Volunteers assist with Kerry Lodge archaeological artefacts

Archaeologist volunteers Lynette Ross, Jack Harvey and Julian Pavy. Pictures: Phillip Biggs
Archaeologist volunteers Lynette Ross, Jack Harvey and Julian Pavy. Pictures: Phillip Biggs

Gambling habits and fashion styles are among the insights being gained from artefacts unearthed at former convict probation station Kerry Lodge.

On Thursday volunteers, including representatives from WISE disability employment services NDIS, began the process of cleaning and categorising almost 10,000 items ranging from coins, bones and marbles. 

The items were all uncovered at the Breadalbane site last month, as part of a collaborative dig organised by The University of Tasmania, Launceston Historical Society, Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery and the University of Manchester. 

Archaeologist and professor Eleanor Casella said the project could not have been possible without the efforts of volunteers, including Samantha Newell from WISE. 

“Our work at Kerry Lodge has always been a community project to help foster engagement with the University of Tasmania and its partners,” she said. 

“This initiative could only unfold in a way that was inclusive of community members.

HISTORY: Eleanor Casella with WISE client Samantha Newell and the comb she uncovered, with Aran Miller.

HISTORY: Eleanor Casella with WISE client Samantha Newell and the comb she uncovered, with Aran Miller.

“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 [Samantha], 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.

“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 Eleanor Casella examines one of the historical artefacts.

Professor Eleanor Casella examines one of the historical artefacts.

Support worker Kerry Ware said the opportunity had been invaluable for WISE clients. 

“This has been a once in a lifetime experience for them and something they will remember for the rest of their lives,” she said.

“What we have today is a real workplace environment and they are learning and developing a real set of professional skills. 

“I know many of them have expressed real interest in pursuing a career as archaeologists, so this is a big first step for that."

Once processed, the artefacts will go into permanent storage at the QVMAG.