A small team of NAS volunteers is working with Southampton University students to catalogue a significant collection and make the archive available for everyone. Over the years, a significant collection of plans, digital scans and photographs of traditional boats has been created, based on the large collection of vernacular boats that used to be in Exeter Maritime Museum. Now that the collection has been auctioned and distributed around the world, these plans, digital files and photos are an important archival resource both of the unique boats themselves, but also as an iconic collection of maritime heritage. 

We've assembled a small team of volunteers who have an interest in small boats, plans and archiving, and together with Southampton University, we're provide them with training and support where needed, so that they can create an archive that makes the plans and photos accessible to the public. 

The tasks that we are doing include:

  • Cataloguing photos and paper plans
  • Online cataloguing of digital scans and photos
  • Preparing documents for scanning
  • Creating inked versions of pencil boat plans
  • Cross referencing spreadsheets with boat plan and documentary data
  • First-aid conservation
  • Photo re-naming
  • Anything else that pops up and needs doing!

Before the global pandemic, our base of operations was the Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the Avenue Campus of Southampton University SO17 1BF. The finished archive will be deposited at the University Archive in the Hartley Library and available for online research through their database.

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Above: Presentation given by the ISCA Archive Team at the 2020 NAS Virtual Conference

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Navigating the ISCA Archive, by Abigail Parkes, Deanna Cunningham, Lindsay Long, Sirin Ghiye, Thomas Prince and Florrie Farkas

01/04/21

The International Small Craft Association (ISCA) was a large collection of vernacular boats originally collected by David Goddard and housed at Exeter Maritime Museum. Unfortunately, the collection has now been split up. However, through the efforts of staff and students from the University of Southampton, particularly Dr Lucy Blue who has led the project for many years, a large archive of records of the boats remains. This includes photographs, architectural drawings, interviews, and other documentation for traditional watercraft globally, one of the most comprehensive collections in the world. Sadly, the archive is not currently in a usable condition, so the university has teamed up with the Nautical Archaeology Society to start the Traditional Boat Records' Archive Project.

The aim of this project is to catalogue the records so that they can be put into the University of Southampton, Hartley Library Maritime Archaeology Special Collections and made available for use by researchers. Until the Covid-19 pandemic, the project had focused on cataloguing the paper records at the universities’ Centre of Maritime Archaeology (CMA). However, a large amount of the records are already digital, which allowed the NAS to start an online program during quarantine. A one-day training course opened up online cataloguing to public participation, allowing volunteers from all over the world and from any background to become involved in creating the digital archive that can then be used by researchers and other interested parties. This article is an accompaniment to the Navigating the ISCA Archive talk at the Nautical Archaeology Society Conference 2020, showing the personal experiences of some of our volunteers working with the collection.

 

Deanna Cunningham

I have really enjoyed volunteering with this project, especially as I have been allowed to work with the more personal material that we have in our archives, including interviews with Sue Goddard, wife of the creator of the collection, carried out by Lucy Blue, University of Southampton and John Cooper from the University of Exeter.

The vastness of the collection lends itself to having many stories. Lindsay and I worked together to uncover some of the dramatic stories associated with these boats for our presentation in November as we both felt it important to share their rich history to give a sense of the geographical expanse as well as breadth of time this collection covers. I was particularly intrigued by the story as to how David obtained The Junk and The Donting Hu Large Sampan during his visit to Cultural Revolution China in the early 1980s. Both Sue and David were given permission to travel freely around China looking for traditional boats (that were fast disappearing), which was an extraordinary feat due to the distrust of visitors under Mao’s regime. Once returned to the UK, the Junk had quite a life! She was even sailed down the Thames and somewhere in the many documents we have to sort through, there is a photo of the Junk and David outside the Houses of Parliament in London.

Working with the interviews and using the collection to research these stories has shown me that this collection is much more than just some records to archive, it was an attempt by some wonderfully passionate people, especially David Goddard, to preserve global maritime heritage for future generations. I had a wonderful time working with Lindsay to uncover a few detailed stories of the many histories surrounding the hundreds of boats in the ISCA collection and there are still plenty more to explore. By volunteering with this wonderful team to digitise this catalogue we have helped to keep David’s mission alive, and I can only encourage you to get involved with this great project as well.

 

Lindsay Long

I have been volunteering on the ISCA Archive online cataloguing project since the introductory course in June 2020. I was interested in the potential of ‘making the best of it’ by reimaging archival projects online and by involving volunteers, many of whom suddenly have more free time. I am actually one of several international volunteers on the ISCA archiving project, but some of the other volunteers are graduate students at Southampton University who have had their studies impacted by the pandemic. Together we cover a broad range of knowledge and experience that combine to make the project as a whole more descriptive and inclusive. Professionally, I supervise a variety of archives, especially those at museums and movie studios, so I am extremely interested in organizing and making archives useable and accessible. Digitizing and democratizing archives is an important endeavour. Especially for collections that are not well known outside their institutions or home countries. That was actually something that originally drew me to the project: I was so curious to learn about the UK’s vernacular watercraft. I’ve always had a passion for marine archaeology and history, so the Traditional Boat Records' Archive seemed like a great place to get my feet wet.  While cataloguing and getting ready for the NAS conference, Deanna and I learned about some of the amazing stories about the boats. I really would like to learn more about some of them, especially the Dutch Pram dinghy that helped a couple escape the Nazis!

 

Sirin Ghiye

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have taken part in many of the NAS online courses. Accidently, I joined ISCA online project just a few days before their online training course. Before this, I had no idea about the ISCA collection, or the project being undertaken to record it! By attending the course, I found a passion and interest in those special boats from around the world. The collection is unique in its history, quantity, and internationality - the collection reflects maritime cultural heritage from all around the world.

In starting as a volunteer for recording the information I faced some difficulties understanding the work methodology, but with the help of some wonderful people, I have recorded six folders for ISCA so far and presented about the collection to the public.

The most amazing part about the project, has been participating in a presentation during NAS virtual conference via Pheedloop platform with the kindest students. We worked together for a successful presentation. This event made me feel more self-confident and excited to continue with working with the ISCA team to record and save the information about this international collection from disappearing. This is very important to me because the history and contents of the collection are related to maritime archaeology and cultural heritage, which I am very passionate about.

 

Thomas Prince

In as much as COVID-19 has prevented one from getting out into the world, it has also opened doors to new, digital, opportunities which one may not have considered before. Archaeology is built upon both working outdoors and as a team, meaning those of us wanting to get involved in the community over the past year have been forced online. Far from this being a downside, I have been given the opportunity to volunteer on something entirely different: The Traditional Boat Records' Archive Project. Before the NAS archiving workshop in June, I had zero experience of the cataloguing and archiving process and it has been a pleasure to learn new skills and be involved in such an important, real-world project to conserve global maritime archaeology. Each craft within the collection has its own unique story and with the disbanding of the collection, the stories risked being lost to the tides of history. I very am proud to have worked on the project with a wonderful team to preserve the ISCA collection in digital form and to share the stories with the NAS community.

 

Florrie Farkas

I became interested in the ISCA archive after the NAS online archiving workshop back in June 2020. Over the following months, I got to know more about the vessels in the collection both through the archive and through individual research. The geographical scope and variety of vessels is astounding, and it is unfortunate that the collection is no longer together. However, through cataloguing, we can still preserve them for future research. This project has widened my knowledge about traditional boat building; the importance of 3D scanning and recording; as well as how a collection like this comes together (and falls apart).

 

Abigail Parkes

I have been volunteering with the project since June 2019 and have been lucky enough to take an organisational role managing the volunteers, under the supervision of Peta Knott of the NAS and Lucy Blue at the University of Southampton. I believe that making our work available for other archaeologists and the general public is one of the most crucial parts of what we do and am excited to be involved in a project working towards that goal; as well as to get experience in something that is not covered in an Archaeology degree.

The records of the ISCA collection contain not only examples of watercraft that no longer exist and their traditional construction (for people fascinated by boats), but also the stories of the people who used and collected these vessels. Even at this stage, diving into the records revealed some fascinating stories, as presented by Deanna Cunningham at the NAS conference. By collating the information that has been collected about the boats over many decades and preserving it in an accessible archive, we can continue to share this information and these wonderful stories even though the collection no longer exists.

The project is fortunate to be blessed with many enthusiastic volunteers with different backgrounds, especially since taking the recording digital in June 2020, who all bring their own knowledge and passion to the project. It has been wonderful to work with people across the globe towards the goal of recording this archive and I am excited to see where the project goes in the future.

If you would like to become one of our volunteers, please get in touch via the NAS at [email protected] or myself at [email protected]