Cat­a­logu­ing his­tory in Car­bon­ear

The Compass - - THE COMPASS - BY NICHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­

Like a puz­zle

The old post of­fice in Car­bon­ear was alive with ac­tiv­ity in re­cent months.

Natalie Austin and her team of sum­mer stu­dents were busy study­ing and cat­a­loging pieces of Car­bon­ear’s his­tory for the town’s Her­itage So­ci­ety.

Austin, a Car­bon­ear na­tive, is the mu­seum di­rec­tor and ar­chiv­ist for the so­ci­ety.

From old doc­u­ments to an early record player, they’ve been mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing has a place in the up­per an­nals of the post of­fice.

Lo­cated in the heart of down­town on Wa­ter Street, the lower level of the post of­fice serves as one of three mu­se­ums in Car­bon­ear.

It is a process that was started two sum­mers ago and has been at the fore­front of Austin’s work ever since.

Her of­fice is tes­ta­ment work they’ve been do­ing.

Walk­ing into the of­fice, it is not hard to no­tice the shelves full of cat­a­logued doc­u­ments on the left wall. The ad­ja­cent wall holds much of the same.

On her desk, there are two elec­tronic scan­ners, one full-sized while the other one is a hand scan­ner.

“We have all of the ba­sic in­for­ma­tion here on an item,” said Austin. “We have a pic­ture of the item, where it’s lo­cated. Some items are in the ar­chives here, and some are in the other two mu­se­ums as well.”

Each item is also given an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­ber. This al­lows for re­searchers to quickly iden­tify the items, plus all other in­for­ma­tion about the item.

“We get the de­scrip­tion of it and if we’re lucky we know the where it came from,” said Austin.

to the

To as­sem­ble this in­for­ma­tion, Austin and her team have been us­ing a com­puter pro­gram called Past Per­fect.

This data­base ap­pli­ca­tion as­sem­bles all of the in­for­ma­tion into a co­he­sive file.

“It’s great for us be­cause it is more of a cat­a­logue style,” said Austin. “It kind of works like an Ex­cel spread­sheet.”

She said Past Per­fect plays an in­te­gral part in “putting the puz­zle to­gether.”

Us­ing the pro­gram, Austin can con­nect date ranges for items, sim­i­lar fab­ri­ca­tion ma­te­ri­als and the di­men­sions of the items.

“Maybe that makes a dif­fer­ence to find­ing other items and link­ing them all to­gether,” she said.

For the Car­bon­ear Her­itage So­ci­ety, the cur­rent ar­chives has never been at this level.

In the past, not all items had stor­age units be­cause the so­ci­ety did not have stor­age units.

The so­ci­ety has started adding units for items over the past num­ber of years.

“It comes a lit­tle step at a time,” said Austin.

The so­ci­ety ac­quired a num­ber of stor­age units last year, while the year be­fore, it con­structed stor­age units.

This year, a shelv­ing unit was pur­chased from an es­tate sale and that is ca­pa­ble of sep­a­rat­ing and or­ga­niz­ing a large num­ber of doc­u­ments.

“This is enor­mous for us,” said Austin. “A doc­u­ment cen­tre where we can pull them out and lo­cate them all to­gether.”

While the archival work has been on­go­ing for the past two years, Austin was not a part of the pro­ject.

In our de­scrip­tion and in our in­for­ma­tion, we were adding it. So, we’re re­ally bulk­ing up

what was done be­fore.

She is re­spon­si­ble for build­ing the ar­chive, tak­ing the in­for­ma­tion from the pre­vi­ous pro­ject and putting it to­gether with hers.

“The in­for­ma­tion is there, but what hap­pened is that (the item) had to be re­lo­cated,” said Austin. “Some of the items that were there, we did not know all of the prove­nance be­hind it be­cause it was cat­a­logued as an in­di­vid­ual item.”

She would be go­ing through items and re­al­ize that some items be­longed with each other.

“In our de­scrip­tion and in our in­for­ma­tion, we were adding it. So, we’re re­ally bulk­ing up what was done be­fore,” said Austin.

Car­bon­ear Her­itage So­ci­ety work­ers Anna Finn (front) and Caitlin Adams cat­a­logue an item at the old post of­fice in Car­bon­ear. The two stu­dents, along with Ahila Ka­rau­nanithy, worked along­side Car­bon­ear Her­itage So­ci­ety ar­chiv­ist Natalie Austin cat­a­logu­ing ar­ti­facts this past sum­mer.

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