Monday, 4 July 2022

A portable documentation success

 Six months or so ago I started using a wheeled computer bag for transporting my field documentation kit.

Despite my previous unhappy experiences with wheeled bags the use of a three compartment bag works and works well.

So what do I have in it?

Compartment 1

  • laptop (currently a 14" refurbished thinkpad)
  • box of blue examination gloves
  • field kit : pens, pencils, spare usb sticks and sd cards, and bits and pieces
  • plastic documentation wallet holding my A4 day book and a 12" ruler
Compartment 2
Compartment 3
  • notebooks ( 2 of them, both A5 - one for general notes, one for project notes and drawings)
  • paper diary
  • ipad mini
  • keys
all of this fits in - but only just. I usually have a couple of plastic rubbish bags in a side pocket for dead gloves etc, and I guess I could fit in a box of ziploc bags if required. The camera is good quality point and shoot Nikon, but any decent little camera would do.

My A4 day book consists of rough handwritten descriptions of artefacts before their final transcription to an excel spreadsheet, plus various crossings out and corrections. I'm not fanatical about these, they're basically whatever's the cheapest spiral bound A4 notebook I can pick up.

The Spirax 240 page ones are probably the nicest to use (slightly better quality paper, but in truth I usually use the Officeworks own brand 120 page ones you can pick up in a multi pack for five or six dollars).

I used to just use standard nitrile gloves that you can get from a hardware store or  big supermarket - after all they only need to act as a barrier between you and the artefact so that a 120 year old packet doesn't leak anything nasty on to you, and vice versa that you don't deposit any skin oils or grease on 120 year old packages. They don't need to be clinical grade - the ones used by plumbers when handling soil pipes are fine, and actually fit slightly better.

During the pandemic suitable gloves almost completely disappeared with manufacturing capacity being diverted to producing medical grade items. They havn't made it back reliably onto supermarket shelves so last time I was running low I bought myself half a dozen boxes from a veterinary supplies company which should last me to the end of the project.

My paper diary is of course a Moleskine planning diary, but my two A5 notebooks are simple spiral bound notebooks with rigid covers that came from one of the big box stationery stores - probably Officeworks. 

I'm not fanatical about these, as long as the paper is decent quality and they can be opened flat to scan if required, any brand will do.

We have a reasonable NBN connection at the pharmacy, otherwise I'd probably have to add my travel modem to the mix. It has an internal battery so there's no need for a power supply, but for extended periods of work I'd add a small USB charger to my bag. 

There's also a message here - over the life of the project I've (mostly) paid for all these items myself - some I had already, some were bought for other reasons - for example the ruggedised Nikon was originally bought for our Covid-aborted trip to South Africa - and the Trust did give me an old laptop, which I've since replaced with a more modern refurbished Thinkpad, which of course can be reused in a subsequent project.

Probably my participation in the project has cost me around $1500, which to put it in proportion is probably about the same as I've spent on my other recreations of cycling and walking over the same amount of time. 

I have been happy to bear the costs because I have enjoyed the project and  it has been fun, even if it might be a slightly odd idea of fun. However it's important to realise that citizen science, community history projects and the rest all involve costs for the participants, and this should be borne in mind when designing community or volunteer projects... 

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