You found a really awesome object in a museum that you want to include in your documentation. That’s amazing! Good for you, finding that thing!
It doesn’t matter if it is an object, a painting, a sculpture, or some other piece of art – there is a way to cite it. I’m going to be looking at APA in this post, since it’s my citation method of preference (only I push my parentheticals into footnotes because I prefer them). I encourage you to look at your citation method of choice to see how to cite museum (or art) objects. If you run into problems, leave a comment on this post and I’ll do my best to help, or join us over on Cite Your Sh*t.
The basic layout for your citation is this:
Artist. (Date). Name of object. [What it is]. Name of Museum, Location. Retrieved from: link
For the artist, use their surname and first initial, separated by a comma. Here’s an example.
As with all citations, the key is to give your reader enough information that they can find this. The URL is very important if you can point to the piece online, but if you’re taking your own pictures in a museum, this information is also important. I struggle with images taken at Chinese museums posted online that have no corroborating information regarding where they are from, let alone where they are currently housed.
For information on a label, use this format for your citation:
Label title [Museum exhibit label]. (n.d.). Name of Museum. City, State.
Since we’re talking about writing for the SCA, I’d say it’s reasonable to mention when you visited, or at least what exhibit the item was part of. This will take into account traveling exhibitions, which are often listed with their dates on a museum’s website long after they’ve left.
The short answer is yes. An emphatic, eyes slightly wide with incredulity, yes.
YES, you should cite SCAdians, if you:
are basing your work off of theirs;
learned something from them and are using that in your work; and/or
they helped guide your process.
Let’s go backward through that list, shall we? But first – some rules.
For websites, handouts, etc., use modern names in your citations, with SCAdian names in [brackets], or however your citation method of choice handles screen names. But also be mindful that, depending on how you’re going to publish/disseminate your work, you should let the SCAdian know/get permission to cite them and let them approve the citation. This is for safety. If the SCAdian would rather you not use their modern name, abide by their wishes.
If you’re directly quoting, put what you’re quoting in QUOTES and cite where you took the quote from (blog, website, handout, etc). If it’s a paraphrase, still cite where the information came from.
Alright – on to that list!
If you reach out to someone for help with your project, this citation can be informal, but even as such should be included. Example:
I struggled with what sort of finish to use on the underarm seam given the curve. My previous research suggested that [redacted for length]. I reached out to my laurel, Mistress Una Barthsdottir, and she suggested I do a flat-felled seam and make the stitches smaller the nearer they were to the apex of the curve.
I didn’t make this decision on my own. And this is the sort of thing – conversations with others to get suggestions on how to proceed with a project – that you should note in your project journal. Which you have. And which you use. And which you consult when writing your documentation. As an apprentice, I speak with my laurel about most of my projects. You can cite personal communications (inline only, for APA, but you could adapt the citation to your reference list too if you felt rebellious – but check your citation manual of choice) if you feel like the citation needs to be a bit more formal. Example:
Mears, C. [Una Barthsdottir]. (2019, September 20). Phone conversation.
If you find a source via someone else’s research, it doesn’t make you look bad if you cite the other SCAdian as how you found it (such as a blog post or handout) – cite them right along with the source they pointed you to. Example:
I am very thankful to have found Hypatissa Anna Dokeianina Syrakousina’s [modernly Angela L. Costello] work on Roman clothing, and through her Sebesta and Bonfante’s compilation of essays on the topic (2001).
Costello, A. L. [Anna Dokeianina Syrakousina]. (2013, February 13). Fundamentals of Roman dress [Video file]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/59611236
Sebesta, J. L. & Bonfante, L. (2001). The world of Roman costume. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Lastly, if you’re basing your work off of someone else’s research, cite their research. I recently tried to make Yuan Dynasty honey lemonade, using Þorfinnr Hróðgeirsson’s recipe and method that he derived from a poem and his knowledge of Chinese cooking. I did absolutely no research or reading on my own for this project, apart from looking at what he did and what he said he’d do differently the next time he made it. So I cited him. And then I reached out to him with questions. So I cited him again. Example:
Story, A. [Þorfinnr Hróðgeirsson]. (2018, April 29). Yuan Dynasty bochet lemonade [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://brewing.alecstory.org/2018/04/yuan-dynasty-bochet-lemonade.html
Story, A. (2019, September 18). Direct message interview.
So yes. Yes. YES. Cite SCAdians. It does not make you look silly. It does not make you look lesser. It makes you look like a member of a community that learns from one another as opposed to one in which people scrabble, scrounge, and steal from one another in an attempt to… I don’t even know what, honestly.
One of the first things I do when I discover a new monograph (that’s a fancy word for book) source is look for reviews.
The academic publishing field can be pretty brutal. You publish your book, and there will be reviews of it that will be published in the various journals that have the same readership you’d like your book to have. These reviews might be glowing, encouraging people, usually fellow academics or library professionals, to add your book to their collections, or scathing, warning those same people away from your shoddy research and inaccurate conclusions.
This is an excellent way to vet a book – it’s similar to the customer review section of any online shopping website, only these are academics who, presumably, are well-versed in their field and so are coming to the book with a contextual body of knowledge.
So how do you search for book reviews? The same way you search for other journal articles! The key here is that the title of the book and the author are going to be your search terms. You can sometimes get hits by searching Google/Google Scholar, but if you want to be very specific, you can go straight to the journal you want to look in (you know, the one you have already saved fifteen articles from), or you can search databases like JSTOR, Proquest, or Taylor and Francis.
Sometimes, the reviews will be mixed. Sometimes they will be united in their critique. But it’s always a good idea to get a sampling, so you’re not relying on one person’s opinion. It’s also a good idea to look up who the reviewer is to check their credibility on the topic.
And even if the reviews are bad? Well, you still might want to take a look at the book, though maybe through a more cost-efficient method like inter-library loan, but do so with the grains of salt cautioned by the reviewers.
I won’t be going into a lot of detail with these reviewers, but you can follow the links to each of their reviews (in JSTOR) to read them yourself. I’ll just be pulling out some of their summary comments.
To begin with, let’s look at Henry Truber’s review (1959), published in Artibus Asiae. Dr. Trubner received his Ph.D. in Fine Arts from Harvard in 1947 and worked as a curator for Oriental Art throughout his career (sorry that this source isn’t better; you’d think it would be easy tracking down credentials of Sinologists from the 1930s-60s…). Truber points out the photographs and discussion of costume as being “a distinct and commendable service to modern scholarship”, but also notes the number of typographical errors as well as Mahler’s tendency to quote well-established facts at length within her text where a footnote would have sufficed. What sticks out to me is his point that Mahler’s “racial” identification methods are faulty (because of course they are – thanks, pre-Civil Rights bunkum. This is a Very Good Reason to pay attention to publication dates and the diction used when people not part of that culture discuss the history of marginalized cultures):
Edward H. Schafer‘s own academic focus was on China’s interactions with other cultures during the Tang Dynasty. Dr. Schafer worked as a professor in UCLA Berkeley’s Department of Oriental Languages from 1947-1984, serving as president of the American Oriental Society and receiving many distinctions throughout his career.
In his review (1959), published in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, Schafer agrees with Trubner that Mahler’s descriptions of clothing are far more useful than her attempt to classify them by “race” as opposed to region or culture. He also notes Mahler’s clunky, extended use of quotes in her section on the history of Western China.
Still, like Trubner, he recommends the book to students, noting that his own criticism as “carping.”
The last review we will look at is by Dr. Richard Edwards, a prominent historian of Asian art who wrote extensively about Chinese paintings and taught at Brandeis University, Washington University in St. Louis (where he was at the time of this review), and the University of Michigan. Edwards’s review (1960) is in the Journal of Asian Studies.
Edwards makes many of the same points that Trubner and Schafer did, but also notes that the twelve pages on clothing need to be taken with a grain of salt:
“We are told (p. 115) that ‘Dignitaries of the seventh and eighth centuries . . . adopted pleated cuffs and bands like the Kuchans (Fig. 6).’ The drawings of the Chinese in Fig. 6 show extremely long sleeves, and if the cuffs are there they cannot be deciphered.”
Of the three, Edwards feels the most scathing in the end.
There might be more at play here bubbling beneath the surface. All three reviews came out not long after Mahler’s book was published, as would be expected. All three were from men recognized in the field via academic postings or their own research and publications. Remember – Mahler is Jane Mahler. While Schafer worked to see policy changed at the University of California so that women could have full professor status, that was in the 1970s – far be it from us to say whether or not he had these same views of equality a decade prior. I also don’t want to assume that Trubner and Edwards were misogynists, but as sexism in academia is still an issue in 2019, I don’t think it’s an unfair assumption.
I want to point out that Dr. Jane Gaston Mahler was the first woman in the United States to receive a doctorate in Oriental Art History (Columbia, but I can’t find a date). She taught at Barnard College and Columbia University.
All that aside, I hope this exercise was helpful. Again, (scholarly) book reviews can be found anywhere you look for academic articles already – JSTOR, EBSCO, etc. It’s also not a bad idea to keep track of the journals specific to your area of study and check their tables of contents every now and again to see reviews for new titles to add to your wishlist.
Hat tip to Mistress Sunneva de Cleia for sharing the horrendous screencap above.
Note: I wrote this very quickly as a response to the image at the very beginning. If I got something wrong, or if you think something could be cleared up, please leave a comment and let me know. We’re all here to help and learn from one another.
We need to talk.
We need to talk about what “intellectual property” and “public domain” and “citations” actually mean. Because I think if you knew what they meant, you wouldn’t say things like in the comment at the beginning of this post, and because you’d understand that pointing to the people who said something before you said it actually strengthens what you’re trying to say.
I won’t pull out any fancy legaleze here, so don’t worry. It’s a pretty broad term, but Intellectual property is basically:
Anything intangible (that means you can’t touch it) you create using your brain-meat and creativity;
that is new and didn’t exist before you thought of it (derivative works, meaning works that build off other works are okay); and,
that you could apply for a patent, copyright, trademark, or some other legal protection for – meaning that it has to be something that can be turned into something that someone else can interact with – an image, sound, words, invention, etc.
So okay – for the purposes of our discussion, for which I am going to assume the author of the screenshotted comment was snarking against someone asking for them to credit them, and because this is an SCA blog – let’s work on the assumption that your Intellectual Property is some documentation you’ve written for an A&S project. It’s also the object you made, and any sort of diary you kept to document the process – be that in a blog, in a notebook, or a series of Facebook posts. It’s all Intellectual Property, and it’s all yours – though you may have given some rights to some other entities when you posted it online, such as Facebook or YouTube. Aren’t Terms of Usage of Service great?
In your documentation, you’re trying out a new method for doing a thing based on a supposition you’ve made after doing your research. Fun! Okay – but you still have to point to that research. That research is the intellectual property of the people who did that research and published it. Citing them – giving them credit – supports your claims and makes you a more credible person. If you cite a source to support a claim, or to lay out the groundwork which you then draw your suppositions from, the people who read your work can look back at those sources and go “Oh! Okay – I see how they got there. Neat!”
If you don’t cite these sources, you’re violating the Intellectual Property Rights of those researchers. You’re basically claiming to have done all the work they did – and you didn’t. If you cite the source, you’re thanking the researchers and acknowledging the work they did. It doesn’t make you lesser than the researchers you cite. Building on what others have done before you is important. Claiming what they did as your own is plagiarism – the theft of intellectual property.
“But if it is on the internet, it’s in the public domain.”
The Public Domain is where things previously protected by copyright, patent, trademark, etc. go after that protection has expired. Currently, in the US, that’s 70 years after the death of the author. If it is a work produced by the US Government, it’s likely already in the public domain. Anything published (again, this is US law) before 1924 is fair game.
“Okay, so if it is in the public domain, then I don’t have to cite it?”
I mean, I guess not technically? But it’ll still be pretty nasty of you to do so. It’s not really theft, but again – citing your source is about more than just avoiding prosecution. The Night of the Living Dead is in the Public Domain, but you didn’t write or film it. To not credit Romero makes you just look… bad.
So don’t be gross. Use citations. Give credit to the works you’re building off of – whether they are professional researchers/academics or fellow SCAdians. Be honest about where you found stuff. Be honest about when you’re drawing conclusions. This is how we all benefit and get better and learn from and with each other.
It’s been a bit, and for that, Oh Internet, I apologize.
One of my 2019 SCA resolutions is to post here at least once a month, so hopefully you will start seeing some “regular” content. My last post is from over 2 years ago, and in that span of time I have done quite a bit, including bringing another child into the world. Much of my current research has been on garment construction in Tang Dynasty China, as part of the Epic Timey-Wimey Garb Project. Don’t fret, though. I have been equally neglectful of the SCA Reference Desk, if not moreso.
But today I want to talk about Google Scholar Alerts. Google Alerts, you may know, are searches you can set up to email you (either individually or in a digest) when the search engine discovers a new page relevant to your search terms. It’s super great for staying on top of stuff.
I have two alerts set up for “Tang Dynasty” – one is a straight Google Alert and one is a Google Scholar alert. The Google Alert mostly pops on articles from Chinese news sources, and the content is rarely relevant to me – it lacks citations, and is often just a historic nod in a “this has been going on for this long”sort of way. Not the sort of thing you’d want to include in your reference list for documentation.
I want to talk about libraries and interlibrary loan.
So first off, libraries are still crazy-relevant, even if you live in a small town and have weird research interests.
Because of Inter-Library Loan.
So when I think about ILL, I imagine covert library agents, usually wearing super nifty spy-gear, comparing legers and exchanging notes in seedy underbelly places. It’s very noir. In reality, it’s run by computer systems like WorldShare and iLLiad that link up the catalogs of various libraries so you can easily tell who has what and ask if they will pretty-please-with-sugar let you borrow it for one of your patrons.
From the patron side, this is what you do:
1.Fill out a little form (usually online, but sometimes still paper) telling the librarian what you want to borrow.
PRO-TIP: Double and Triple check that your library definitely does not have this item. Also, if the item is less than a year old, considered a textbook, or is a ebook, most libraries won’t/can’t lend it. Also, make sure it’s available from libraries near you – or at least libraries in your same country. Worldcat is GREAT for this. So do your homework before you fill out the form.
PRO-TIP #2: Include AS MUCH INFORMATION AS YOU CAN. Publication date. Place of publication. ISBN. OCLC number (which you can find on Worldcat). The more information you provide, the easier it will be for the librarian to find what you’re looking for.
2. Give the form to the librarian.
4. Receive book.
5. Read book. (If needed, ask the librarian to request a renewal at least a week out from the due date.)
6. Return book on time.
From the librarian side, this is what it usually looks like:
1. Patron fills out form.
2. You search for item in your ILL client.
3. You find the item and a list of libraries who have it, along with how long they take to respond and whether or not they charge for ILL.
4. You make a big long list (usually 5-10) of libraries you’re going to ask.
5. Submit request.
6. The first library in your list receives the request and decides whether or not they want to/can lend the item. If they say no, it passes to the next library in the list.
7. When a library says yes, they click the appropriate buttons in the client, package the item, and mail it.
8. Item is received at the borrowing library – stuff happens to it to keep track of it – and then the patron is notified that the book is available.
9. Patron borrows book.
10. Patron returns book on time.
11. Book gets more stuff done to it to de-process it it, buttons get clicked in the client, and the book is returned to the lending library.
12. Lending library receives book, checks it back in.
EVERYONE IS HAPPY.
I use ILL for titles that are 1) to expensive for me to purchase, 2) for a quick reference to see if it is useful/worth purchasing.
Some libraries have a small fee associated with ILL, but this is just to cover postage. Some lending libraries charge (my most recent ILL cost me $10), but libraries tend to ask the “free” places first, and will ask you (the patron) about a charge ahead of time.
It’s been awhile between posts in this series. Let’s summarize a bit, shall we?
Step One: You have a basic understanding of how to put communicate ideas and concepts in writing.
Step Two: You researched a Thing – who did the Thing, how they did the Thing, what the Thing was for, etc.
Step Three: You did the Thing, taking notes and pictures along the way.
Now you’re ready to share the Thing with others, which means writing up Documentation about the Thing – whether it’s meant to be printed out and sit alongside the Thing in a fair/competition/display or be published on your blog/website.
Documentation can be basic and brief, or it can be long and thorough. I tend to lean toward the latter when I sit down to write documentation. (Notes on the back of scrolls are a little different – I simply cite whatever extant I used as inspiration, the folio, date, and holding institution and call it good – but if I were to enter a C&I piece into a fair/competition, I would do a full write-up. Here’s a scribal-specific template!)
Try your very, very best no to wait until the night before an event to write/finish your documentation. This is the same advice you got when you were told not to wait until the night before to do your homework/write that research paper/etc. For a myriad of reasons, it’s best to get things done with ample time for editing, review, and printing physical copies. I’ve done the late-night dash to a Kinkos the night before an event I traveled several hours to in order to print off my documentation – it’s not a fun dash.
Gather up all your notes, files, pictures, etc. before you start writing. This is where the notebooks, or digital tools like Google Drive or Evernote can come in handy.
In the first post in this series, I talked about the basics of writing research – which are really just the basics of writing. There are lots of “how to write documentation” guides out there, which I will link to in Step Four, The Writing, but even if you’re following an outline/template/guide, writing in a clear, concise style that is easy for people to read and understand while pointing them to where they can find out more about The Thing You Did is a skill. And all skills can be honed and tweaked and improved upon.
But before you can write, before you can even Make the Thing, you need to research.
This is the first in a series of posts related to writing documentation. Click the category tag on this post to see them all.
Full disclosure: I was once a high school English teacher. Now I am a librarian. Writing, research, and writing about research are THINGS with me.
Documentation is all about writing. You’re writing what you learned about the Thing you did, both from a research and an execution standpoint. It’s a way to share more than just the finished item. You’re sharing the entire project journey through your documentation.
When you’re writing documentation, try to write in a clear, accessible style – imagine that you are explaining the Thing you did to someone who knows next to nothing about the Thing. For example, when I was writing my documentation on Han Dynasty silk shoes, I talked about the history of silk in China – and I cited my sources. I didn’t go into a lot of detail, because there have been entire books written about the history of Chinese silkworm cultivation and silk production, but I made sure that if the reader wanted to, they had a place to go to learn more.
And that’s the thing – make it easy on your reader. Organize your documentation so that it flows, and proof-read it for mistakes that snag the eye or cause confusion. Treat it like you’re going to publish the finished product – either as a blog post, academic paper, or some other online or print resource.
Even if your project isn’t the be-all and end-all version of something, treat it like a hundred people are going to look at it as a potential reference for their own project. Honestly? This is one of the reasons why I love the SCAdian Internet. If I’m starting out on a new project journey, one of my first steps is to see if someone else has already blazed a trail. I can learn from that person – what worked, what didn’t work, and what resources were helpful to them. Don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel.
Back when I was in college, I had a little spiral bound book that was a Sacred Text for all English majors – The Beacon Handbook. It’s a great little book that is easy to use and answers pretty much any question you may have about:
The Beacon is what taught me that it is a Right and Proper Thing to put semicolons at the end of items in a bulleted list that are part of a sentence, along with the ” and,” before the last item.
But the Beacon isn’t the only writing guide out there – find one that you like. Look for writing guides at your local library. Ask your favorite English Teacher friend for their recommendations. Browse the bookstore’s offerings.
The last piece of basic advice I can give is to write about your project from the start. Keep an A&S journal. This can be a physical notebook, a blog, or even a series of posts on social media. You’ll be thankful for this record of your process, pictures you took and shared, resources you looked at, and notes you took when it comes to writing your formal documentation.
I’ll leave you with a tease of future links to the rest of the blog posts in this series: