Guest Post: Gaol Time

This is a guest post as promised here.

Who am I?

Hi! I’m Jana. I’m a librarian… well, kinda. I work in a library and am trained as a librarian. Yes, you have to study to be a librarian And no, I don’t get to read books all day. My Google-Fu is highly regarded and I’m usually the go to person for technology and technologies in the library I work in. I have a Masters degree in library stuff, focussing on archiving and preservation, which is perched on top of my BA in English (which like most BAs come with splashes of random things like creative writing, history and philosophy).

I like adventures and believe that people should be open to trying everything at least once.

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Me at the Blues Festival

The Blues Festival

When Rose invited me to the Blues Festival at the Adelaide Gaol, I started wondering where the Adelaide Gaol was… then I realised that it was the lovely stone building that I passed everyday on the train.

Feeling a little worse than ideal I showed up on the day and was prepared for adventure. What else could I expect except the unexpected? We arrived at the gaol and ate some lunch. The food available at the festival followed the recent obsession Adelaide seems to have with American foods, but specified food from the South, which was appropriate for the festival, I guess. (I don’t really know that much about the history of the blues.)

Rose and I walked into the foyer and glanced around… I removed my sunglasses and placed them on my fish hat.

Rose exclaimed “Ooh, shivs!”

And we examined a display of ‘Homemade Knives’. It was going to be an interesting day.

We made our way into the central part of the gaol reading informative plaques (did you know that the gross teeth stuff and signs are spelt the same way? I guess it makes sense, they’re both stuck on things) along the way.

Our first stop was in the visitation centre on the visitors’ side. The seats were awkwardly attached to each other and I felt that it would be kinda challenging to spend time with a locked up loved one with someone talking to their locked up loved one while snuggled up to you… I guess if you needed a friend on the outside it was an easy way to achieve this.

Then on the prisoners side the same situation occurred but you also had a guard looking over your shoulder… which I guess is just part of being locked up.

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Your local authority figure

At this point I hadn’t really decided what my role for the day was going to be, so I just took photos at the event of things that I felt were significant, amusing or useful for Rose and her blog. The first photo is the one above of Rose guarding the visitation area. The second photo I took captures the difference in building materials used to build and repair the walls of the gaol (below). It also features the high security measure of a lattice of loose bricks on top of the wall designed to dislodge if people were climbing over as a way of alerting guards to an escape attempt.

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I found a sign that I found amusing. What to do if you’ve been locked in. Obviously a recent addition to the door… just amusing and slightly sad at the same time. We learnt that the gaol was used up into the 1980s and evidence of such was the addition of the Telecom phone boxes.

This was not the first historical gaol that I’ve had a look at. I’ve been to gaols in which they get their visitors to dress up in historically accuratish clothing and then the tour guide becomes your warden. I’ve also stayed for a few nights at another historical gaol and since Prison Break was popular at the time there was a prison break which was more like people yelling ‘prison break!’ and running down the corridor in which I’m pretty sure we weren’t the only guests. This also hooks into my fascination with looking at dungeons, torture chambers and stocks in historical castles. (As a 7 or 8 year old I was bitterly disappointed that I couldn’t tour the Tower of London.) Rose and I discussed returning to the gaol for a ghost/night tour.

I was surprised to learn that Adelaide was planned without a gaol. I wondered why I’d never known that. I think it’s probably because I’d never been to the Adelaide Gaol before and teachers only tend to teach you the shiny parts of your city’s history. The parts that make you proud to call your city home.

The gritty parts of history (the oversights, the shortcomings and the mistreating of people) that we learn tends to be focused on ‘not us’. We don’t want to learn that our close ancestors were horrible people who did such and such or made this mistake. Historical mistakes belong to those people who live over there… (In the case of Adelaide ‘oh we don’t come from convicts’ was all I learnt from that era.)

After our tour of the gaol we just relaxed into the day enjoying the sunshine (from the shade), listening to music, discussing secret obsessions and people watching with a few ciders… some of which I managed to spill onto my jeans.

Rose introduced me to Pimms which I had just presumed were jugs of iced tea which fit into the Southern theme. Apparently I was wrong. We got a jug and I ended up spilling Rose’s drink on my jeans… but this time it looked like I had had an accident and hadn’t moved.

As the sun set over the gaol the shadows started to darken, creating a strong contrast from the golden light shining on stone. The shadow cast was of the lattice of loose bricks on top of the wall refreshing the reminder that you couldn’t escape.

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I kept on noticing birds flying overhead taunting me with their freedom… I wasn’t locked in, just mildly restricted by locked doors to protect either the site or festival goers. But they birds flitted and flew freely unlike the inmates who had once been housed within the walls.

I really enjoyed the music we had listened to all day and in my typical fashion starting really getting into it just before we had to leave. More adventures for another day!

If you want to see more of what I see you can follow me on Instagram or if you want to read my thoughts contained within 140 characters you can follow me on Twitter. Thanks for having me. 🙂 — Jana


Shutting up those mouthy women.

image.jpegScarfing with Rose, Day 1.

Yesterday I asked a out boy. He is older than me, works in retail and decided to put me in my place by describing me as barely tolerable and tedious after we met a year ago. Think twas a platonic coffee date I barely recall because I was suffering sunstroke and insomnia and he made me wait around for him – not really respecting me or my time. After being told I’m less attractive because I treat my asthmatic tabby (which death is better for her dignity even though House has said, there is no dignity in death, no such thing as good one!) than by someone who sees them as themselves as on an authority on me as a dull. He was straining C minus company, I totally went into to rant mode, sorry  for those who saw less than my professional side but I love my cat…sorry about that but sometimes boundaries in life blur and I screwed that up. Apprentice level here – definitely lost points for the name calling and over sharing! No more guy stuff unless it’s a history of the evolution of Boylesque. 

But it’s a good example of something I’ve been wanting to talk about and that’s the lack of well known female communications in science communications. As I recalled that day, it was a particularly hot day, I was feeling physically unwell and he was running late for our “hanging out” and I remember thinking to myself that anyone willing to waste my time this early on in a friendship probably wouldn’t value it later on (this truism is true!) and then as I did as girls are taught to be and replaced it with the *nice* thought parking in the city must be hard to get this morning for him. And that’s a problem I’ve noticed, girls and young women are encouraged to take an initial reaction such as “wasting my time” and make excuses for men as to “they must be more busy than me”. The day itself as far as my blurry memory a year or so ago, is what I can call was pleasantly nondescript and rather than bogart the conversation with all my thoughts and ideas and all the things I’m going to ever do in Peru like balloon over the Nazca lines or teach my cat to walk on a lead or venturing my opinions on the Higgs-Boson and should we be focussing on Earth based science  rather than Mars due to climate change and I love GMO. 

I shut the hell up and listened to him because I’ve been told I’m too mouthy and opinionated to be called nice, I let this man-child lead the way through Rundle Mall even though I was thinking about liminal characters in Norse sagas being outside the rules to achieve change but also sadly beneath them rendering them outside the social order and solace of belonging to the tribe and I liked Floki’s eye liner…apart from Brian Cox and Bill Nye and Sagan, I can name one science communicator that’s female because she’s my teacher. 

Lacklustre and I went our seperate ways and I mistakenly thought he was attending our mutual friend’s wedding and I was trying to reach out since most of my people there are in the bridal party. Blue is my colour Leigh, just saying 😉 if it’s TARDIS blue, I want a divorce big sis!

Then I had the audacity a year later to see if that guy wanted to catch up over social media- the thing is, guys aren’t taught to be nice, not even when rejecting a woman and had the audacity to call me tolerable and tedious because I apparently did not impress this guy I’ll call Nero. Another male friend today in a car admitted to only listening to one of three words I said in a sentence – not very nice at all and tried to justify it with bad science. And I wondered how much of being described as barely tolerable or even worse tedious, of not being actively listened to by men as if it’s just an expectation because you are a woman and some *science* is used as an excuse for men to ignore your theories and thoughts and ideas have pushed perfectly capable and brilliant women out of science communication and education because they were poorly received by rude men-children?

I decided that last night’s encounter was more than terribly rude and by far most people don’t describe me as boring (crazy and fearless perhaps) but this teaching women to be nice and pliable, teaching them not to be expressive of anything contradictory to the predominant male paradigm or opinion in the room or not appealing to the male audience is a dynamic as educators because we are sliced up objectified body parts,  we need to change this now. It reminds me of a press release yesterday of a study they did recently where participants remembered the body pieces as familiar rather photographs of a whole woman when the participants were shown images of both male and female images. It was both sexes that remembered the dismembered female images more easily recalled. We are talking women cut into pieces – largely this probably is because female body parts are dissected to sell products as cut-up corpses by the media but the good news is that this process seems to be reversible.

And for me, this seems to be the same for female opinions, our thoughts, our ideas have been similarly dismembered into sexy red pouts that the message never really gets through until all that left is what we sell as feminine and nice lips, baby. And by doing that, we are gutting an asset and points of view necessary to communicate to an entire audience. I made this mistake recently when I thought I needed red heels to sell the message I was an independent science communicator like River Song at the crash of the Byzantium in Doctor Who until I realised in my proposal for a paper that she was an image, created by a man and those shoes were designer also created by man to appeal to a male gaze even if Alex Kingston chose them. I still want those shoes, but now I want them for my empowerment and I love shoes.

Perhaps I should have expressed my opinion more that day, Nero, but I was trying to be nice and listen in the traditional female role of the adoring audience because I wanted you to like me. It’s time for women to give up being nice and wanting to be liked, because believe me, I know it’s hard to face rejection and be called names for shaking the status quo, but you are more than body parts and your brain and mouth have as much to say as your hand on your hips. Science needs many perspectives beyond that of the male gaze.

TL/DR: Please feel free to join in my project, Scarfing with Rose, to visit the Lonely Archaeologist FB page, post pictures and leave your experiences there. And red shoes, where do I get them?

Night at the Museum.


Hade’s Flipper

Night at SA Museum is not all that it seems. This is a picture from the very first Night Lab event at the SA Museum and unofficially was my first Lonely Adventure, held in conjunction with its exhibit on Iridescence in 2014.  I was one of the first attendees there since I went alone and indulged in my creepy habit of people watching with cider in hand. I decided to take an obligatory selfie because these events aimed at young adults in their 20- early 30s seem to be as much as being seen as seeing the SA museum at night in consuming culture as clever soundbites -and then I saw the ghostly skeleton of Flipper rising in the purple light to take my soul back to Hades.

Maybe I should’ve taken it easier  the Hills cider but I’m all about supporting local business including psychopomp cetaceans. Forget the T-Rex, the Dolphin Skeleton was out to get me. Actually my ghostly dolphin brings us to a very good point about spaces like museums. They have been described as safe houses of dangerous ideas and a museum used as a public space in darkness has changed its cultural meaning from a public institution designed to retain and showcase knowledge, to a place that educates through entertainment. There were a number of events (short term in nature) designed to appeal to this quick type of consuming information and knowledge such as the lights table.

The new director of the SA Museum, Brian Oldman, has mentioned in my museum’s class at Flinders last year that  I’ve attended that museums need to run like businesses now and it seems events like Night Lab (2014) are aimed at the young adult crowd with a disposable income and the desire to look like they are involved in the cultural phenomena of *adulting*. Young adults who are after a unique experience they can use to gain cultural capital and build a social media presence (brand even!) rather than the traditional visitor to a museum.

All over SA, historic and cultural institutions have to had to adapt to the new uses of traditional spaces where audiences aren’t as heavily involved in the traditional exhibit format but the overall experience of being at a venue and quickly consuming it’s cultural importance. Things like the 1920s speak-easy at Glenside’s historic Z-Ward earlier this year and events like the Gaol Blues festival on the weekend I reviewed and Jana will be guest reviewing.

Confession time: I haven’t missed a Night Lab yet, being part of the targeted audience with the (barely) disposable income to experience the cross between an elite old fashioned night club and a culture industrial site – Night Lab is an interesting experiment in science communication and community engagement run by the SAM in successfully running a cultural heritage business in a failing state economy and as a public institution relying less and less on state funds since during times of economic hardship money tends to go to education or health. This is an innovative form of cultural tourism.

I think the real challenge of events like Night Lab and the Adelaide Art Gallery’s First Friday events is that they need to find a way to communicate the traditional ideas imbued in a cultural institution such as information, artistic/cultural/historic capital and the importance of maintaining and continuing research in a museum environment with a social media culture that is about temporary consumption of experiences and instant gratification . And they need to consider how to draw crowds back to see exhibits in a traditional context beyond the night club in a museum atmosphere of a night club and the next one is May. Keep an eye out for tickets! My next post will be about how the SAM solved the need for gratification at the 2015 Night Lab associated with the Opals exhibit!


Clara Rose Santilli



Gaol House Blues


On Sunday 20th May, 2016, my friend, Jana, and I attended the Gaols Blues festival at the Old Adelaide Gaol (at Thebarton) because I like to do unusual local tourist events at places not normally considered a place of entertainment. We got there around 2pm and had a girls’ afternoon out with the whole trappings of Hills Cider and gossip, many people in groups with wine and platters in a scene that could be played out on a North Terrace courtyard, perfect sunshine and music. Yet the scene was the Adelaide Gaol and being a creature of passions, I found this strange to watch as I ate my jambalaya from a gourmet pop-up van (this seems to be a very South Australian thing).

Jana and I also explored much of the Gaol on our own and it sounds like an archaeologist and a librarian walked into a secret passage joke that ends with time travel and adventure involving a T-Rex. But a lot of it was rather sad even though  I enjoyed having Jana’s company on a Lonely Adventure because it was interesting experience in being a tourist, audience member and people watcher at one of these events held at a historic site simultaneously.

Above is a picture of me as a vistor to the Gaol as a historical tourist in the visitor’s chamber looking studious and thoughtfully explaining the Burra Charter before we headed over to Keryn Walsh’s archaeology trench display which is a true monument to historical archaeology.


Here is me as a visitor to a music festival, hipster hat and keds in tow, enjoying a jug of Pimms and getting a little rowdy. The Blues at the Old Gaol are a very clever use of the place, a dark site in its own right associated with an intangible cultural tradition with a long connection of pain and suffering that Blues own musical legacy will attest to.

However there was an awful lot of commerce around the event by necessity  and it wasn’t until I was alone watching the sun set in a ward that I really got the sense that some how this place might not be the right venue given the Fringe shows managed just fine without it. I’m going to do a ghost tour later in the year and see if my thoughts change on the use of historic sites like the Gaol or Z-Ward in encouraging the preservation of heritage sites through tourist commerce and entertainment.

It’s been the situation with Glenside’s historical Z-Ward asylum in order to keep it open they have had ghostly movie nights and a 1920s Speak-Easy. Tourism at dark sites locally in Adelaide seems to be a current cultural tourism  phonomena I noticed when West Terrace Cemetery started giving night tours back a few years ago and I got hooked on the idea of tourism at tragic or “dark sites.”

imageThe music venue and historic site have very different purposes in the study of tourism. I’m wondering if some of the historical atmosphere is lost when crowds come to be entertained by bands rather than educated on the prison’s history and how to resolve this juxtaposition in the culture industries in SA,  complementing our ecotourism, food and wine, sports and Mad March festivals’ tourism.

With the recent comments about the Fringe being an example that culture tourism could be our state’s biggest economic import, how does one resolve the social value of a place’s historical connections to a modern community with the need to create sustainable economic tourism gains in a poor state with w bad economy? As an archaeologist, part of me wants to preserve these sites away from damage caused by large amounts of tourist traffic but what value has a place got if it isn’t socially valued and retains its identity as a place in a community on a continual basis?

I haven’t got a good answer on that yet but the traditional guided tours weren’t offered despite the Old Gaol having a wonderful interpretive content that appealed to a wide audience and worked across many audience levels of age, learning styles and purposes for visiting. But in some ways for me as a history junky, letting visitors loose with cider in plastic cups detracted from the Gaol’s place as a space in Adelaide’s history as a dark site. It felt obnoxious to see people and their children eagerly and gleefully ringing the bell that tolled executions, posing in cells and carrying around jugs of Pimms (guilty as charged). Yet I’m okay with this same thing happening at the SA Museum at the Night Lab events (me misbehaving coming soon). Why the double standard?

The sun setting on the cells particularly moved me to tears and I hope the local artist who spoke to me about it captured the moment of one as pure despair. This is a subject I hope to explore in my masters thesis, why we want to have selfies taken at sites of informal tragedy tourism like Snowtown or recognised institutions of pain like the Gaol or cemeteries.

Part of a music event in this age seems to be seen and to show others you’ve been seen, are people paying attention to the history and age of a historical place in an event like the Gaol Blues?

Rose Santilli (Photo credits Jana M. Herber).

Working, not for the money.

imageThe whole of the next weekend will see me in full grad student mode (so check out the Lonely Archaeologist FB page for interesting reading) and I find it’s times like this I get frustrated with my schooling, want to throw away my diary planner and just to look at pictures of pyramids in pyjamas and binge watch Daniel Jackson on Stargate SG1 in my bed all day. But without the fundamental skills one gets learning how a cultural heritage charter works by doing projects or how to plan a project and actually writing a CHM proposal for an imaginary project right down to the budget, none of the excavation or surveys will ever get done. It’s not a magic process and is important as learning how stone tools are made or whatever rescue dig the Time Team repeat is doing in the UK!

This morning, I’ll be hopping up quite soon to get ready for the day, run a quick errand or two and head on to the university library to study for the day. This is the very unglamorous side of archaeology you don’t see on television, how much the researchers read (about multiple projects and I’m only doing 2) and the odd hours they keep so they can continue working as archaeologists as well as teaching students as the next generation of archaeologists. They don’t particularly care if a student doesn’t show up to class but the majority of my teachers always have made time to help me with my projects and not leave a student behind if the student works hard. To get good grades in archaeology, you put in the hours at the desk as well as the trench.


I will be heading in to write up a paper proposal I’ve been privileged enough to submit on a passion of mine, archaeologists in Torchwood and Doctor Who. Then afterwards I’ll catch up on two lectures from tourism classes I missed due to mystery pain. Then it’s home to try and work on yet another CHM assignment before heading to the Blues festival at the Old Gaol tomorrow with family. I see these going to local events just as much as studying tourism as leisure and feel like you don’t really experience a subject unless you put in the leg work. But not too much leg work because Monday brings another week of uni and more archaeology.

TL/DR: Doing archaeology is not about glamour or money, there’s lots of  reading and you’ll have to do it most weekends. Okay it’s not glamorous unless you’re River Song!






Night Lab 2016!

image.jpegI’m excited because the SA Museum are having another Night Lab event this year and I’ll be volunteering to teach people to use grind stones. Thinking of opening a betting pool on what improbable injuries I get with grinding  the wattleseed!

Keep your eyes out because this event sells out fast and are tremendous fun with night at the museum – that’s me kicking back in a simulated mine shaft from Coober Pedy with last year’s event held in conjunction with Opals exhibit. Watch this space for more adventures!  ~Rose.

Fringe Benefits: Smaller acts doing it for themselves.

imageGreetings, this week seems to be all about the Fringe events for me and I thought I’d talk about two very different plays I saw at The Arch at the Holden Street Theatres, ‘Doctor Who’s Midnight’ performed by Sporadic Productions and Tangram Theatre Company’s ‘The Element in the Room’ (a musical about Marie Curie’s death and life).

Two plays, two very different reviews – let me start by saying I’m a die hard Whovian (old school and new school) and I wore my TARDIS key necklace to Midnight like a huge dork and got photographed with the TARDIS so you’d think I’d be biased. Last year, I did a project on buying and curating a Dalek in my archaeology museum’s unit. Just need $10 000…anyways it seems one of these things was better suited to the Fringe and let me explain why that’s not actually the case at all.

To start with, Tangram’s ‘Element in the Room’ was a simple two man performance (okay, just one man in a dress and a lady dressed as a Frenchman with an accompanying accordion) amd let their acting speak for itself without gimmicks and relied mostly on acting to carry it through the hour. The acting was a combination of the highly physical process of refining radium, introspective and angry moments from Marie Curie. And constantly the fourth wall was broken to engage the audience and being performed to rather than being performed at like with Midnight. In Midnight it felt like the show would go on even if the audience wasn’t there.

The Element in the Room not only aimed to entertain the audience, but also educate them in an amusing series of songs (Aha! Radium!), other character’s interrupting the main actor’s stream-of-consciousness to tell their stories (I liked the ‘fight’ between Curie’s daughters with the little Curies) and some very nifty anecdotes about radium and its dark side such as the radium girls. Seriously don’t look that up. Just saying…Plus Marie Curie’s contributions to other science inventions of the day. There was also interactive game played by the audience with a yarn of radioactive coloured string and I got to be radium and tied up  (every gal needs to feel special!). The thing about Tangram’s show was that in addition to entertaining and educating, the actor truly was of the calibre to carry a quality solo show mixing comedy with tragic crescendos as he painted a very complex picture of Curie, both tortured by the death of her husband and her last words to him, her radical politics regarding the naming of polonium and refusing to patent radium because of a belief  that science should be open source and free for everyone. This is the quirky sort of show I believe Alexis Dubus was talking about being pushed out of main Fringe venues for larger crowd pleasers.


Now to Doctor Who’s Midnight, I feel like I’m betraying Russell T Davies (author of the episode which appears during the Tenth Doctor’s tenure and fourth season) in saying they this type of science fiction did not translate well to the theatre. There’s a number of reasons why including that science fiction as genre seems to be particularly best in the form of storytelling from books, film and television for starters. The BBC have spent a lot of time and money perfecting Doctor Who’s modern reboot as a franchise and even then at times it was hit-and-miss.

The cast from Sporadic Productions have done an admirable job in trying to translate Doctor Who onto the stage during the Fringe but here is where it becomes problematic for me as a Whovian, it felt like community theatre. Tangram Theatre in the same creative space left me with no doubt I’d just seen a pair of master actors at work.

Hugh O’Connor did an admirable job of trying to portray the Doctor, however in recent years, all of the actors chosen as the Time Lord, have had serious acting chops and extensive theatre experience and he is competing with Tennant at the height of his Whovian popularity. With a few more years and plays under his belt, O’Connor will be a force to be reckoned with.

The standard out star was Samantha Blackmore as Sky Silvestery, her character development on stage was just spooky and you could believe she was inhabitated by a sadistic alien – it would have been difficult for any other actor to go toe to toe with her and this is why we need smaller community productions at the Fringe too, to develop up and comers like O’Connor and find opportunities for talented actresses  like Blackmore to feature in bigger productions and expand her range. She does creepy alien crazy eyes extremely well and kept up the pace with her dialogue with O’Connor in perfect timing. Well down to both of them.

Smaller productions also need audiences for crew, cast, directors and production teams to learn how to operate in bigger spaces and gain bigger audiences. We lose out if we don’t support local artists, actors and creative spaces – there’s both room for the seasoned performer from Brighton and the amateur from Adelaide, I’d like to see us accomodating both because quality acts don’t spring out of thin air.

Rose Santilli