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5x8-Doc-art - 2/17/99


"5x8 Documentation Is All It Takes: How to Write Documentation for A&S Entries" by Gunnora Hallakarva <gunnora at bga.com>.


NOTE: See also the files: AS-cont-docu-msg, AS-food-msg, AS-ideas-msg, AS-events-msg, AS-classes-msg, AS-classes-lst.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Subject: ANST - Re: Documentation

Date: Mon, 15 Feb 99 15:17:47 MST

From: Gunnora Hallakarva <gunnora at bga.com>

To: ansteorra at Ansteorra.ORG


Lady Simone Said:

> Example say that a lady from one barony has done an exceptional Job

> on an Elizabethan Gown, spent the time to makes sure it fit well and

> was done as  true as possible to replicate the gown. She had not the

> time because of her  mundane life or time ran out to Write the research

> paper, or did not know  how to write the research paper needed for

> documentation.  Takes the Piece to A&S and is automatically docked

> 10 points for no documentation. she  receives 36 points for the work,

> which is only 4 points of off the max she can get without documentation.


If the reason the example artist didn't do documentation was the absolutely

untrue misconception that you must do a research paper, please allow me to

set your mind at ease.


Perfectly reasonable documentation can be done on ONE 5" x 8" index card, or

on one side of a typed piece of paper.


It doesn't require a whole bleeding book, either -- for that matter, none of

the judges except strange documentation mavens like me will read anything

longer than one or two pages,



Here once again for the edification of the unedified is my famous article:





By Gunnora Hallakarva


The basics of almost any documentation can and should be possible to do on

one of those larger 5x8 index cards.


The harsh reality is that no one will read more than about a paragraph of

data anyway except in exceptional situations.  Especially at a large event

such as Kingdom A&S or LPT, the judges are spread pretty thin and most will

not read at all, much less read a tome of research information.


Many successful artisans will place a clearly marked "DOCUMENTATION

SUMMARY" section at the head of a longer piece of documentation.  This is

an excellent idea.  As well, it is a good idea to actually create a 5x8

index card for every entry with the "short form" documentation on it (in

addition to the longer explanation), and place it right next to the item,

since some folks are lazy and won't open your notebook containing the





(1) "What is it (title, basic description)?"

i.e., Reproduction of a 13th Century Icelandic Whalebone Ear Spoon


(2) "How were similar items made in period?"

Give the basics of the medieval examples.  A sentence or two is all that's

needed! i.e., "Earspoons were a common implement for personal hygeine

used throughout the Middle Ages, consisting of a small, spoon-shaped

tool for scraping the ears.  They could be cast in silver, or carved

from wood, bone, antler or ivory.  Some were very elaborate, including

extensive ornamentation on the handle.  Some were worn as part of the

day to day costume as well."


(3) "How was your item made?  How is it like the medieval examples?  Where

have you deviated from the medieval techniques, and why?"


This is the hardest area for most people.  It is very important to explain

where you made design changes or substituted materials -- these things are

acceptible, but you must show that you understand how the real ones are

made, and don't allow the judges to think that you are trying to put one

over on them


i.e.  "I used deer antler for this project since whalebone is obviously not

available to the modern Ansteorran.  This was soaked in cold water for two

days, then boiled for 3 hours before working.  I roughed out the shape with

a coping saw, then did close shaping whittling with a sharp penknife.

Final shaping involved the use of wet sanding, carving with engaving tools

and burins (using a Dremel tool for some areas as I don't possess some of

the tools that a medieval bone carver would have used), and finally buffing

with beeswax to shine the surface."


Sometimes you also need to explain the "why" of an item.  For instance, a

13th century hatbox of molded leather designed to hold a reticulated caul

headdress, yet decorated with early Celtic designs will appear incongruous,

unless the judge reads the documentation to find an explanation:   i.e.,

"Normally hatboxes of this period would have used Gothic design elements

similar to those found in church architecture, however, this box was

commissioned by Baroness Butshe Wanteditthatway, who requested the specific

designs utilized here."




One thing to always avoid is DO NOT LIE IN YOUR DOCUMENTATION.  Chances are

very good that *someone* who looks at your entry will know enough about it

to know if you are fibbing in your documentation, and you will come out

looking bad.


If you used a less than medieval technique or material, THAT'S OK!  All the

judges want to see is that you know what the original item was, and how it

was made -- so for instance, if you used an acrylic white paint instead of

making your own (toxic) lead-based pigment, say so - and say why:

"Normally a lead-based pigment would have been used to create the white

paint, but since lead is toxic, I elected to use the safer acrylic white."


The same goes for construction.  If you used a Dremel tool, a carving

expert can see the rotary nature of the cuts.  Better to say, "Although

medieval craftsmen would have used a bit-and-brace and hand-burins, I have

used a Dremel tool for ease in construction."


You won't lose points for a well-documented substitution, so long as you

explain why.  Tell the judges whay you did and why so they know that YOU

know.  But don't try to lie in your documentation to make your project look

better - as often this technique backfires and makes YOU look worse!




Some events actually will specify a number of references. If so, be sure

to actually use at least the minimum number of references required.  I do

not favor requiring X number of  references, however, since different items

may need differing amounts of references to document them adequately.


For instance, if you are carving antler or bone, then MacGregor's "Bone,

Antler, Ivory and Horn" is a pretty much one-stop reference for many items,

though as a teriary source it really should be supported by photos or other

sources.  Sometimes a picture is literally worth a thousand words -- for

instance, the reticulated caul hatbox entered at Gulf Wars 1997, where the

only documentation was a museum postcard with the date and a photo of the

item - though additional sources on medieval leatherwork would have really

added a lot to the documentation.


However, as a rule of thumb, it is best to aim for no less than three good

sources.  What is a good source?  It depends on the field.


Usually a primary source is the best possible source, but a primary source

is THE ITEM ITSELF - for instance one of Queen Elizabeth's dresses is a

primary source.  Janet Arnold's book, Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd

is a secondary source, but a very good secondary source. A book review of

Arnold's book is a tertiary source.


Most of us will not have the opportunity to go to the European Museums and

see primary sources in person.  So instead we rely upon secondary sources -

a picture of the item, an archaeological report describing the item, or a

painting by an artist of the period of the item.


If you can, try to have at least one primary source or one or two good

secondary sources.  If you can't get this type of documentation, then you

are down to tertiary sources.  For instance, MacGregor's "Bone, Antler,

Ivory and Horn" book is a tertiary source -- he has compiled the

information from archaeological reports about the items he describes.  When

using a tertiary source, try to corroborate the evidence using other

sources as well, such as a photo from a museum catalog, or additional

secondary and/or tertiary sources that agree with your first source.


The terms primary, secondary and tertiary confuse many people.  It's pretty

simple to understand.  Think of a saint's relic:  a primary relic is an

actual part of the saint - Saint Acutiaria's finger bone. A secondary

relic is something that the saint has touched, for example the clothing

worn by St. Winifred, or the Pieces of the True Cross.  A tertiary relic

is something associated with the saint but which has never touched the

saint, for instance, a modern painting of the saint that weeps tears of



It gets a little more confusing when you talk about academic sources.  A

period painting of an object is a secondary source for the object, but the

painting is a primary source for the techniques of painting.  So a source

can be primary in one context, and secondary in another.


To summarize the discussion of sources, do the best you can.  Get the best

sources you can find, and corroborate your sources by finding other sources

that also verify the point you are making.




The other thing that scares people about documentation is the Fear of

Documentation Style stricken into their hearts while doing research papers

in school.  Really, putting down a bibliographical reference or a footnote

is simple.  All should have the same basic elemets:





The exact punctuation and presentation of this material doesn't matter, so

long as it's all present.  The idea is to make it possible for the

interested reader to track down your sources and read more about your topic.


Still, it is a good idea to use a Style Guide to make sure that you are

getting all the data down that you need, and that you are presenting the

documentation consistently.  I recommend that you get a style guide (you

can buy them cheap as used books from Half Price Books or from College

bookstores, and now you can even find the info on the Web) and always use

it.  Some common style guides are:


* Kate Turabian.  "A Manual of Style" (a subset of the Chicago Manual of


* Chicago Manual of Style (used widely by newspapers and book publishers)

* The Modern Language Association (MLA) Manual of Style (used widely in the


* The American Psychology Association (APA) Style Guide (used widely in the





The most valuable additional documentation that you can add would be

pictures of the medieval examples that inspired the current work.  People

will almost always look at pictures.


If you have done additional in-depth documentation, go ahead and write it

up and include it.  Place at the top of the first page a clearly marked

"DOCUMENTATION SUMMARY" section, and keep that to one good-sized paragraph.

Follow that then with "ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTATION" and then continue with

the rest of your paper.  Everybody will at least glance at the summary

info, and those who have a real interest will be more likely to read the

whole thing.


Additional supporting materials, such as xerox copies etc. can be added at

the back.


If you put together 5 or more pages of documentation, seriously consider

converting your long-form documentation into an article for Tournaments

Illuminated.  One thing we expect of Laurel candidates is that they have

proved themselves to be teachers -- and a T.I. article teaches thousands of

people across the Known World.  If you have a really long piece of

research, consider Compleat Anachronist instead.




As has already been mentioned, it is a good idea to place the bare-bones

documentation basics on a 5x8 index card and place that right next to your

A&S entry.


The written information is best kept together in a ring binder. Some of the

best documentation I've seen is placed inside the clear acrylic sleeves,

and the sections are separated by tabs for easy reference. A notebook like

this can be quite valuable, as you don't have to reinvent the wheel (or

your documentation) for every A&S event you enter. Keep all your A&S

Documentation, you can never tell when you might need it again.


Provide a table of contents at the front, and number or label the dividing

tabs so that people can find the specific documentation that they want.


If you have a whole ringbinder full of many many documentation articles,

you may want to use a two notebook system, -- a larger notebook in which to

store your entire collection of documentation, and a smaller notebook

containing only the documentation for the work(s) being displayed at the

current event.  Otherwise you may need to clearly divide the notebook into

sections "Works Being Shown Today" and "Past Documentation."




The most important rule of thumb is: don't confuse, bore, or attempt to

bamboozle the judges.  The KISS principle applies to documentation (Keep It

Simple, Stupid) - get the basics explained up front, show what you did and

how you did it honestly, and document the information by showing your

sources.  Documentation isn't really all that hard, and can be quite fun if

you approach it with the proper attitude.




<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org