Shw-Wht-U-Knw-art - 4/28/14
"SCA Documentation or how to show what you know…." by Agnes Berengarii de Girona.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
SCA Documentation or how to show what you know….
by Agnes Berengarii de Girona
In the SCA, many of us love to do research. We comb through books and websites trying to find those little kernels of information that help us to take our passion and create things that might of existed in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. We make all this cool stuff from the knowledge we have gained and we decide to show it off and enter a competition. So, you stand your researched item in front of judges, who ask to see your documentation.
What? Can't they see all your research here?
You may have an awesome thing, but it is your documentation that tells them why said thing is awesome and, also, based on period items. Without documentation, your research is all in your head. Pretty simple, but documentation has to be thought out.
Research and documentation should be the first thing you do before you start your project and not a hurried thing after you are finished and trying to get ready for the competition. Besides, you can always amend your documentation as you go along and find things that do not work.
The first part of your documentation is making sure your research is solid. Always try to find the best sources for your information. Now, if you were a graduate student or independent you could probably travel around the world finding the originals and learning the proper languages, but since most of us don't have those luxuries, we have to make do what is available. We call these sources and there is the basic hierarchy of sources:
· Best: Primary
o Actual extant thing
§ Wooden box from 1483 Hamburg
§ Lace from 1570 Italy
§ Paperweight from 12th Century Turkey
o SCA allowed Primary
§ Paintings from the Period and Culture with caveats (see Pitfalls)
§ Photo of extant item with attribution from Museum and/or Collection
· OK, not great: Secondary
o Period manuscript discussing item with correlating descriptions (meanings change; example Petticoat a petticoat in the 14th century isn't a slip or underskirt like in the 19th century)
o SCA OK – English translation of said manuscript.
· Avoid using or use with above sources: Tertiary
o Non-Period books discussing item with only non-period sketches of said item. However, these can be really good or really bad sources, so best to look for better.
o Non-period paintings of period subjects
o High School Textbooks
§ There are websites that have far better information than them. Just sayin'…
§ Good: has photos of extant item
§ Good: bibliography of good sources
§ Bad: Just talks about what they believe without any attributions what so ever
o Laurels ;-)
§ Great for ideas to find better sources, but lousy documentation if you cite, "Master G said printers always slept hanging upside down".
Note: Tertiary sources may have bibliographies that can lead you to better sources.
In research, you are a detective trying to find that path to what really was used in period. Sometimes it is really good to try and disprove your theory than trying to prove it.
Pitfalls- common mistakes with people's research sources:
· Circular documentation of sources
o "Dr. J Bobo, PhD, in his book, said the Incas did underwater basket weaving as shown in Dr. L Frodo, PhD, citing Dr. J Bobo's research who cites Dr. L. Frodo… "See the problem here? The information circles back on itself, it isn't an original source citing a independent source. This is very common in interest areas that have very little information.
· Using paintings without knowledge of the artist or the context of their paintings.
o Hieronymus Bosch – 15th Century – many of his paintings are symbolic or allegorical, not meant to be taken literal. So, while spiked dog collars might be period, they were not used by punk rockers for jewelry.
o Paintings can be a good starting point. You see the item in a painting by Holbein the Elder that tells you that it was in possible use in one of the German states in the early 16th Century. Now, you can start looking for sources in those areas.
· Only using one source. Three or more sources are best. As Mistress Joan Silvertroppe of Caid says, "I'd prefer at least 3 different types of "sources" from the period, if possible. That's my usual rule of thumb I try to stick to myself when proving (or even disproving) something. I'd like at least one in writings of the period (wills, inventory accounts, someone commenting on it in the period, etc.), one physical extant item if possible (not always) - with some write up from a recent academic study of it, even a painting or a statue with the item showing. The more info on the item, the better. If it is just mentioned in an outdated resource, I'd have more questions. And sometimes there just isn't much info to provide solid documentation either way."
· Coffee Table books of illustrations from the Victorian area.
· Using Books that do not attribute actual archeological information or artifacts without correlating sources that are verified. Most will have illustrations not photos and many of the worse culprits are written before 1920 and tend toward perpetuating myths, so be very leery of older books. Also, older books often have out of date information.
o There are some books that were once the end all and be all of a subject that are now looked at with, "What were we thinking". However, they still have value, because they have descriptions of artifacts that were lost or destroyed during the World Wars.
· Books or websites that do not have attribution to their information
o Bibliographies are your friend. The best ones cite books in the original languages and/or will be published by scholarly publishers.
· SCA "Experts" – We all know those people that are called "Experts" in their fields of study. However, just because they are very knowledgeable, they may be leading you down a rabbit hole of conjecture and speculation rather than actual facts about the item. Some have been known to be dogmatic, even when presented with conflicting facts. These experts might be able to suggest books, but don't list Humans as resources, rather you can thank them for their assistance in finding resources.
Are you starting to see a trend here? ATTRIBUTION IS KING! Footnotes and a bibliography are imperative to all documentation. The nice thing is that as you determine that a source is helpful, you write down bibliographic information. Which brings us to…
How do I cite my sources? There are several correct citation styles to choose from and use in your bibliography the most common ones and what fields of study they are used for are:
You can find many different books or websites that can help you with use of these citation styles. Just remember, if you didn't fly to Europe or visit a Museum with the item on display, you are working with other people's work and you need to make sure that it is notated. In competition, you are showing what you can do, but you don't want to be thought a plagiarizer or a BS artist (yes, I said that), so attribution is important. Citation style itself is only important in an Academic setting. Most folks go with the MLA style and often you can find free MLA citation generators on the internet, so it is usually the most common.
OK, So I have my Bibliography. Now what? The last page or two of the documentation should be your bibliography and you should be ready with footnotes for unusual words, attributions and other important data. But you are generally finished with that by the time you are planning to write your documentation. So, you have set up who your sources are, what information you want to convey and why your information is correct or the best possible guess. Now, you need to tell the story of your item.
How do I tell the story? I find it best to start with an opening paragraph. Then move on to explain the historic record of your item. And, finally, talk about your process in making the item. Most good papers will end with a wrap up paragraph.
The opening paragraph (or two or three, but one is usually good enough) prepares your audience for your item and what you have found out about it. It is important to really tell your Judges what you are going to talk about before you talk about it. It says, "I am doing this, and this is why you should care." Example:
"My Kingdom A&S project is an 13th century widget, commonly used by mechanical goatherds. The research I have done shows that widgets were in common use within the period. I have created one based on the evidence shown of how the early Gothic widgets were constructed and present it here to you. I desired to make widgets because of my fascination with mechanical goatherds and the more I researched the more I found."
Simple. Not overly long nor complicated. I have a thing. This thing was made in period. Why I care about the thing. You catch the reader, so that you can move forward.
Now, you want to tell what you have learned about the item. Where was it from? What culture(s) used it? How was it used? This is a big one.
Some folks will create an item for display without actually understanding how it was used. There are many beautiful reliquary bags. Why is that? Because they were used to store sacred artifacts and saw very little use, but try finding bags that were used for carrying everyday items and it becomes a bit tougher. One might assume that most of the embroidery was done for Churches because there aren't a lot of home goods left. Or that everyone was small of build because the extant clothing found is for small adults or possibly children. If the item is something that is used a lot by the people that used them, then they become rare items and garbage dumps become important to really seeing how people lived. How something was used would affect its availability as an extant item.
Another question you should answer is how it was made in period? What materials were used? Where did they come from? What tools were used? How were the tools made or where would historic people get those tools if they weren't made by those that used them? Sounds complicated, but not really. Think about a stool from the 11th century…
Example A shows a stool that was found in a 11th century dump in Flanders. This stool was made with wood found in local forests, according to Source, elm and alder were the most common woods used for carpentry, in this region. The stool shown is constructed with alder. The tools that an 11th century carpenter would have had included a plane, a chisel and a saw. Peg and glue construction appeared to be the norm. The tools used were probably made of iron Iron tools were made by blacksmiths
I would suggest no more than a few paragraphs illustrating the historic information. If you have photographs of an extant item you can number the item "Example A/1/I" and include that at the end of your documentation. Note that sources are notated at each juncture were the sources of the information changes. As one of my English Teachers explained to me, if something isn't common knowledge (several sources saying the same thing) then you need to attribute each source. Even in the same paragraph. If you have several sources of information footnotes are your friend.
Basically, these paragraphs should show your knowledge of how things were done in period.
Now, you need to give a few paragraphs to what YOU did when creating your object. What materials did you use? What techniques did you use? Where did you deviate from period techniques and why?
Why you deviated is important. Part of the process of creating a period item for SCA competition is to go on a journey of discovering how things were done and why. Much of our modern techniques are dictated by the Industrial Revolution, so things that we do now, may not be the best way to do them, but a big, industrial machine can only do what they can be machined for and often that means a lesser quality way versus the single craftsman manner which creates a better product. Also, there are materials used in period that are no longer available, either because they couldn't be reproduced by industrial techniques or have been found to use toxic materials. Costs are a variable that is generally accepted for some high costs materials and tools, but you need to plan your project well. Do not claim poverty too much, especially on items that could easily be saved up for.
In my reproduction hat, I carved a hat block using the chisels I bought at the local Hardware store, as I do not have access nor money to buy hand forged chisels. The block was made with oak like the extant blocks found in the source Museum. I created my own glue to glue the blocks of wood together using the 15th century wood glue recipe found in source (pg. 10, pp4)…
… Stretching the crown and fixing it, I used a modern fixative, because Mercury was used in period and poisoned many a hat maker. (footnote)"
At the end, you can tie up your documentation with a statement of what you learned, what was easier than you thought and what was harder. Why you think some thing was done this way or that. Again, just a paragraph, kept simple.
Your documentation should be no more than a few pages with a Bibliography and addendum pages with photos of extant items and/or period paintings showing the item. About the addendums, it is perfectly acceptable to put photocopies of period sources, like a manuscript talking about the item or from the page of the book that you got the information. Sometimes it is easier, but make sure that you attribute where you got the information.
Helpful hint: if you are going to enter a competition. Print out your documentation three weeks ahead of time and have some knowledgeable friends proofread it. This will help you know, if what you are putting in is helpful or not. What information may be missing (Why did you do this?) and, of course, grammatical and spelling errors. Do your corrections, save and print four copies a week before the competition. Store these copies with everything you are using for your display. Let's face it, I have had too many friends scrambling at the last minute to find a computer they can print their documentation on because their printer decided the morning of the competition to die. J
Hopefully, this will help you with your documentation and having a successful experience in competition. Remember, Documentation is not research; it is merely how you show your studies of period things.
 This is a footnote. It denotes that the numbered sentence or paragraph is not information that I researched personally myself, but rather I Googled "citation styles" and found the information. It is a good page. It is from a library, you might want to check it out. It is at the Schwartz Memorial Library website on their citation page. First paragraph. Note: Footnotes are really there to either convey important information about what you footnoted , for example the meaning of a archaic word or phrase, or to cite what page and paragraph of a book you got the information from. Generally, a footnote will be like: "Ramirez, Pg. 355, pp. 2" Ramirez is the author, so you could go to the Bibliography and find the book information, then to the book page and paragraph number to see if the information is being properly interpreted. However, during a competition, probably not a big thing, even if I do know some judges with research accessibility on the smart phones, so be careful ;-)
Author in order of Last name Title of book, Publisher, (year and where), ISBN#
Delaney, Robert Citation Style for Research Papers B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library –Long Island University, nd (=no date), URL: http://www2.liu.edu/CWIS/cwp/library/workshop/citation.htm
Small, Kimiko Ask a Laurel , Facebook, December 7, 2013
Copyright 2013 by Peggy Vinney. <agnes at vineys dot org>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.
[] This is a footnote. It denotes that the numbered sentence or paragraph is not information that I researched personally myself, but rather I Googled "citation styles" and found the information. It is a good page. It is from a library, you might want to check it out. It is at the Schwartz Memorial Library website on their citation page. First paragraph. Note: Footnotes are really there to either convey important information about what you footnoted , for example the meaning of a archaic word or phrase, or to cite what page and paragraph of a book you got the information from. Generally, a footnote will be like: "Ramirez, Pg. 355, pp. 2" Ramirez is the author, so you could go to the Bibliography and find the book information, then to the book page and paragraph number to see if the information is being properly interpreted. However, during a competition, probably not a big thing, even if I do know some judges with research accessibility on the smart phones, so be careful ;-)