Tag Archives: Archival research

Baby Killing

By Liam Blines, Diploma in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management Student

Cataloguing the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia South Australian branch collection has been a great learning opportunity for me. Each stage to date of this project has proved beneficial and, with limited prior cataloguing experience, this project has enabled me to test and develop the skills gained from my undergraduate degree. While yet to complete this project, I already feel a sense of pride due to my small contribution to the cultural heritage record.

Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup

One item in particular caught my eye while removing and sorting objects from one of the initial storage boxes: a stopper-less glass bottle embossed with Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, as shown in the above photo. I am still unsure what exactly drew my attention to this bottle, but I found myself eager to research the bottle and its seemingly innocent ‘soothing syrup’ contents.

I was surprised by the volume of information available.  This ‘soothing syrup’ was a medicinal product created by Mrs. Charlotte N. Winslow, a physician and nurse who had worked with children for nearly 30 years. In 1807, Mrs. Winslow created the soothing syrup to ease the restlessness of her children, particularly when her infant daughters were suffering from painful teething issues.

Mrs. Winslow later gave the syrup’s recipe to her son-in-law, Jeremiah Curtis, and his business partner, Benjamin A Perkins, druggists trading as Curtis & Perkins Co of Maine, USA. This company actively marketed Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup to North America and the British Commonwealth, placing highly maternal illustrations in recipe books, on trading cards and in calendars. 

Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for Children Teething advertisement in 1885 (Canet and Castillo 2012:6-8)

The syrup’s formula consisted of morphine sulphate (related to heroin), aqua ammonia (a cleaning agent), sodium carbonate (a water softener) and spirits foeniculi (an alcohol specific to this syrup).  Initially, the soothing syrup contained 65mg of morphine per fluid ounce, but, following implementation of regulations in the early twentieth century, this amount was significantly reduced to 26mg in 1911 and finally totally removed from the formula in 1915.

In 1911, the American Medical Association published an article in its publication Nostrums and Quackery, in which they incriminated Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup by reporting it as a “baby killer”, based on claims the syrup was responsible for causing the deaths of young children.  Surprisingly, production continued, with the soothing syrup not withdrawn from sale in the UK until 1930.

Another unusual fact about this product is that a composition was written by the English composer Edward Elga in 1879 entitled ‘Mrs Winslow’s soothing syrup’!

Little did I know that such a plain looking bottle would have such a controversial history.


Canet J. and J. Castillo 2012 Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup. Anesthesiology 116:6-8.

Society of Historical Archaeology 2016 Bottle Typing/Diagnostic Shapes: Medicinal/Chemical/Druggist Bottles. Retrieved 26 May 2017 from

Establishing Connections

By Liam Blines, Diploma in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management student

At the initial March meeting with Helen Stone, the head of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (South Australia) (PSSA), details were discussed concerning the collection, as well as our mutual objectives for this project. Helen highlighted  a previous attempt at cataloguing the collection during the 1990s, but the associated records are yet to be located:  only photo catalogues have been found. This meeting also included a tour of the PSSA offices, including the two rooms in which the majority of the collection resides. One of the items that Helen showed me was highly significant: the veterinary case used by Sir Douglas Mawson.

This was made in London by the British pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome & Co. The kit consists of an assortment of medical supplies, including: aspirin, rhubarb compounds, chromatic chalk powder and opium, potassium iodine, tannin, and benzoic acid compound. Additionally, there are poisons, such as boric acid, lead and potassium permanganate.

As part of my future research analysis of this collection, I will be trying to find out whether or not this veterinary case did indeed go on Mawson’s expeditions to Antarctica. If this case did return from Antarctica it is a remarkable feat and would make it even more important. The details concerning how the veterinary case came into the PSA’s possession are yet to be determined.

Other important items Helen showed me were some books, one of which – the Bibliothece Pharmaceutico Medica­­ – is over 300 years old and was written by Swiss physician Johannes Jacobi Mangeti (or Jean Jacques Manget) in 1704 and published in Geneva, Switzerland by Chouet, G. De Tournes, Cramer, Perachon, Ritter, & S. De Tournes. This book is one of two volumes; this volume focusses on pharmaceutical remedies and plants used for medical purposes. Additional information concerning how any of the books became part of the collection is yet to be determined, but I am hoping to locate donor documents to assist with identifying this information.

On completion of the tour, Helen and I discussed the project at length and our respective hopes and aspirations for the outcome of the cataloguing project.  During this discussion, I outlined to Helen the necessary processes that I intended to undertake to ensure comprehensive work was conducted, including Excel-based data recording, high quality photography and tag labelling of each item. It was during this exchange that Helen and I discovered that her father, Dr Bob Stone, who also works at Flinders University, had previously tutored me in a couple of my undergraduate classes.

Prior to the meeting’s conclusion, Helen provided me with some literature on the PSSA and other relevant information, and advised that the PSSA branches in other states also have similar collections with little known in relation to their respective contents.

In cataloguing the maximum number of items possible within the constrained time-frame, I will also be aiming to ensure the work undertaken is thorough, with errors/issues minimised.

Maritime, Travel and Clyde-built Ships

By: Chelsea Colwell-Pasch

My name is Chelsea Colwell-Pasch and I am a post-graduate student studying maritime archaeology at Flinders University. I am in Scotland this June and July to conduct research for my thesis as well as partake in Wessex Archaeology’s Project SAMPHIRE as a volunteer research assistant. The exciting opportunity to partake in Project SAMPHIRE came about when Dr Jonathan Benjamin, formerly of Wessex Archaeology and current Co-investigator for the Project, took a lecturer position at Flinders University this past January. Dr Benjamin then became my thesis advisor and we began discussing the numerous resources and connections available in Scotland for someone in my position of studying a Clyde-built ship that wrecked in Australia (see Figure 1). The initial idea of a research trip to Scotland for thesis research then grew into a professional development prospect and an opportunity to cultivate a research and industry relationship between Flinders University and Wessex Archaeology. The international cooperation allows an excellent opportunity for professional, academic, volunteer and student involvement. Plus, maritime archaeology is an international discipline with trans-boundary elements and the obvious aspects of transport and travel throughout time.

Figure 1. Chelsea Colwell-Pasch reading an original Lloyd’s Register of Shipping at the Glasgow University Archives in Glasgow, Scotland (Photo by: Chelsea Colwell-Pasch).

Figure 1. Chelsea Colwell-Pasch reading an original Lloyd’s Register of Shipping at the Glasgow University Archives in Glasgow, Scotland (Photo by: Chelsea Colwell-Pasch).

I am halfway through my final year of study and well into my chosen thesis topic which is a multiphasic vessel biography on the wreck of Leven Lass employing the BULSI (Build, Use, Loss, Survival, and Investigation) system. The brig Leven Lass was built in Dumbarton, Scotland, by Denny & Rankine at Denny’s Shipyard number two, in 1839 (The Clyde Built Ships 2014). A brig was a two-masted sailing ship with square rigging on both masts and was commonly used as couriers on coastal routes (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online 2014). Leven Lass had routes between Limerick and Glasgow and then between North America (Canada and West Indies) and Glasgow. It was then sold on 16 September 1852, by Paton and Grant, and sailed from Scotland to Melbourne, Australia on 1 October 1852 by Captain Sholto Gardener Jamieson (1818-1882), arriving in 1853 (Glasgow Herald 17 September 1852:8; Lythgoe 2014; Wilson 2012). It spent the majority of its time in Southeast Australia as a post carrier between Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney and was considered “a remarkably fast sailer”, see Figure 2 (Glasgow Herald 17 September 1852:8).

Figure 2. A Glasgow Herald newspaper article from 1852 calling for cargo applications for Leven Lass’ voyage to Melbourne (Glasgow Herald 17 September 1852:8).

Figure 2. A Glasgow Herald newspaper article from 1852 calling for cargo applications for Leven Lass’ voyage to Melbourne (Glasgow Herald 17 September 1852:8).

As a consequence of my research, I wanted to understand how they deemed Leven Lass to be ‘remarkably fast’. The way they calculated the speed of a vessel was with the ‘measured mile’, which was a nautical mile marked by two pairs of markers. A nautical mile is 6080 feet/1.852 km in length, as opposed to the land based statute mile which is 5280 feet/1.609 km in length (White 2003). A ship would work up to full speed on a steady course, the markers would be in transit (in line with each other) and the time noted then noted again when the next set of markers lined up (White 2003). Usually the average was taken between two runs to allow for wind and tide changes (White 2003). Near Dumbarton where Leven Lass was launched, there is a run that is actually two consecutive miles with three sets of markers (see Figure 3). Ships speed was given in knots, not knots per hour as a knot is one nautical mile per hour (White 2003). This is but one facet of the research I have conducted while in Scotland. My trip has taught me the importance of primary research and how much can be gained by travelling abroad for my research. This trip has been more than useful and the result is a much more in-depth study, without which my thesis would have been limited, or even superficial.

Figure 3. The three sets of measured mile markers on the Isle of Aaran to the SW of Dumbarton (RCAHMS 2014).

Figure 3. The three sets of measured mile markers on the Isle of Aaran to the SW of Dumbarton (RCAHMS 2014).

Leven Lass was chosen as my thesis topic after the 2014 Flinders University Maritime Archaeology Field School conducted at Phillip Island, Victoria this past January (see Figure 4). The field school was centred on a wreck that was determined to be Leven Lass by a previous Flinders masters student who worked on the wreck during the 2012 Maritime Archaeology Field School (Wilson 2012). While the focus of that thesis was more on maritime cultural landscapes and shipwreck identification, my thesis is looking at the vessel’s life cycle or career, from design inception to archaeological investigation, and its broader implications for shipwreck studies, Scottish maritime diaspora and nineteenth century post-colonial Australian seafaring.

Figure 4. A Flinders University Maritime Archaeology Student, records the Clyde-built Leven Lass during the 2014 field school on Phillip Island, Victoria. Another field school is scheduled for February 2015 (Photo by: J. Benjamin).

Figure 4. A Flinders University Maritime Archaeology Student, records the Clyde-built Leven Lass during the 2014 field school on Phillip Island, Victoria. Another field school is scheduled for February 2015 (Photo by: J. Benjamin).

I have only been in Scotland a little over a week, though I have already visited the Glasgow University Archives, RCAHMS, Historic Scotland, the Mitchell Library, University of Edinburgh Library, and the Scottish Maritime Museum (Irvine) and met with various industry professionals. While these investigative avenues have been fruitful, any and all information that may be of value to my thesis research from the public would be appreciated and welcomed. Any information about Denny & Rankine shipbuilders would be especially valuable as there is little data available about them in the archives. I look forward to the rest of my Scotland adventure and to the valuable experiences to be gained with both Wessex Archaeology and with the communities around Scotland.

The SAMPHIRE team and I will be blogging and tweeting (as signal permits!) and we will keep progress reports as up-to-date as possible via the project blog. Please follow this year’s fieldwork (#SAMPHIRE) with Dr  Jonathan Benjamin (@jon_benj), Wessex Archaeology (@wessexarch), and me, Chelsea Colwell-Pasch (@CColwellPasch).

The project blog link: http://blogs.wessexarch.co.uk/samphire/



Encyclopaedia Britannica Online 2014 “Brig”. Retrieved 3 June 2014 from: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/79477/brig.

Glasgow Herald 1852 “At Glasgow – For Melbourne, Port-Phillip”. 17 September: 8.

Lythgoe, Darrin 2014 Shetland Family History. Retrieved 23 May 2014 from: www.bayanne.info/Shetland/getperson.php?personID=I11228&tree=ID1.

RCAHMS 2014 Canmore: Isle of Aaran Measured Mile Markers. Retrieved 3 July 2014 from: http://canmoremapping.rcahms.gov.uk/index.php?action=do_advanced&list_z=0&sitename=&classterm1=MEASURED+MILE+MARKER+&sitediscipline=&idnumlink=&mapno=&site=&councilcode=&parish=®ioncode=&districtcode=&countycode=&ngr=&radiusm=0&collectionname=&bibliosurname=&biblioinits=&bibliotitle=&bibliodate=&bibliojournal=&submit=search.

The Clyde Built Ships 2014 Leven Lass. Electronic document. Retrieved 23 May 2014 from: www.clydeships.co.uk/view.php?ref=14432.

Wilson, Dennis D. 2012 The Investigation of Unidentified Wreck 784, Phillip Island, Victoria: Applying Cultural Landscape Theory and Hierarchy of Time to the Assessment of Shipwreck Significance. Unpublished Masters thesis, DEPT Flinders University, Adelaide.

White, Tony 2003 Polperro Cornish gem: Nautical Measured Mile Markers. Retrieved 3 July 2014 from: http://www.polperro.org/measuredmile.html.

Rippin’ Report

Hey guys, for the next couple of weeks I’ll be writing blog posts about a research report for my University degree, but before I go into too much detail I better introduce myself for those who don’t known me. Hi, my name is Nicole Monk and I’m currently undertaking a Directed Studies topic in my Graduate Diploma of Archaeology at Flinders University (this topic gives students the chance to complete research to better prepare themselves for the workforce and to work with industry partners). After looking through a list of potential areas to study, provided by the department, I decided on researching Highbury’s Torrens Linear Park, a location that I had never been to or heard about.

A few days after confirming my choice I received an email providing me with contact details of my industry partner and a template for my research, which would involve an archival study of Highbury’s Torrens Linear Park to determine the significance of the local area and the rockshelters located within the park.

After a few more days I eagerly drove the 40 minutes to meet my industry partner, Lea Crosby, at the Florey Reconciliation Task Force to find out what was expected from the research and to seek out any information that was held in the office. The information that I was given at the office was minimal, as many would know in the archaeological field, information regarding Indigenous people is often limited, and having too much information would have made the study pointless. At the conclusion of the meeting Lea and I organised to go on a tour of the Park so that I could have an understanding of the overall shape and scope of the study, which will be in my next post.

Following this meeting I was rushed out the door because it was a Friday, and let’s face it who doesn’t want to leave early on a Friday?

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:



Tindale, N.B. 1974, Aboriginal Tribes of Australia. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Blog Post #4

Hey Everyone,

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