It has been an interesting semester and it is a little sad to be at the end of my directed study (or at least the end of this stage of the study).
I delivered my presentation in person to industry partner representatives early this morning in Tweed Heads. It was exciting to get positive feedback on how the report will progress their current agenda.
Trying to ensure my presentation was available for the Presentation Day last week in Adelaide had been such a saga (and I still do not know if it arrived and was in a format that could be used), it was nice to face an audience and interact with them today.
Working back with NSW DECCW for the last 3 months has been a rewarding and challenging experience. When I worked there last (19 months ago) I was employed as an archaeologist. This time my position is as the Aboriginal Heritage Planning Officer. I am enjoying the shift in focus of this position away from the scientific aspects of Aboriginal heritage management towards cultural significance of the values. I work in the Environmental Protection and Regulation Group and find it reassuring that input into the process of accessing potential impacts and management options is diligent in ensuring it is informed by Aboriginal knowledge holders of the Country in which the values occur.
Well it’s over. Presentations were completed yesterday, and it’s time to hand up the final report. All I can think to share with you all this week is this…
When you are focusing on a site, turn around and enjoy the landscape. The significance of the sites that archaeologists investigate is also tied up in the surrounding environment, not in just that particular location.
And … Always sort out permits before your start your research.
Finally, I just wanted to thank the Traditional Owners. Gariwerd is a vibrant landscape that is just starting to show the extent of its use in prehistoric times and I would encourage anyone who gains permission to study and investigate it more.
Also, large amounts of thanks to: Emily Jateff (you are amazing), Dr. Michael Westaway, Dr. Heather Burke, and Dr. Alice Gorman from Flinders University. Mike Stevens and Suzy Skurrie from Parks Victoria (Grampians- Gariwerd). The team at AAV, and also the amazing staff from Collections at the British Museum and The Australian National Museum.
Well, as the semester draws to a close and the finishing touches are added, I realized that I was missing information for a small section of my final report. The section: Museum Collections. Easy enough (I thought), just search the data bases from Museums across Australia and around the world.
I was very wrong…
Searching Museum collections for artefacts taken from Gariwerd is the most difficult thing to do. I believe that every area around Gariwerd came up in my search, but nothing from within. It’s not that the museums are to blame; their staff are some of the most helpful people I have ever emailed. The main reason why artefacts are difficult to locate is because the majority of museum collections have been donated by collectors like you and I, and the source of the artefacts are most times unknown. There is no blame being placed on collectors either. I agree it is very difficult when you see the most beautiful artefact lying on the ground to just look and then put it back. But really, we should all just put it back. Instead, take photos and stare at it for a while until the image is burnt into memory, but resist the urge to keep it. If you cannot resist, at least properly label it. A small description of the location where the object was found, written in pencil on archival paper would look great when it is displayed on the mantel at home. Also a notebook containing a GPS coordinate and a small mud map may come in handy when your guests ask about the object.
In the end, I came across a report that had done the majority of my work for me. And so I have been saved from long hours searching for material.
• Great big thanks to the staff at the British Museum, and the Australian National Museum who were so very kind, and took the time to help me in my search.
It is week two on the quest for information. I have been directed to Melbourne and to Aboriginal Affairs Victoria to access the register of information regarding the Archaeological and Cultural sites in Gariwerd (Grampians). Although I had not heard back from the AAV team about accessing the register, I took the leap, found four open days in my schedule and headed off to the big metropolis of Melbourne. After a few days, panic set in as I had not heard anything. Then on the third day I received a phone call that said that I was granted access. The AAV team was great, they showed me (someone who is computer challenged) the ways to navigate the register and took a couple of hours of their own time to help me gather the information that I needed. It would have taken me days without their help! It was great how it all came together and fell into place. I really owe the team at Aboriginal Affairs Victoria a big thank you. Now I have most of the information that I will need to complete my project. It’s funny how things just work out sometimes.
Well after a slow start, the aim has been identified and the questions laid out. In my eternal quest for rock art related projects I have somehow managed to find a project where the aim is to focus on everything but rock art and rather on other archaeological sites. The project that I am undertaking is in conjunction with Parks Victoria and the team out of the Gariwerd (Grampians) National Park. This project will focus on the creation of a ‘catalogue of knowledge’. Currently, Parks Victoria manages the land of the Gariwerd (Grampians) Cultural Heritage area and is very conscious of the land management activities that if carried out inappropriately have the potential to alter, disrupt and potentially destroy cultural sites. This project aims to provide an overview of site types, location, significance, and condition. It will help define culturally significant areas of the landscape that are sensitive to various land management activities.
A couple of weeks ago I was able to visit Gariwerd (Grampians) National Park and meet with the team there. I was treated to an excellent tour of their Brambuk Cultural Center and a tour of some of the rock art sites. It was a wonderful day and I learned so much being out on Country. The Parks Victoria staffs are so amazing and welcoming. I would suggest that if you are ever passing through on your way to Melbourne to venture towards Gariwerd (Grampians). During my visit I was told that many of the tourists say they didn’t plan to stop but they felt a pull towards it. I can understand why!
This project has taught me so much. Even without doing much research. Firstly, to remember that archaeology is made up of so many aspects. If we just focus on one thing, we miss the bigger picture. That although we as archaeologists focus on the past, it is what we are providing for the people of today that makes it all worthwhile. I also realized how much we all take for granted the amount of work that our Tutors and Techs. put into taking us into the field and on field trips (risk assessments are a true test of patience). And that friends named Matt are few and far between, they will never make you go camping alone, and will provide you with endless hours of entertainment over the campfire.
A special thanks goes out to the Indigenous Communities of the Gariwerd (Grampians). To Suzy Skurrie, Mike Stevens and David Newton (the Parks Victoria team). As wells as Emily Jateff and Dr. Heather Burke, Dr. Michael Westaway and Dr. Alice Gorman.
The directed study is coming to an end and the stress is kicking in. I’ve been writing bits and pieces and learning the art of artefact photography…I have a long way to go.
My research is becoming really interesting, and is dealing with the controversy of the deaccession and disposal of artefact collections. No archaeological standard for these actions exists, and I’ve been struggling to find a relevant case study to use as a guide.
My archaeological collection is in really poor condition, 98% of it has corroded or deteriorated in some way. This collection is a portion of the artefacts collected from the 2002 excavations at Polish Hill River, the rest was deaccessioned years ago. Neither the property owner from Polish Hill River nor the local historical societies want the collection returned, and Flinders University is unable to hold onto the collection long-term, my only option is to deaccession. But how?
How do you determine ethical disposal when no guidelines or standards exist?
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