Documentation: Why Bother?  (Part 3)

Part 3: Documentation as Service 

This post will continue our series looking at documentation in the Arts & Sciences through the lens of the virtues exemplified by our Society’s peerage orders.  Today we will talk about service.  

To a very large degree, the SCA is an organization built on service.  This tradition of volunteerism is so central to our Society that it is the chief basis of the Order of the Pelican.  Members of that Order are recognized for their exemplary service to their Kingdom and the Society.  Even if you don’t aspire to the highest level of service, most of us seek to give back to the Kingdom and Society in our own ways.  

Because our Events focus on re-creating the skills, arts, combat, and culture of the pre-17th century world, creating that atmosphere relies on our knowledge of what the pre-17th century world was like.  Often, our Events will feature a tournament in a period format, or a feast serving period food, or a hall decorated to resemble a room or building from our period, or historical entertainments such as music and plays.  If you’ve ever been at an Event with these elements, then you know how that extra touch adds to the ambience.  Research into the Arts and Sciences leads to these additional touches that allow our Events to attempt the illusion of immersing ourselves in a different time and place.  And sharing the details of where such elements came from with the populace helps people to appreciate them even more.  

Another way that sharing your documentation provides service to our Society is in helping others with their research.  Metressa Jadwiga Zajaczkowa is a member of the Order of the Laurel, who also works as a research librarian in the modern world.  She says that “Many people don’t realize that clear citation references help other people use your research as a springboard for more by being able to precisely retrieve the information you accessed. This allows them to understand the topic and context better and find new information for their own work.”  

First of all, there’s far too much information out there for any one person to research all aspects of even a very specific time and place.  But many of us in the SCA have overlapping and related interests.  Details that are tangential to your own research might be exactly what someone else is looking for.  As one example, you may have been looking at jewelry found in the excavation of a burial site.  But, perhaps that same grave also contained weapons or pottery or other types of grave goods.  Someone else with an interest in the same culture might be more interested in those things.  By sharing information about that burial site, you give them something that can help further their own research.  

Secondly, other people researching the exact same thing as you will still want to review all the details themselves.  Each of us brings our own background and perspective to research.  Different people looking at the same thing may find different details or come to different conclusions from the same evidence.  And that’s part of the process!  All of this furthers our knowledge of the pre-17th century world, which is one of our core missions as an educational organization.  

As we’ve said, the SCA relies on volunteerism.  There are many ways to serve our Society.  You don’t have to sit on a throne, or run Events to serve.  Just sharing the research that you’ve done and the knowledge you have about pre-17th century cultures is its own form of service.  

– Abu-Darzin Ibrahim al-Rashid, Laureate

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