Thank you for being a digital volunteer! It’s very important that this work is performed in a standardized manner, so please make the effort to read and follow the instructions below.




William Ockleford Oldman (1879 – 1949) was a British collector and dealer of ethnographic art and European arms and armour. His business W.O. Oldman, Ethnographical Specimens, London was active between the late 1890s and 1913. Oldman purchased items from various sources including from auctions, directly from other collectors and dealers and also from many small British museums and historic houses. He held regular auctions to sell items and also reserved items for possible sale to particular private collectors, scholars, and heritage institutions including the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, NMAI’s predecessor institution. Ethnographic specimens with a provenance to Oldman’s business can now be found in various public institutions around the world including the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).


He sold his private collection of Oceanic material to the New Zealand Government in 1948 and included some of his business records and collection information in the sale. The New Zealand Government transferred the legal ownership of this collection including all the records to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in 1992. You can learn more about Oldman, and the objects he collected that are now held by the Smithsonian, by checking out this blog post from NMAI Collections Documentation Manager, Maria Galban.


The William Ockleford Oldman Archive research materials are comprised of digital surrogates of the business records of Oldman held by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. These records include detailed information about his purchases and sales of objects including names of original sources for objects he acquired and sold. Since this provenance information is critically important to the documentation of NMAI’s collections, NMAI and Te Papa have begun a collaborative research project to make the Oldman materials available to the public for research and scholarship. Every ledger book from Oldman is different, so we've created separate instruction pages for various versions. Please pay close attention to both the general instructions and the instructions that relate to each individual project. 



General Instructions and Tips for Transcribing ALL 7 of the William O. Oldman Registers


View Project Pages Horizontally 

Because of the tables and columns in these logbooks, it is easiest to read and transcribe all the information by switching the project page viewer in Transcription Center to the horizontal view. You can do this by clicking on the first button on the right above the transcription viewer.  See the image below: 




Transcribing the Columns and Tables 

In many of Oldman's ledgers the columns and tables vary. For specific guidelines related to the transcription of these detailed differences, please refer to the individual projects and their instructions. In general, however, please transcribe the columned information following the Transcription Center's basic rules for columns and tables:

Please indicate at the top of the page, by using brackets, (before beginning to transcribe the actual content) how many columns are in the table. We then ask that you list out what the labels for each column. For example:



To demarcate between cells in table, use a vertical bar/pipe (|). Use this only to mark transitions left-to-right. No special mark is necessary for line breaks or new rows. Please include empty cells where appropriate. To transcribe empty cells, please simply use two vertical pipe bars (|) with three empty spaces in between. 

For example: |   |  

For cells that include a dash, please enter one or two em dashes (using Alt 0151), when appropriate. For example: | — | 

See example above. 


Ditto Marks 


Oldman often recorded object descriptions, information on sale and purchase locations, and buyers' names in his logbooks. Many times these details repeated, and thus Oldman indicated ditto marks " on lines in the logbooks. Instead of transcribing these ditto marks as we usually do in the Transcription Center, using brackets to indicate the mark and what it stands for, NMAI and Te Papa staff have asked that volunteers transcribe out fully what the ditto mark stands for (with no need to indicate the actual ditto mark). 


Please note as well that sometimes Oldman indicated a ditto without the usual " mark, but instead wrote "do." This "do" also stands for ditto, and the same instructions above also apply--when you see this, please transcribe out fully what the "do" stands for. 


To make things even more interesting, sometimes Oldman left the line for the seller or buyer's name blank (with no ditto mark or "do"), or simply marked a dash/hyphen. This indicates that the seller or buyer is the same individual as is recorded in the last filled out row before the blank line. Instead of leaving this blank in your transcription, please type out the name of the buyer or seller to which the blank line corresponds.

Please see the image below and project page for examples of these ditto marks and their corresponding transcriptions:



Circled Codes for Buyers

Oldman often assigned a code (usually a single letter and number) to the buyers he worked with. This was his system of identifying buyers, so if any names were hard to read, misspelled, etc. he could search for the code. Normally in his ledger books he would record this code slightly below the name of the buyer or just next to the name of the buyer and would often circle it.  NMAI and Te Papa staff would like these codes to be transcribed alongside the names of the buyers, so we too can search for the code. 

See example here: 



Transcribing Prices and Balances 

Many of these ledgers record the prices that objects were bought and sold for. Oldman often recorded these in pounds, shillings, and pennies. When transcribing these prices, do not worry about indicating the currency, decimal points, etc. We simply ask that you transcribe the prices recorded exactly as they appear, either with hyphens or dashes, decimal points, etc. (whatever is appropriate). Please refer to this example page




Transcribing Oldman's Ledger Books: Sales Register, 1904-1910 & Sales Register, 1910-1914


Sales Register, 1904-1910


This sales ledger by Oldman was written and imaged as single pages (so it does not continue across two pages horizontally as some of his other ledgers do). Please be aware that the first few pages of this ledger are sparse and do not follow a pattern, but become consistent by page 6.

Once you get to page 6, please separate the categories of information recorded by Oldman into 9 columns (as outlined below).


Object stock number



Name of seller (to Oldman)

Date of purchase

(by Oldman)

Amount paid for item

Amount item sold for


Name of buyer (plus code for buyer if applicable)


Date sold



Please transcribe the columns and tables as outlined in the general instructions above, making sure to pay attention to the guidelines for ditto marks, and codes for buyers. 

You can see an example page, fully transcribed, here. 



Sales Register, 1910-1914


This sales register is similar to Oldman's register from 1904-1910, in that it is a single page register, and records the same type of information about buyers, sellers, and objects. Please be aware, that the columned information, however, does not become consistent until page 9. Please transcribe what you see using columns where appropriate for pages 1-8, and then begin using the 9 column table organization (as was also done in the 1904-1910 ledger above) when you get to the conisistent information on page 9.  You'll notice as well that as the ledger goes on, Oldman stops recording the names of his sellers and one column of prices, and often does not indicate any ditto marks. When encountering this, please be sure to follow the ditto marks instructions above and record information appropriately. Reach out anytime with questions. 

For this ledger, Oldman also often abbreviated object numbers. Please type out the entire number - not just the abbreviation - so that staff at NMAI and Te Papa can search for the object numbers.

See circled examples in the fully transcribed page, below.