FIELDS OF DREAMS:
The Archaeology of Vehicle and Machinery Assemblages Associated with Rural Farm Properties
Have you ever lived on a farm or travelled through the countryside and wondered why many farmers keep collections of old vehicles, agricultural machinery and implements on their properties? Under trees, alongside fences, in old sheds and lining gullies: these are just a few of the favoured places where farmers store items that are no longer in daily use around the farm. Have you ever thought about what these most unassuming places can reveal about the history of farming?
Did you know that we can learn much from these rusty collections about the social issues and economic values that have affected the farming family unit and its associated rural region in the past? In archaeological terms these collections are often referred to as assemblages and the place that the assemblage occupies is called a site.
In a climate of dynamic change and one that has sadly enforced the decline of traditional farming and the farming family unit in many country areas of Australia and overseas, it seems even more pertinent to realise the significance and potential value of rural agricultural heritage. In many Australian country towns, local communities are fighting to keep access to their doctors, hospitals, financial institutions and education systems.
Diversification and lateral thinking come to the fore in recent times when drought, erosion, and shifting environmental and economic circumstances have caused farmers to draw upon every resource available to them. Patterns of past change in agricultural life are more than evident in these specialised assemblages. Coping with hardship, for example, maybe seen in simple repairs and modifications made to machinery and vehicles. Adjustments such as fitting roll-bars and bumpers to vehicles - custom made from the very materials that abound in farm graveyards - are often seen, but the skill and ingenuity behind such inventiveness has long been unacknowledged.
Cultural heritage is often the last thing on people's minds when the battle for daily survival is of the utmost importance. Projects that include tourism and heritage in country regions, however, have demonstrated the widespread community benefits that can flow from successful partnerships of this nature.
Aims of the Research
- To explore what the deposition of old and unused vehicles, machinery and implements on farming properties can reveal about our rural heritage. More often than not, archaeological sites and artefacts (material culture) represent human activity that occurred several hundred or indeed many thousands of years ago. This factor makes interpretation and analyses problematic. The fact that this practice of accumulating old machinery has its beginnings during colonial settlement in Australia and endures to the present is one that is attractive to archaeological investigation.
- To seek to understand the range of reasons and uses for these sites. Old vehicle, machinery and implement sites may be found on farms not only across Australia but also in many agricultural regions of the world. Yet these sites appear to be one of the least understood or explored of human activities.
- To offer useful information for understanding Australia's rural heritage to farmers, interested groups and other researchers.
- To enrich and enliven archaeological theory and debate.
- archaeological survey and recording of sites on farms in four selected regional sites
- research of historical documentary evidence
- undertaking a series of oral history recorded interviews with farmers
- seeking and obtaining responses to the questionnaire from farmers across Australia and overseas.
The results of the research will provide the foundation of a thesis to satisfy the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Archaeology .
This exciting research will add to an understanding of how farmers cope with technological change and importantly, how farmers have managed to continue a strong tradition of responses to technological innovation and development in varying agricultural and pastoral regions. The Archaeology of Rural Heritage is a newsletter that details the progress and outcomes of the fieldwork and this research.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Your assistance by responding to The Questionnaire is highly valued. Your response may either be by email attachment (Questionnaire Word 97) or post (printed version of Word 97 or PDF document). Your response will importantly allow the opportunity for a wide range of information to be included in this research.
Thank you for visiting this site. If you have completed the questionnaire then I look forward to hearing from you and reading your reply.
All information and responses made will remain private and anonymous.
Questionnaire responses are to be forwarded to Di.Smith@flinders.edu.au
Ph: (08) 8201 3555
Dr Heather Burke
Ph: (08) 8201 2385
Email: Dr Heather Burke
Letter of Introduction (DOC 24KB)
Questionnaire (DOC 33KB)
Questionnaire (PDF 102KB)