Prior to joining the Scheme, Dan worked in IT for an investment bank (Dresdner KW) after studying Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL and reading for a Masters degree at Cambridge University. He has been ICT Adviser to the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme project since 2003. He has also been heavily involved in the development of the British Museum website, performing the duties of Secretary of the Web Steering Group until the project was delivered. He has recently been appointed to Honorary Lecturership at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Other committee duties include CASPAR, HEIRNET and he is a Trustee of the Palestine Exploration Fund (also constructing their website) and has built websites for the Royal Numismatic Society, British Institute of Persian Studies, ICOMON and the All Party Parliamentary Group. Normally spends his weekends playing rugby for the mighty Rosslyn Park. He doesn't really like computers, having started working with them for a bet.

Day of Archaeology from the Museum of the World

I’ve been involved with the collective behind the ‘Day’ since the inception, and during that period my role has changed significantly. For 12 years, I was the digital lead for the Portable Antiquities Scheme. I’ve now moved to lead the British Museum‘s Digital Humanities programme, a new initiative with a wide remit and hopefully some exciting outcomes and collaborations will be forged over the coming years. My Day of Archaeology was varied, with a wide range of ‘digital’ activity.

My day started with troubleshooting this website. Since the 2015 Day, we moved our hosting from PAS servers, to York University’s cluster and found out that we did not have every thing that we needed to make this site run smoothly – Curl was missing and we had memory and CPU issues this morning. Thankfully, Holly and Paul from York managed to sort this out after the issues were discovered and normal service was resumed. Unfortunately, Matt Law had to really pull out the stops this morning to send out posts on Twitter. Normally we had automatic Tweeting configured, but this could not work until was CURL was enabled. Once done, his workload went down!

I then got the train into work, and worked on a 3D model that I’ve been trying to compile for several weeks now. This is of a bronze statue of Isis, which we had on our Sunken Cities handling desk (until its value was discovered) and we’re now planning to print it in gypsum to go alongside our other 3D print of an Egyptian town house (printed by the excellent ThinkSee3D).

Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 23.22.33

A screenshot of 3D model of Isis

After arriving at work, I had my first meeting of the day. Our department had a presentation from Dr JD Hill on the British Museum’s new Research Strategy, and how he saw an interface between the curatorial body, the digital team and the fabric of the building and the changing face of the Collection. There are lots of significant challenges coming up – digital within galleries, new website, innovation, 3D, Virtual Reality etc. After the meeting finished, we spent a period discussing the impact of 3D within the museum space with my excellent colleagues Jennifer Wexler and Thomas Flynn. We discussed licenses, reproductions, monetisation, control of prints and legal issues. A whole gamut of issues.

Then I went to see my wife working in the Great Court, where they were conducting evaluation work on the Museum’s family offer before heading to see the innovative Museum in a Box project (George Oates and Thomas Flynn) testing their work in the Ford Centre. This project is currently building a prototype with British Museum sourced content. Check their website out and find out more about what they are doing.

During lunch, we discussed the African Rock Art project’s digital outputs encompassing Virtual Reality, improving their AngularJS website and other things that project lead Lisa Galvin would like to implement with Jennifer Wexler. We also found time to catch Pokémon within the staff canteen, which then also led onto a discussion with the Museum’s Data Scientist (rarer than unicorns), Alice Daish, on her animated visualisation of the take up of the Pokémon phenomenon within the British Museum estate.

I then moved onto the next 2 hour meeting of the day, discussing the AHRC funded collaboration between the Museum and SOAS to study the amazing artistic outputs of the Japanese artist Hokusai. Wow, his work is AMAZING. If you want to see more, head to John Resig’s excellent website. This project will be crowdsourcing information via MicroPasts, modelling Linked Open Data using the CIDOC-CRM via ResearchSpace and generating original research. It will be a privilege to be involved in this.

Next up, I moved onto daily admin tasks. I hate dealing with email. I get too much and it is hard to cope. You get to the zero mark and then you get another mountain coming in. If I owe you mail responses, I am sorry. I’ll get there…. Of course, there was too much Twitter activity as well.

During this period, I deployed some fixes for PAS code on Github, and then I worked on the major project I’m currently managing on behalf of the department. The deployment of a Google Search Appliance for a knowledge search solution for the Museum. This will provide holistic search of hopefully all of the Museum’s resources – websites, YouTube, Portable Antiquities Scheme, Collection Online (which will be redeveloped over the next year, and an API) etc. It is a tough project to execute, loads of legacy systems, differing code bases etc.

Then it was on to a colleague’s leaving presentation and out for dinner for my wife’s birthday before heading home to write this.

My Day of Archaeology was challenging, fun and made extremely enjoyable by reading the posts that you, our wonderful contributors added this year. Thank you to all of you for taking part. I also pay tribute to the Day of Archaeology team, past, present and future. Without them, this project would not happen. We do not have a grant, but we hope that 5 years of this project has produced a great resource, produced by you, for you and your peers and hopefully it may go further than just the archaeological profession.

 

Antiquities, databases and an atypical day at the British Museum

The Moorlands Staffordshire Trulla

The Moorlands pan, one of my favourite objects

For the last eight years, I have worked at the British Museum, following a couple of years working for a German Investment Bank in the City of London. I’m responsible for the management of the Portable Antiquities Scheme‘s IT infrastructure and I provide advice to the British Museum on ICT issues when needed. The world of IT, is entirely self taught knowledge for me; at university I studied archaeology at undergraduate and post graduate levels, with a specific interest in maritime archaeology. It has been a sharp learning curve, and one that I think will always be challenging and disrupted by new technology. Of course, I’m open to offers to get back below the seas and excavate underwater again!

The department that I work for, the Portable Antiquities Scheme (and Treasure) is a DCMS funded project that records objects that have been found within the boundaries of England and Wales by members of the public. They voluntarily bring these objects forward to one of our 60 members of staff, who then record them on our database. You could say that this is at heart, public archaeology in action. This database now provides the basis for a massive amount of research within the university environment and it is very gratifying to see what people do with the database that I built. For example, the map below (produced in ArcView – I use QGIS at home) shows where coins of different periods are found by our contributors. Of course, I have to be very careful who has access to the full spatial co-ordinates, academics have to apply for access and I use some maths to obfuscate points on a map.

A plot of all coins recorded on the Scheme's database

A plot of all coins recorded on the Scheme's database

I’ve also been heavily involved with the #dayofarch project alongside friends and colleagues (we’re calling ourselves”Digital Archaeologists” ). The team working on this project were Matt Law and Lorna Richardson who came up with the plan, Tom Goskar, Jess Ogden, Stu Eve and Andy Dufton). I provided the project with server space, Google analytics, installation of the software and configuration of the software with Tom Goskar. The project has been amazing to work on, and we’ll hopefully be writing this up and getting a chapter on it into Lorna’s PhD.

My day is pretty varied and is either filled with writing funding bids, writing papers (CASPAR workshop papers on Archaeology on TV and Museums and Twitter at the moment), refactoring or writing new code, creating maps in various GIS packages, manipulating images (by script and hand), meetings with academics, TV people or colleagues. It is extremely different to my previous job, and it is probably why I’ve stuck with the role for such a long period. The database that I run, has been written from scratch and I’m currently transferring all my code to GitHub so that others can make use of my work. All the software that I either use or build has to be open-source. I have a very small budget for my IT work – £4000 per annum; is this the smallest budget for a National IT programme ever? I use products from Vanilla for our staff forum, from WordPress for our blogs and various framework packages like Zend Framework for our main website and database. As such, I spent only £48 on the site’s rebuild, the rest goes on server hosting and backup! At the moment, I am also working on a variety of funding proposals, a couple of JISC bids and I’m also looking for funding for the Video-Conferencing workshop that Elizabeth Warry refers to in her post. This is based around the discovery of the Frome hoard and forms the basis for her Masters’ dissertation that I’m supervising with Tim Schadla-Hall. Other people working on this include the British Museum’s education team and members of the Treasure Team. I’m also on various academic advisory boards, an honorary lecturer at UCL (currently helping to supervise Lorna Richardson’s PhD) and a Trustee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, a scholarly society based in Marylebone that has a wonderful collection of artefacts, maps and photos, and I’m currently involved in helping with a research bid for high resolution imagery of fragile documents which involves a wide array of partners.

Ian Richardson hold a double eagle

Ian Richardson hold a double eagle

Currently we have records for over 720,000 objects which have been contributed by over 19,000 people in a 14 year time span. We get around 60,000 visitors per month to our site and around 3-10,000 objects recorded; the time of year has a great effect on this – harvest and seasons especially impact. The site was awarded ‘Best of the Web’ as a research tool or online collection at this year’s Museums and the Web conference in Philadelphia. Something I’m extremely proud of for all our staff and contributors.  All of these records are released under a Creative Commons NC-BY-SA licence and we’ve had considerable success with a variety of digital projects. High profile finds that come up generate a huge amount of interest, and I’ve been trying to get suitable images for the Wikipedia community. We’re finding our relationship with them very beneficial and we now have lots of images in the Wikicommons.

With my wife, Katharine Kelland, I built the Staffordshire Hoard’s first website in 12 hours, and this was viewed by 1/4 million people in one day when we launched. I now use this model as a way for publicising other significant archaeological discoveries. I’m very lucky to work in the British Museum, I never thought I’d end up working there and you never tire of walking through the main gates and up the stairs to the Great Court. In the last few years I’ve been privileged to have seen amazing discoveries close up – the Hackney hoard, the Moorlands patera, the Staffordshire Hoard, the Frome Hoard, the Wheathampstead hoard, and the list goes on. I’ve even got to dress up as a gladiator and parade around the Great Court. Where else could you do this?

Changing your account picture

Changing your profile picture

This website allows users to have an avatar associated with their profile. As there are several services out there that can already produce portable avatars, we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel! So we have decided to use Gravatar – a web service provided by the team that is behind the WordPress blogging platform. It simply encodes your email address and looks it up against their server and reproduces your image that you store with them and associate with your account. By doing this, your avatar can appear on any site that is Gravatar enabled.

To get a Gravatar, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Gravatar’s website and choose the signup option at http://en.gravatar.com
  2. Enter your email address and submit the form.
  3. After a short wait, you should receive a new email about activating your account with them.
  4. Now follow their instructions to activate your account.
  5. Once activated, you need to choose an email address to associate the image you will be uploading as your avatar with. (You can add more email addresses later to use the same or different icons).
  6. Now follow the steps to upload and crop your desired image.
  7. Once uploaded, your gravatar will be available at sites that use the gravatar system.

We only accept G-rated images – sorry, we’re a family friendly site and organisation.

 

Account details have been sent out!

As of 12pm on July 12th, account details have been sent via email to everyone who has expressed an interest in signing up and contributing to the project. We now have 244 people willing to document their day, and we’ve even had the first post from Maev Kennedy (Guardian archaeology correspondent) which will go live at 00:01 on the 29th. If you want to contribute, you can still sign up, just email dayofarchaeology@gmail.com

At present, all new users have been set to contributor status, which wordpress defines as:

Somebody who can write and manage their posts but not publish them

All contributions will be moderated prior to them appearing on the site,  so any issues can be fixed before they go live. We have instructions on how to post via the traditional wordpress interface, or you can use the wordpress application on your android or iOS phone. Later today, details on how to post via email will appear on the site as well.

If you’re interested, the map below shows locations of contributors where known.

The day gets closer!


Day of Archaeology 2011

Swash Channel WreckThe Day of Archaeology 2011 is an online project that will allow archaeologists working all over the world to document what they do on one day, July 29th 2011.  This date coincides with the Festival of British Archaeology, which runs from 16th – 31st July 2011.

Archaeologists taking part in the project will document their day through photographs, videos and written blog posts. These will then be collected on this website, which will provide a glimpse into a day in the life of people working in archaeology, from archaeological excavations to laboratories, universities, community archaeology groups, education services, museums and offices.

This project is open to everyone working or volunteering in any aspect of archaeology from anywhere in the world – and even those who have defected!

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