THE MICEL FOLCLAND BOOK OF PROVENANCE & WHAT IT CONTAINS
Blame Thomas Langenfeld. His exhaustive files of provenance for his RevWar unit, Simcoe’s First American Ranger, inspired me when I joined Regia Anglorum. I began to assemble what I called my Book of Provenance, a collection of illustrations of and writings on artefacts. They are documented (now), and they are divided into several handy folders.
It was first created about ten years ago, and it has steadily gotten larger, hopefully more complete and—needless to say—has changed. I originally printed out copies, but I have not done that for at least nine years. Takes up too much storage space and besides, I have totally embraced the digital age! I have separated it into two general folders: Subjects and Book_of_Provenance.
Subjects is a collection of articles about artefacts, culture and life styles. They are taken from various sources, and if they are not pdfs, I have included all pertinent information: Author, date published (or revised), the url at which it was found and so forth. Subjects includes illustrations but only as part of the text, although line illustrations of the artefacts are included in a subfolder of their own, The entries in Book_of_Provenance contains photographs of the artefacts, along with what it is, where it was found and the date. Sometimes, there is too much information—for example, in the pages find on museum pages which sometimes give dimensions, anecdotes about the discovery and the museum’s call number, among other information—and complementary pages are placed in the Subjects folder.
A Subjects subfolder contains illustrations of modern reproductions, but only of the reproduced artefact and not of reenactors, their kit and their encampments—downloads and original photo files of these are kept elsewhere!
Early on, I did not keep suitable provenance for each artefact, and had only one photo of each artefact. Then I started archiving more photos, and I made certain that the captions were more complete. I probably have duplicates—and I continually revise placement, location and names of the files—but generally have minimal difficulty finding what I want when the subject/illustration/artefact comes up. The whole archive is in a continual state of change, so I do not delude myself that any alterations of things already archived will never happen! Sometimes, I even come up with a more useful title for the file!
In the early days, I only archived artefacts from the Viking Age—793 to 1066, using the conservative dating I used then—but early on I began to include items from an earlier time. After all, there was a tendency to use items from an earlier time: Roman artefacts were used and repurposed, and later pre-period artefacts were used as well. As Katharine Holman notes, they “are unlikely to have thrown useful objects away.” Micel Folcland have a standard rule that at an event, the person can—with the AO’s permission—use one item from another time or a different class, so the inclusion of earlier artefacts makes a certain amount of sense! Especially with the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard—the largest hoard f Anglo-Saxon gold ever found, dating from the seventh or eighth centuries—photos and other information from Wulfheodenas—a not-for-profit reenacting organization devoted to “Recreating the Warrior and Meadhall culture of the 6th & 7th Century Northern World”—melting glaciers and more, there has been a great deal of information available from that time in addition to the discoveries made from the Viking Age. Excluding these sources seems a little short-sighted! In all these cases, I make certain they are labeled “pre-period” or the actual era, so that folc accessing the information are not even tempted to accumulate a majority of non-period kit!
Then, more recently, I began to include post-period artefacts. Obviously the intent is to let folc know what they cannot use (unless the AO determines that something might have been used before the appearance cited). Just as obviously, they are captioned as post-period or the actual date. They help folc see what current kit might evolve into, avoid unnecessary similarities and avoid substituting a later period artefact for a period one.
Having pre-, post- and current-period artefacts make me consider a new chart for inclusion in Subjects, similar to the shoe chart shown in Mould, Carlisle and Cameron’s The Archaeology of York 17/16: Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York, but that is still in the future!
I might note in addition that the time period for current-period artefacts has changed somewhat. It is now routinely 750 to 1100 ce, so that it includes not only artefacts from the first supposed Norse interaction with Britain—possibly 785 in Portland, although non-violent trading expeditions might have predated even that—as well as the Bayeux Embroidery (the 1070s, possibly 1077), a vital source of everyday life of the time!