Citing Museum Objects

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.

Limosin, L. (1556). Henri d’Albret (1503-55), King of Navarre. [Enamel on copper]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Retrieved from: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/209063

If a piece of art (or an object) does not have a listed author, use this format: (followed by an example)

Name of object. (Date). [What it is]. Name of Museum, Location. Retrieved from: link

The Lewis Chessmen. (c. 1150-1175). [Chess pieces carved from walrus ivory]. British Museum, London. Retrieved from: https://research.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=6211&partId=1&object=23520

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.

Happy documenting!

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Updating Files and Plans

I’ve added two new files to the Documentation page on the site – my handout on Tang Dynasty Games (taught at Magna Faire 2019) and my documentation on the banbi I entered at Magna Faire, Menhir, and Midwinter A&S.

I’ve got plans to revise the banbi documentation for publication over on the Tang Dynasty Garment Construction section, so you have a more easily accessible “how to” on this garment.

In My Sewing Bag: Socks! At Meridian Grand Tournament, I cut out and stitched my first stab at a Tang Dynasty sock, but it was too tight across the bridge. So at Menhir, I recut with a bit more room there and am currently seaming them up for another try-on.

Painted silk socks from the Astana Cemetery (Tang Dynasty).
Painted silk socks from Astana, in Zaho, F. (2012). Silks in the Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasties. In D. Kuhn, (Ed.), Chinese Silks (pp. 203-257). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
p. 246.

There is an extant pair of Tang Dynasty socks from the Astana Cemetery, and we have a bunch of socks that date to the 8th century in the Shōsōin Treasure House. I’ve pinned a bunch, and I’m working on separating out my currently very disorganized Tang Dynasty Pinterest board into sections – with the socks being the first go-round.

And before you eyebrow at me, no, this is not my “check it off the list” post for February. I’m working on two – how to cite museum objects and do’s and don’ts for contacting libraries/museums/academics with questions.

Bye for now! <3

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Citing SCAdians

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.
  • For SCAdian websites and handouts, use Wayback Machine URLS. You can save a page in the Wayback Machine really easily, and it ensures that when someone goes to the site in the future, via that URL, they’ll be able to see the content you’re referencing.
  • 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. (n.d.) Ancient Mediterranean garb basics: Basic Roman clothing. Anna’s New Rome. Retrieved from https://annasrome.com/roman-garb-basics/#roman

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.

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Intellectual Property, Public Domain, and What Are Even Citations

Found in the Internet Wilderness (aka Reddit), shared on social media, and the inspiration for this post.

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.

Hey. Internet-person.

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.

Intellectual Property

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.
Oh look! A video about IP that’s super easy to understand! Look at that! It’s really a series of seven videos, but… still. It’s trying to take a complex thing and make it simple in 10 minute chunks. Plus, Crash Course is neat.

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?

Citations

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.

Another video! This one has PUPPETS. 😀

Public Domain

“But if it is on the internet, it’s in the public domain.”

Nope.

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.

It’s not a good look.

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.

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Writing Documentation: Step Four, The Writing

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.

Getting Started

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.

Let’s get to it!

Continue reading “Writing Documentation: Step Four, The Writing”

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Writing Documentation: Step Three, The Execution

Are you ready for Step Three?

You’ve got an idea of the Thing you want to do. You researched the Thing to get a better idea, and even to develop an understanding of how the Thing was done in period.

So now you have to Do the Thing.

Continue reading “Writing Documentation: Step Three, The Execution”

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Writing Documentation – Step Two, The Research

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.

Continue reading “Writing Documentation – Step Two, The Research”

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Writing Documentation – Step One, The Basics

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:

  • writing mechanics;
  • style; and,
  • format.

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:

Writing Documentation – Step Two, The Research

Writing Documentation – Step Three, The Execution

Writing Documentation – Step Four, The Writing

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Scribal Documentation Template.docx – Google Drive

Scribal Documentation Template.docx – Google Drive

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