AAA2020 Virtual Conference Banner 7 - 10 Dec

Addressing Historical Silences in Archaeology: Development of the Pacific Matildas Bibliographic Database

India Dilkes-Hall 
Discipline of Archaeology, School of Social Sciences, University of Western Australia

Emilie Dotte-Sarout, Discipline of Archaeology, School of Social Sciences, University of Western Australia 

In 1986, feminist historian Judith Allen wrote that “historical study is not the study of the past, but the study of the present traces of the past”—in a statement that should make sense to archaeologists indeed—and drew attention to the issue of archival silences when writing women’s history. Just a few years later, Margaret Rossiter famously described the historical process through which female scientists were written out of history and coined the term ‘the Matilda Effect’. Necessarily, both issues have to be confronted when trying to research and write the history of women’s involvement in the development archaeology.

As part of the research project ‘Pacific Matildas: Finding the Women in the History of Pacific Archaeology’, we have been developing a bibliographic database that directly aims at addressing the issue of silence around the written legacy of the first women who practiced archaeology in the Pacific and contributed significantly to its growth as a western science, during the 20th century in particular. This poster presents how we have conceptualised and constructed the database, together with methodological and theoretical considerations. The poster will detail how the Pacific Matildas bibliographic database assists in making the written outputs produced by these women visible and accessible by producing an online resource, how we intend to use it as an analytical tool to conduct citation analysis, and how we are trying to integrate the work of women whose contributions are more difficult to capture—typically identified as ‘wives’, ‘assistants’, and ‘indigenous guides’ who are not listed as authors although recognition of their crucial role/s are hinted at in linguistic translations, acknowledgements, or elsewhere.

India Dilkes-Hall_Addressing historical silences