone calls, it became clear that using a printing company would be more work that originally expected. I was worried that the colours of the brochure would turn out different to how they looked when printed out on my home printer. Also, there was a worry that the specific folding specifications of a printing company would require the columns to be set in a very specific way. As the printing companies intended to charge for every adjustment made to the original file (once I submitted it to them), I was reluctant to go with a printing company at all.

Continue reading

Directed Study: SANTS Artefact Collection – Background and Repatriation

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.

South Australian Museum Archives Visit – Ngaut Ngaut Interpretive Project

In mid-September I visited the South Australian Museum Archives to locate images that were to be used on the interpretive signage at Ngaut Ngaut. This aspect of the project was also approved by the Mannum Aboriginal Community Association Inc. (MACAI). Dr Amy Roberts had given me some ideas as to what to look for and I had a list of index numbers that corresponded to relevant archive collections. Throughout the process of content creation Amy had found a few images that she wanted to use on the signs. The problem was that these copies had very low resolutions. My archives visit was aimed at finding the original images and organising high-quality 600 dpi copies of the photographs and field book sketches.

Continue reading

Executive summary of my directed study project

I have just concluded my directed study project which was focused on researching a new methodology for the indirect detection of unmarked burial sites using ground penetrating radar. Being responsible for researching and writing up a larger sized project, and drawing on various sources for literature including interstate collections has been a valuable learning experience. However the most rewarding experience has been the opportunity to be involved in undertaking research with important implications for locating the burial location of a significant Indigenous historical figure.

Continue reading