Drawing on the fieldwork undertaken on behalf of the Austrian Geological Survey in the 19th century, I should like to analyse those practices that may be understood as ‘administration procedures’. Using a variety of selected handwritten materials that were produced during fieldwork in the context of the geological mapping project (1848-1867) of the Habsburg Monarchy, commissioned by the Royal Imperial Geological Survey in Vienna, I should like to examine the route from subjective observation to written documentation, the conceptualization of experience and the strategies of writing, and also the procedures for standardization. Through this perspective, fieldwork becomes a procedure that is materialized on paper.
Every piece of fieldwork involves, in principle, countless administrative acts and procedures. These are preceded by the instructions which, in functional terms, occur at two different levels. One level provides a methodology for the acquisition of knowledge; the other level concerns the bureaucracy, or the organizational framework, within which the fieldwork takes place. On the one hand the investigator is seeking to optimize the acquisition of knowledge, whilst on the other hand the checking of both the subject and the object of the investigation is a concomitant feature of both levels.