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This was my first week of internship. I was interning in Australian Museum in an indigenous archaeology department. My supervisor was Allison Dejanovic. My work activities included to register stone artifacts. These were some stone flakes and cores from Quibray Bay and North Crounlla. All I was needed to do was to divide them into groups of 10, put them into zip lock bags and mark them with article tags. Article tags contains item numbers, excavation dates, artifact types, sites, collector/donor, store numbers, as well as item quantity, and they should be written with dates. After I finished bagging, I was to take photos of the items, and then put tags, artifacts and ruler card together. After that, I took both sides photos respectively, and subsequently put the grouped articles into one zip lock bags to protect them.
The other duty was about computers. Initially, after uploading pictures to computers, I did change their names to artifact numbers, prefix “i” (short for image) to the names and suffix 1, 2, 3 for the convenience of uploading and viewing. Then, I uploaded them to KE EME, software for museum collection arrangement. Through the software, the collection information could be obtained quickly. For convenience and efficiency, the software reserves all information about the collection from entrance to the cancel. This was also my first time to handle real museum collection management, which helped me to interpret messages of registering collection.
KE EMU had its own multimedia whereby I entered names of pictures and staff as well as information on tags and keywords. This will help the future information search. In addition, I put the pictures to the catalogue of the same number and save the multimedia part, thus finishing collection’s picture registration. If I wanted to browse the pictures one day, I could make it through catalogue or multimedia’s contents, which improved the efficiency of searching.
However, there was some difficulty with that week’s work. In some collection’s catalogue, much information had not been supplemented completely. As a result, I had to find them from the original reference book, a register of articles at collection time, which made a list of article types, collection dates, collector and other essential information. The museum kept the information in computers, because the information was hand written with pencil and hence it was difficult to read it clearly. Moreover, there was a lot of information inside, which made the search more inconvenient. Consequently, I realized the necessity and convenience of electronic collection management directory fully.
During that week, I received donations from a lady named Alice Paul. They were stone materials from far NW NSW. This was my first time that I participated in directory writing of donations. Since they were new, there was no material I could refer to. So I had to refer to the relevant materials in order to determine artifact types. When I was in school, most stone artifacts I studied were small pieces tools. However, the donations I received there were bulk weapons and commodities, and most of them I saw the first time. There were 34 pieces of donations, including millstone, Muller, ground edge axe, etc. Allison urged me to refer Australian Aboriginal Stone Implements, a good book introducing Australian aboriginal stone tools, to write the catalogue. The book made me even more interested in this field an taught me a lot of new information. The grant catalogue included articles’ length, width, weight, thickness, stone types, rock types and visual descriptions as well. Personally, describing rock types was the most difficult task, for I had not learnt related courses. So, I could only give general descriptions about them.
The other thing was to take detailed photos of the pictures. Since there was no concrete information left, much information was to be gained from the pictures. So I chose different angles in order to take 6-7 pictures of each item. Besides, the museum had not yet decided whether to collect all the articles or not, and thus the articles had not been numbered. Therefore, I used 1, 2, 3 to arrange initial directory.
The initial catalogue was essential to the management of museum collection, especially for the follow-up workers to infer information about articles from my descriptions so as to get the most comprehensive statement from the follow-up acquisition proposal. Being an initial sifting at the same time, the directory could be used to check artifacts to select the collection they needed. These stone tools were of high collection value and they were sent to Ms. Paul’s father by aborigine as a gift. Both the stone tools and the stories behind them were parts of the museum collection.
This week I received loan return from University of Sydney. They were aboriginal glass tools and most of them were derived in 1992. Since there was no EMU system at that time, we had to re-register them as a collection. The registration process was similar to the registration of stone tools during the first week. The difference was that, the glass tools were returned with reports, and, therefore, much glass were rearranged. The first step was to arrange and check the glass under the same number. The author had also listed the glass’s colors and possible usages, which were to be written down on tags and imported to EMU. As a database recording collection of all detail cases, EMU provided museum collection management with a clear list.
When I was checking loan returns, I found a bag of articles without numbers and the author did not write it in his information clearly. Allison told me that under such a case, the museum should give the articles a new AUR number, which means that artifacts are un-registered, and therefore, that would be the new number registered in EMU database. Those articles would be put back to storeroom with other articles, but they would not be re-registered before the museum receives exact information to certify their original numbers or detailed derivation information. This was a problem worth watching. Every year, the museum lent and collected many not always comprehensive articles and reports given by authors; even the authors themselves did not know where those articles came from, thus bringing big trouble for the museum. Until the time I left, the museum had not found a solution to it. Among the collection in archaeological store, after being printed with 27% paraloid in acetone (B72), stone tools’ surfaces would not be destroyed due to the number written, in that case, most stone tools had been numbered directly on the surface, however, the same method could not work for other materials. As time passed away, tags fallen off and original numbers could not be recognized, and that was one of the reasons for museum’s put the picture file.
This week I started acquisitioning proposal from Alice Paul Doonation, because the information she had provided was insufficient, and, therefore, I could not write down many things. This was my first time to write acquisition proposal, however, Allison gave me some of the information. One acquisition proposal included the title, background of proposal, description of material, highlights on how they met Collection Development Policy, cultural significance, research and/or exhibition potential, estimated costs of acquisition, etc. Since the museum had limited capacity to check the article’s collection value from many aspects and information limitations, the acquisition proposal had not yet got good additions by the time I left.
When filling in the acquisition proposal, Allison helped me to check catalogue I had done previously, and she promised me to consult Ross, responsible for geology in the museum and Van, to answer for the archaeology of aboriginal stone stools. Their careful checking helped me to realize my mistakes made with the directory and enriched my knowledge. The museum consisted of many different departments. As is often the case with the Australian museum, all departments cooperated with each other from the donation/discovery to the display of one piece of collection. Even in the archaeological storage, half of the workers once did researches on anthropology or history, thus making them understand aboriginal archaeology better.
One thing had to be added, that week museum internet had been updated once, and nearly all the computer could not connected to the internet or even museum’s own database. This led to most of the museum work stop. Is museum too dependent on computer?
This was my last week for internship and it was quite a busy week. Allison brought two boxes, which were all National Park Collections, from the storeroom. National Parks and Wildlife Act was issued in 1974, and the Australian museum collected many National Park Collections which were put on one side of the archaeology storage alone and were counted individually. As for the registration information about those artifacts, it was almost the same with the registration done two weeks ago, but the difference was that unearthed artifacts of different sites were put into the same box. There was a problem with KE EMU that each catalogue could only contain one location. If items of the same location could be found in other boxes, then I could only make a sub record number. After I finished that, all numbers were to be put on boxes for the purpose of future reference. Furthermore, once registered, the National Park Collection should have an ID Card. Therefore, a piece of excel document should be filled in and noted with site name, registration, location, project, date and description. At last, I print the card and put it back to the storage with boxes.
A few days ago before the end of my internship, I received another Loan Return, ten boxes from Chinbnal wood. Since this batch was lent in 2010 and the museum had detailed statistics, we only needed to check article numbers and weight. The total numbers were the same and no tag was missing. The only problem was that in one box, all samples were put in different bags and were numbered individually by the student who lent them. As the museum’s records were kept as per the bags, I had to import their numbers and weight once again for later consultations.
The internship made me gain a lot of knowledge about museum collection management, as well as aboriginal archaeology. It was really a rare and meaningful experience.