Blog

Behind the Scenes with the Aboriginal Archaeology Department

By: Rachelle Ayoub, Category: Science, Date: 18 Dec 2017

University of Sydney intern Rachelle Ayoub shares experiences from her internship in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archaeology.

Rachelle Ayoub with stone tool from Frazer collection

Rachelle Ayoub with stone tool from Frazer collection
Photographer: Rachelle Ayoub © Rachelle Ayoub

I have been interning with Allison Dejanovic in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Archaeology section over the past two months. During this time, I have had the opportunity to work closely on the recently donated Frazer collection which comprises of an impressive 3 500 Aboriginal stone tools from across Western New South Wales.

Much of my work has involved cataloguing and storing the objects and this form of collection management is highly rewarding; being able to physically interact with artifacts, to hold them in your hands and feel their weight and shape, can really help you form a deeper understanding of the collection and its relationship to people through time. It is also rewarding to know that collating significant object details is not only helpful for initial analysis, but will be used by people in future decades for a myriad of purposes.

I was also lucky enough to interview John Frazer to discover the stories behind the collection. This was a fantastic opportunity for me to speak with an avid collector with a real passion for Aboriginal archaeology about his experiences in the field and all the people he was in contact with along the way. The results of this interview can be found in the AM blog Knapping and Archaeology: Aboriginal Stone Tools from Western NSW.

There have also been many wonderful experiences that I didn’t anticipate, such as helping the archives team to deliver and deposit artifacts to the museum’s industrial freezer where I found a taxidermy lion that was being treated for an insect invasion and getting to witness the opening days of the new Westpac Long Gallery and learn a little about the curatorial work behind parts of the exhibition.

I have been privileged enough to meet and talk with many leading people in the field from a diverse range of backgrounds and learn more about the industry and the fascinating research projects that are undertaken at the museum. I’ve also seen the work of the many other interns, volunteers and researchers within the department and their projects with new technology, from using 3D scanning to make detailed digital copies of stone artifacts and enhance analysis opportunities to using software that can offer depth analysis of the pigmentation in Aboriginal stone artwork. It has been inspiring to be immersed in an atmosphere of forward research and knowledge-sharing.

Interning with the Australian Museum has been a rewarding, exciting and dynamic experience and I would thoroughly recommend the opportunity to students across a wide range of backgrounds, from science, to history, anthropology, archaeology, and education.

Rachelle Ayoub, intern from the University of Sydney Masters of Museum and Heritage Studies.