Historical artefacts unearthed during last month’s excavation of former convict probation station Kerry Lodge have been revealed in an engaging community activity.
The University of Tasmania, in partnership with the Launceston Historical Society and Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery hosted on Thursday, May 17th, representatives from WISE disability employment services.
The visiting group spent the day supporting the next chapter of the archaeological project, assisting staff in washing, examining and documenting almost 10,000 recovered items – an exercise helping them prepare for employment.
Professor Eleanor Casella, archaeologist and Kerry Lodge project lead, said the initiative also allowed the visitors to gain a rare glimpse into a unique chapter of Tasmania’s history.
“Our work at Kerry Lodge has always been a community project to help foster engagement
“This initiative could only unfold in a way that was inclusive of community members.
“During the dig, we were visited by WISE representatives who were instrumental in helping us interpret some of the artefacts that we found.
“One lady who had some experience in antiques assisted me in identifying the material of a gentleman’s hair comb, which I was worried might be plastic.
“When I showed her the item, she identified it as tortoiseshell because it had a different texture. This helped me date the site correctly, and it was on the basis of that knowledge that I invited the group to assist us in cleaning the artefacts.”
Dr Karen Hall from the University’s School of Creative Arts said the institution was excited to welcome WISE employment to Inveresk.
“This is a great example of how the University of Tasmania can engage with diverse groups through hands-on learning that makes tangible connections to the past,” Dr Hall said.
“It shows that people with a wide range of backgrounds, skill sets and abilities are essential to the development of a collaborative research project.”
Deborah Quill, NDIS Manager – Tasmania with WISE Employment, said the activity was a great opportunity for the participants.
“The WISE Employment NDIS program allows our participants to identify job interests and build skills and knowledge about employment through on the job training,” Ms Quill said.
“The opportunity to work on this project has given our participants a fantastic insight into a real working environment, and they were thrilled to be invited back for the second stage of the project.
“We have spent time working on identifying the skills required for this next stage, and all the participants are keen to put them into practice.”
The artefacts were unearthed last month during the Excavating Convict Lives initiative, a cross-disciplinary project centred on an archaeological dig at Kerry Lodge.
Recovered items included original coins, a smoking pipe, clay marbles, a rock-cutting hammer used to break the stone for constructing Kerry Lodge Bridge, window glass, ceramics, metal nails and bones.
“These artefacts belonged to both the superiors and convicts who inhabited the site, so we now have a material culture providing insight into how they lived,” Professor Casella said.
Once processed, the artefacts will go into permanent storage at the QVMAG.
Pictured from left, Jon Addison, QVMAG; John Dent, Launceston Historical Society; Samantha Newell, WISE participant, and Professor Eleanor Casella, University of Manchester.