William O. Oldman - Collection Ledgers, 1-37700, 1902-1916 - INSTRUCTIONS PAGE

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: Collection Ledger (Parts 1, 2, and 3) : 1 to 33668, 1902-1916 and Collection Ledger: 33669 to 37700, 1914-1916


These collection ledgers are the "master ledgers" created by Oldman. This is where he kept his master list of items collected over time, and went back and recorded when he sold them. The first collection ledger is quite large (900 pages), so it has been divided into 3 parts. 


This ledger is organized as single pages. The format is: 


Stock no.


Object description (sometimes includes measurements, location, numbers and sketches of objects)

Code of Buyer and date of sale



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. 


The items within these ledgers are recorded in numerical order, but Oldman only writes the last one or two numbers in groups of ten. For example: the first item starts at the number 1 and then goes up as to 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 then he begins again with  1,2,3 (which is actually 11,12,13 etc.). He does this throughout all these collection ledgers, so please pay close attention to the correct full stock number that comes before the abbreviated numbers, as NMAI staff needs the FULL NUMBERS transcribed so that all the stock numbers are searchable. This information is critical because Oldman also published these stock numbers in his illustrated sale catalogs, so staff will be able to match these up if they are written in full. 


You can see an example page, fully transcribed, below: