NODEM 2013 Conference has ended
Tuesday, December 3 • 12:15pm - 12:30pm
TACIT RECORD Augmented Documentation Methods to Access Traditional Blacksmiths Skills

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Traditional craftsmanship is a specified domain in UNESCO’s Convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage. During 19th and 20th centuries, museums and archives in the western world have been collecting a considerable amount of artifacts and produced records of trades, workshops and manual procedures referring to threatened traditional crafts. What potential value is embedded in the records on traditional crafts? To whom and for what purpose may this documented heritage be of interest or have use value? We find these questions critical to the subject of museology, and how to develop appropriate documentation methods as well as safeguarding strategies for the intangible cultural heritage. 

This paper critically investigates film making of traditional craftsmanship, and experiment augmented documentation methods to elicit tacit dimensions and multisensory aspects of craft skills. The text is grounded on a case study of a documentary from early 1970th, recording two old blacksmiths making a wrought scythe. This documentary has generated several research questions: How instructive is this documentary, as learning resource for blacksmiths of today? What meaningful information dwells in the colour and sound of the work process? How does the discontinuity of the edited film affect the intelligibility of the process in action? 

The tacit dimension of craftsmanship has been investigated in philosophical and pedagogical research (Gamble 2002, Mayer 2003, Polanyi 1958, Schön 1983, 1987), management and organisation theory (Agyris 2003, Kolb 1984), and recently in the emerging field of craft research (Adamson 2010, Niedderer 2009). However, the edge focus on documentation methodology to elicit the tacit dimensions of traditional craftsmanship is not extensively examined. Peer research to this study is performed at The Art and Design Research Centre (ADRC) at Sheffield Hallam University (e.g. Hjort-Lassen & Wood 2013, McCullough 1997, Wood 2006, Wood, Rust & Horne 2009) and the Craft Laboratory at the university of Gothenburg (e.g. Almevik 2012, Jarefjäll & Sjömar 2011, Karlsson 2013) exploring the use of film record and time-geography in documentation and display of craftsmanship. 

The documentary is scrutinized through a time-space path and a procedure analysis. Setting out from the data and interpretation of the film record, the craft procedure has been re-enacted by the authors. The re-enactment gives a critical reference to the documentary, exposing discontinuities lacunas, misinterpretations and hideouts of tacit blacksmith knowledge. Core problems in understanding skills and judgments made by the old blacksmiths relate to lacking qualities in the documentary concerning colour and authentic timeline. One sub-experiment concerning the judgment of colour in the process of hardening and welding is carried out by visual and IR measure. 

The general outcome of this investigation, contributes to a documentation methodology for heritage craft skills. A set of craft protocols is tested along with a critical discussion on documentation practice to meet up the agenda of “living” cultural heritage. The conclusion in perspective of museum collection and exhibitions is, that crafts persons need to become involved in the work in heritage institutions, not only as objects or informants but also as work-companions and agents of generic knowledge.


Gunnar Almevik

Department of Conservation and Steneby, School of Design and Crafts, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Tuesday December 3, 2013 12:15pm - 12:30pm PST
Stockholm City Museum, Auditorium Ryssgården, Slussen, Stockholm, Sweden

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