Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to catalogue I go …

Being a trained librarian, I have to admit to a certain excitement when faced with the prospect of cataloguing. Don’t judge me! But do think about this – if you collect lots of data but it doesn’t generate any useful information, it’s a waste of time. And none of us have that much time to waste. Way back in the day, this was our mantra – Garbage In, Garbage Out.

So, I’ve scoured guidelines from Heritage Victoria and Flinders University Archaeology Department. I’ve read volumes of excavation reports to see how they’ve divided artefact sets by type and function. I’ve used what others have done; there’s not a lot of point in inventing a completely new system that is not compatible with any other data collection. And now I’ve carefully crafted a draft Excel spreadsheet to test my categories.

I’m in the fortunate position of having access to an existing collection of metal artefacts from the Baker’s Flat site. This collection is located about 80km north of Adelaide. On Sunday, after waiting for the fog to lift, I headed north, past the salt pans, into the green, Christy Moore belting out at top volume to get in the mood.

Cataloguing essentials

Cataloguing essentials

In the back of the car, I had:

  • Camera equipment – camera, new shiny tripod, photo recording form, photo scale, attractive blue fleecy material to use as backdrop
  • Computer equipment – laptop loaded with draft cataloguing spreadsheet, power cord, mouse
  • Precision vernier calipers – borrowed from good friend, having lost mine in a field somewhere
  • Digital weighing scales – borrowed from friendly archaeology department
  • Resource books – on glass, buttons, coins, nineteenth century shopping catalogues, etc. Really for reassurance, I know I’m not going to get too far on the first day
  • Background photos and information on Baker’s Flat – also for reassurance
  • Thermos of hot water and tea bags – Need. Lots. Of. Tea.

At the end of the day, I had photographed 30 dog registration tags, and catalogued 25. Only another 1500 artefacts or so to go!

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