Research Plan and Methodology

Scrap of cotton found at Hyde Park Barracks, artefact number UF4713

This project builds on methodologies that have been developed over the past decade in Sydney and Melbourne (which were themselves derived from approaches developed in North America). The creation of systems and databases that allow the consistent recording of data has made it possible for data drawn from different places to be meaningfully compared, as well for the effective integration of historical and archaeological information. Fundamental to this approach is the description and analysis of patterns, be they of the contents of cesspits, the contents of underfloor deposits, or the data derived from registers of inmates or female migrants. For these patterns to be statistically meaningful, assemblage-based analysis has to be large scale.

Timetable and Milestones

Research will be conducted in three phases over three years. Phase One (years 1-3) focuses on completing the re-cataloguing of the ‘remaining 60% of the Hyde Park Barracks assemblage. Murray and Davies will write the training manual for student volunteers in the laboratory at La Trobe University. In Phase Two Davies will begin the analysis of target elements of the assemblage. Phase 3 will see the completion of all re-cataloguing and analysis and the completion of the major published outcome of the project: Archaeologies of Migration and Institutions: The Hyde Park Barracks. Throughout all phases the APDI will be closely collaborating with staff of the Museum in the development of displays and public programmes.

Assemblage analysis and re-cataloguing

This process is founded on the analysis of assemblages derived from archaeological sites. At the time of excavation archaeologists produce descriptive catalogues and our approach is to take these raw data, assess their consistency and reliability, re-describe and re-catalogue them, and then to analyse patterns in the material culture in the context of patterns detected in the history of the occupation of the site or place. In addition to the key fields recorded in any Australian historical-archaeological catalogue, the project database also requires the identification of minimum vessels counts, matching sets, conjoined vessels and other advanced recording fields and terms, such as the location of decoration. It also integrates stratigraphic context data, independent type series lists, field and keyword definitions, artefact photographs, and tracks the updating of individual artefact records, pick lists and where utilised, the movement of the artefacts themselves. At HPB particular attention has already been paid to the use of GIS technologies to support spatial analysis of the underfloor deposits (see Crook & Murray 2006).

Documentary research

Our methodology calls for the integration of archaeological and historical datasets at the Barracks and for research into comparable places in Australia and overseas (particularly in North America and Europe). There are considerable documentary resources available at the Barracks ranging from records specifically relating to the operations of the Depot and the Asylum (such as inmates registers and the records of the dispensary) through to Parliamentary inquiries and other government reports. Where appropriate paper artefacts that are part of the underfloor deposits will also be integrated into this analysis.