digital archaeology

Something old and something new: CAD migration and archive accessioning at ADS

ADSeasy-250x250As a reasonably new face at the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) I am still getting to grips with the somewhat baffling world of digital archiving and preservation! If someone had asked me this time last year when I was graduating what I saw myself doing in one year’s time, I would probably not have said doing a mass CAD file migration… But being a Digital Archivist for the ADS has so far been a fabulous experience.

Today I am working on two tasks, archiving collections coming through ADS-easy (for more information about ADS-easy see Ray Moore’s post from the Day of Archaeology in 2014 ), and continuing the ADS’ preservation work by migrating our historic CAD files.

It has been just over a year since the first ADS-easy archive was released, and a lot has happened in a year! For those who have not heard about ADS-easy, it is a system that allows users to electronically submit archaeological archives, along with metadata (information describing the files). It has significantly altered the workflow of digital archivists at the ADS as data from ADS-easy does not require manual inputting of metadata. Since last July we have worked on 71 archives, ranging from image collections, to excavation reports, to geophysical data. We have had 6636 unique visitors to the website and have an average of 250 unique visitors per month. Most of those are from the UK but visitors come from all over the world, including the US, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain. On average 8 archives are submitted each month and the number has been gradually rising.

ADS-Easy

Screenshot from The Grand Western Canal archive, submitted through ADS-easy (dx.doi.org/10.5284/1031512)

My role within ADS-easy is to take the data we receive, accession it into our collections management system, convert the files into suitable preservation and dissemination formats- and document all of these processes!  Finally, I create an interface so that people can see the files on the ADS website. Today I am working on an image collection from a building recording of farm buildings in Lanchester, County Durham, and a data archive from an excavation in Crowle, Worcestershire. The data that comes in from ADS-easy is varied and often comes from small scale projects that would not otherwise be shared with the public. That is what makes the job both interesting and somewhat rewarding.

That has taken me up to lunch time, this afternoon I am carrying on with the long-running task of migrating all of our historic CAD files. Data that is archived at the ADS is continually ‘preserved’ over time to ensure that it is always readable and useable, and does not become obsolete. We are in the process of migrating our CAD files from earlier versions to the more recent 2010/2011 version. This has so far involved manually going through each collection containing CAD drawings and checking each file, converting them to the 2010 version, and then moving the previous versions to a migration folder. Another part of this process is creating a PDF file of each drawing to make them accessible to people who don’t own CAD software. All of this then needs to be documented in our collections management system so that the rest of the digital archivists know what I have done to the files, and where to find them if anything goes wrong!  After this the interfaces need updating to include the new PDF files.

CAD_example

Example of one of the many CAD plans the ADS holds. From Elizabeth House (dx.doi.org/10.5284/1008432)

CAD migration may seem quite a repetitive task, but it has allowed me to look back at some of the earliest ADS collections, such as the excavations at Eynsham Abbey in the late 80s/ early 90s, and the survey and excavation at the Iron Age emporium of Vetren . This process of migration is a very important part of what the ADS does; active management of our data means that it should (in theory!) always be accessible to the public in the most useful file formats and have longevity.

Better get back to it, those remaining 1000(ish) CAD files won’t migrate themselves!

Adventures in Digital Archaeology & Open Access Antiquarianism

Ashley M. Richter in front of one of the UCSD Calit2 visualization walls and my layered realities conceptual graphic for digital archaeological technology development and use.

Ashley M. Richter in front of one of the UCSD Calit2 visualization walls and my layered realities conceptual graphic for digital archaeological technology development and use.

It’s funny how quickly time passes while studying time.

Two years ago, this weekend was spent with a laser scanner at the beach.

I’d finagled a mini-grant from the National Science Foundation for a project I like to call Sandcastles for Science, but whose full un-pronouncable name identified it as a project to test out laser scanning capabilities for handling the imaging resolutions of stratigraphic sediment on archaeological sites (see– even that was a mouthful).

As a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego, the beach was the nearest easy access place to play in the dirt and provided a perfect venue to open up the experiment to local kids and un-suspecting beach-goers who accidentally volunteered themselves for mini-science bootcamp. Willing audiences who would build me data castles, while my research assistant and I exposed them to archaeology, beach physics, the history of castles, laser scanning, sea-shell collecting, and all the other educational topics we could cram into our construction schpeals and posterboards. I like archaeological education outreach, so sue me. It gets written into almost every one of my projects somehow.

Sandcastles for Science was ultimately prep-work for a two month field season in Jordan, laser scanning sites in Faynan (and yes, even scanning Petra for one glorious day), as well as for a lovely bit of software development on visualizing temporal sequences in point clouds with one of my fabulous computer science colleagues.

The Leica Scanstation looming over its sandcastle victim at the beach.

The Leica Scanstation looming over its sandcastle victim at the beach.

Last year, this weekend was spent in a frenzy of data digging and labwork

My team needed to pull together presentations for Italian officials to approve the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture, and Archaeology’s upcoming field season at Palazzo Vecchio and the Baptistery of St. John in Florence, and a bevy of lovely sites in southern Italy with a team from the University of Calabria.

So it was a weekend slogging through back-data of point clouds from the Hall of the 500 in Palazzo Vecchio, emphasizing the layered multi-spectral imaging into the model, and how it definitely showed the cracks conservators needed to track to create preservation solutions, and how it maybe had a hidden Da Vinci lurking behind one of its walls. It was a weekend of lists for the upcoming season, of site logistics, and Italian language lessons (team lessons with an instructor +  DuoLingo = a surprising amount of success once we hit Italy for the two month madcap field season that was my fall of 2013).

And if you’d like to check out more pics and details of my wonderful and ridiculous work for a once-promising academic something, scope out my scrapbook blog Adventures in Digital Archaeology.

The CISA3 diagnostics team at Palazzo Vecchio after successful conservation imaging.

The CISA3 diagnostics team at Palazzo Vecchio after successful conservation imaging.

The Faro Focus and I about to image the exterior of the Baptistery. Note that I literally only seem capable of this one jaunty pose with a laser scanner. I desperately need to start doing something different in field propaganda photos.

The Faro Focus and I about to image the exterior of the Baptistery. Note that I literally only seem capable of this one jaunty pose with a laser scanner. I desperately need to start doing something different in field propaganda photos.

But this year, this year was spent online- in a flurry of creative archaeological energy

This summer, I find myself graduated and out on my own, free to pursue my own projects, safely away from the boundary lines of academia and the rather unhealthy environment I had found myself in for a big chunk of this year.

Pulling ourselves back together, my favorite research colleague Vid and I cooked up a delightful dish that brings together all the digital archaeology flavors we’d been prepping before, but as part of a much grander and more colorful feast.

And so this weekend was spent running down the final lists of photographs, video media, and writing that needed to coalesce together into the FIRST archaeological technology driven Kickstarter.

Mushing together the laser scanning, point clouds, 3D models, and 3D printing,our project, Open Access Antiquarianism, proposes the construction of art exhibit built from re-purposed cultural heritage data using the digital visualization pipelines my colleague and I have been building to handle archaeological data.

A blend of 3D printed archaeological artifacts, furniture upholstered in fabric printed with archaeological LiDAR (literal armchair archaeology), interactive point cloud visualizations and other such extravagant re-workings of scientific data from open archives, the Cabinet of Curiosities Open Access Antiquarianism proposes offers an excellent opportunity to continue streamlining the point cloud and 3D modelling methodologies we’d been playing with for so long, while reaching a much much larger audience.

Because the larger global community needs to be engaged in the increasingly complicated discussions regarding ethical implementations of digitization and open access of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. The public (and archaeologists themselves) need to understand the desperate desperate need for interdisciplinary and collaborative work and move away from the academic politics and needless power-plays that constantly bog such wonderful creative enterprises down. Archaeologists need to work more closely with technologists and engineers to develop useful and adaptable systems that preserve the past for the future (and often simultaneously end up building the surveying systems needed for the space-age future we all envision).

And the public needs to be aware of the wealth of data that is available to them in the increasingly larger and more wonderful online archives of museums and government institutions all over the world. The past has the potential to become increasingly and excitingly ubiquitous and something that plays a much stronger role in one’s everyday conception of time and space. It’s getting all wibbly wobbly timey wimey and the doctors of archaeology ought to be actively on the hunt for more and more Companions. Studying the past is no longer something that need be done by experts alone. In fact, we are drowning under such an avalanche of data, that it is imperative that more crowd-sourced archaeological ventures be launched to bear the brunt of analyzing everything that is already stacked up in the university basements of the world, let alone the incoming finds. Archaeologists can stay experts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to talk to the public and engage them more actively in what we’re up to. Enthusiasm should count more than correct use of erudite jargon. Even to those hipster archaeologists out there.

In some small artistic way, the Open Access Antiquarianism project would like to address all of these things, while expanding the research and technological collaborative possibilities to continue refining the much needed digital pipeline that takes things from the field through processing, archiving, studying, and out to engagement.

My collaborative and interdisciplinary digital archaeology and outreach isn’t the traditional archaeology. But its my archaeology. And more than that, its an archaeological practice of hope. Hope that archaeology will fully embrace the increasingly digitized and interdisciplinary future. Hope that archaeology will not fall prey to over-specialization and tenure. Hope that archaeologists will continue to try to document and in some small way understand the past, so that we can help make vital statistically based decisions for the future. Archaeology has such potential to aid technology development and global ecological policy, if only us archaeologists would reach out and grasp it instead of assuming it will fall into our laps.

If you’re intrigued/dismayed/excited/furious/amused or any one of the wonderful and ridiculous emotions human beings are capable of, please check out Open Access Antiquarianism on kickstarter and on Facebook.  We’d love your support, and if you love our concepts about tech development, archaeology, and art as a research and outreach driver, perhaps your collaboration as well. Get in touch!

To the erudite young men and women a-sitting on a-tell: may your trowels be ever muddy and your point clouds free of shadows.

Acres and acres of happy wishes to all the archaeologists of the world,

Ashley M. Richter

One of the Open Access Antiquarianism Medaillions we've designed as part of the Kickstarter reward campaign.

One of the Open Access Antiquarianism Medaillions we’ve designed as part of the Kickstarter reward campaign.


Digital Magic for Magical Texts

It has been a grey damp day here in London. Glad to be tucked in working from home with the cat on my lap and a fresh pot of the black stuff.  I have been beavering away on a pile of image data for Magica Levantina, a University of Cologne project on magical texts from the ancient Near East.  Although I am a Research Associate at the Cologne Center for eHumanities, I have spent a good portion of my time working in museum collections far beyond Cologne, including the Princeton, Philadelphia, Paris, Naples, and soon (all being well) Jerusalem. But for now I have been working at the British Museum, which happily is not far from home and is giving me a bit of a break from the travel.

Gypsum tablet

Part of a gypsum tablet with a magical Greek inscription from Amathus, Cyprus (1891,0418.50 + 59,  © Trustees of the British Museum).

This week I have been conducting Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) on inscribed tablets fragments in the Department of Greece and Rome. The tablet fragments are made of selenite (gypsum), and were found at  the site of Amathus and date to between 100 CE-300 CE.

The almost complete tablet above bears a curse written in alphabetic Greek. However, the technique used to make the inscription, combined with its small size and the translucence of the material, make it very challenging to read or discern other potentially significant physical features.

RTI specular enhancement detail of Greek inscribed selenite tablet from Amathus, Cyprus. (1891,0418.50 + 59, Kathryn E. Piquette, courtesy Trustees of the British Museum)

Detail from the upper left of the above, visualised using the RTI specular enhancement mode  (1891,0418.50 + 59, Kathryn E. Piquette, courtesy Trustees of the British Museum)

BM staff very kindly took the tablet off display* yesterday so I could image it using RTI. The  detail to the right does not really do justice to the results I processed today since it is not possible in this context to have the relighting and other functionality of the RTIViewer. Nevertheless, the text is now vastly more readable.

Thanks to the magic of modern tablets, this ancient one, or at least its visual surrogate, is currently making its way through the ether to my colleagues in Cologne.

* The tablet was put promptly back on display today I am told (Room G72/2), so do pop down to the British Museum and take a closer look.

A Day in the Digital Index of North American Archaeology

dinaa

What is DINAA?

The Digital Index of North American Archaeology, or DINAA,  applies open access principles to archaeological data created by governments and researchers, in order to create a standardized data discovery tool (without using sensitive information like site coordinates). This allows for a more complete understanding of the past by allowing data covering large areas, or those separated by modern political boundaries, to be analyzed using the same terms in one data set. As the index of DINAA grows, it will incorporate larger numbers of stable links to public data sets hosted throughout the Internet, and can act as a kind of library search engine for primary archaeological data on architecture, fauna, flora, lithics, pottery … or anything!

What We Do

Each state in the U.S. has a State Historic Preservation Office, or SHPO, and each of these maintains their own database of archaeological sites in their respective state. These databases have been designed independently of each other, and often differ in terms of data structure and vocabulary. DINAA uses definitions and organizational elements from these nearly comprehensive catalogs as its base data layer. We have created a system that allows these differing databases to become interoperable through translation to one or more standardized classifications. If the DINAA and each SHPO can talk to each other, the information from each state can be presented in one data set. A publicly accessible live map, seen below, is the one of the products of this process. Click on the link, or the map image to try your own query!

http://opencontext.org/sets/United+States/?cat=Site&map=1&geotile=0&geodeep=10&dinaaPer=root&leaflet-base-layers=on&q=moundhttp://opencontext.org/sets/United+States/?cat=Site&map=1&geotile=0&geodeep=10&dinaaPer=root&leaflet-base-layers=on&q=mound

Live Map of mound sites listed in the DINAA as of April 15, 2014.

DINAA is an archaeological information tool for the Internet. Records for sites of interest can be browsed and used as a basis for further research. Maps can be exported as GeoJSON files for use in GIS software programs like QGIS and ArcGIS, allowing use by anyone through our open access policies. DINAA can be used by researchers to help identify broad areas of interest for their work, by educators who want to show students current maps of archaeological cultures, or for all sorts of important investigative or public activities. However, because of its sensitive data restrictions, DINAA is not built to conduct records checks for cultural resource management or other legal compliance activities. It is a public research and educational tool. Click on the map links or images to go to our query page and try it yourself!

On a typical day, much of the work involved with creating the DINAA consists of two tasks: obscuring site locations to prevent unauthorized access, followed by linking culture-history terms in individual state databases to a standardized terminology. Obscuring location data involves allocating sites to sectors on the map grid, each sector is 20 km on a side (or 400 square km),  then removing all geographic coordinates and other sensitive data. This work, done by registered professional archaeologists ONLY, allows useful cultural and scientific information to be published publicly online while simultaneously protecting important site locations.

The next step is to relate each state’s unique terms to the standardized vocabulary used by the DINAA (based off of the CIDOC-CRM ontology which is an international standard for cultural heritage data. The DINAA team first creates a comprehensive list of all archaeological terms used within a source database. They then sift through the published archaeological literature on each state or region to find discrete definitions for each term. DINAA accumulates definitions for sites, rather than replacing them, and users can query the original definitions to compare with the newer DINAA definitions to ensure accuracy and continuity. Reference citations for each new definition are then recorded and added to the DINAA Zotero library, which is also available as a public resource online.

zotero

Screenshot of the DINAA Zotero Library

 

The word cloud above, created by DINAA team member Kelsey Noack Myers demonstrates the variety of terms used across state archaeological databases. The size of the text for each terms corresponds with the frequency with which it is used. Linking these categories across multiple states is a major challenge facing the project team, but it is being used to document where people were on the landscape by major time periods in the past.

The word cloud above, created by DINAA team member Kelsey Noack Myers demonstrates the variety of terms used across state archaeological databases. The size of the text for each terms corresponds with the frequency with which it is used. Linking these categories across multiple states is a major challenge facing the project team, but it is being used to document where people were on the landscape by major time periods in the past.

What’s next?

Papers and posters about DINAA have inspired audiences at professional meetings over the last two years. Our team recently produced presentation materials for the 2014 Society for American Archaeology annual meeting (click here to access our papers, posters, slides, and a summary of our activities at the SAA meetings). An article in Literary and Linguistic Computing will be available this fall. Please follow our work or tweet us @DINAA_proj on Twitter, and visit our blog for updates. Team members are currently working on technical papers describing DINAA, and research based on it, related to both the construction of the index, and from examining the combined dataset.

DINAA also gives back to the discipline of archaeology, acting as a focal point around which we can discuss “how” and “why” we record data in different ways. Project team members have hosted one workshop with 30 participants already this year, and are planning a second next month. Site file managers and other researchers from many states in Eastern North America are participating. DINAA is an open, community effort, and the support of many people and organizations is what makes it happen. Feel free to contact us!

In 2014 our initial NSF funding period is coming to a close. We are currently planning the next round of funding that will help the DINAA grow to cover all US states and territories, as well as other North American nations as well.


 

 This Post Was Authored By the DINAA Team: R. Carl DeMuth, Kelsey Noack Myers, Joshua Wells (PI), David G. Anderson (PI), Eric Kansa (PI), Sarah Kansa (PI), Steve Yerka (PI), and Thad Bissett

Building an Archaeology Data Recording App

Today, I’m working at the Western Washington University archaeology lab, but since I wrote about that for Day of Digital Humanities a few months ago, I thought instead I’d write about the work I do with my company where I create software and tutorials for archaeologists.

9-12pm Worked through a Database Tutorial

This morning I finished up working through the tutorial for FileMaker Pro 12, a database management system (DBMS). I’ve heard great things about Filemaker from other archaeologists who have used it to create custom databases for recording archaeological sites. Compared to some other DBMS, Filemaker’s interface is very simple, and the program has some nice features, like tight integration and easy portability for iOS devices (e.g. iPhones, iPods, iPads) through the FileMaker Go app. This past year, I attended two conferences where several archaeologists demonstrated the Filemaker databases they built for academic projects. In particular, the Center for Digital Archaeology built their impressive Codifi app using FileMaker. Although I’ve yet to hear of any CRM companies who use Filemaker, I think it should work as a short term solution for a friend of mine to use this summer on field projects. In fact, I built a simple relational database for archaeological survey this morning based on the Intermountain Antiquities Computer System (IMACS) and Filemaker made it pretty simple for me to transfer the database to an iPad.

A Quick and Dirty Filemaker Form for iPad

Although Filemaker seems great so far, I’m hesitant to rely on the whims of two different companies, Filemaker and Apple, to ensure that I will be able to access my data when I need it. I interned briefly at Digital Antiquity (the organization that runs the Digital Archaeological Record data repository) and know that archaeologists who trusted their data to propriety database systems regretted it later when the database companies went under, leaving archaeologists with datasets that were difficult to access on new computers that couldn’t run the older database software. If the archaeologists were cautious, they might have translated their databases into less flexible but more stable preservation file formats, like plain-text comma separated value (CSV) files, but in many cases that didn’t happen.  Because of that experience, I always try to ask myself “how can I get data back out of here?” whenever I use a new piece of software.

For the past few months, I’ve also been building a custom archaeology data recording application for mobile devices using the Adobe Cordova/Phonegap framework.

Picture of an archaeology data recording application.

Screens from our data recording application.

The Phonegap framework allows me to use web languages like HTML, CSS, and javascript to create mobile applications that will run on multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, and webOS. I’m already familiar with these coding languages from building websites and I like the idea of being as platform agnostic as possible. As an added plus, if my partner and I decide to make the application open-source, other archaeologists will be able to edit and customize the code more easily than if we wrote the app in C or Java. Phonegap and HTML5 do have their limitations though, so in case we run into issues that slow our app down too much to make it useful, we’re also looking into porting the app to native code. For now though, Phonegap allows us to quickly prototype the application using languages we’re familiar with.

1-3pm Videoconference with Chris at DigTech  

Two archaeologists communicating over Skype

I’m working on the PhoneGap application with Chris Webster of DigTech, LLC. Chris is a long-time shovelbum, project manager, and podcaster who recently started his own cultural resource management (CRM) archaeology company. Chris wants to do as much of his site recording digitally as possible in order to increase efficiency and data accuracy, spend less of his clients’ money, and free up his archaeologists’ time to do more research, analysis, and publication rather than data-entry. Chris has accomplished a lot of this by using various off-the-shelf applications like Tapforms and MementoDatabase, but decided that none of them were doing everything he wanted or needed to do for CRM archaeology.

Chris and I meet weekly to discuss projects and to collaborate on the application. Chris primarily works on the interface design: making sure that the app is useful in field situations, with large enough buttons, text, and easy access to vital data. I primarily handle the coding and database design, but Chris and I have also been challenging each other to learn more about computer programming as we go. Simply designing a database to hold archaeological data has forced us to carefully consider and try to anticipate the different needs an archaeologist might have for a database in the field: if sites can contain features and artifacts, but features can also contain artifacts, how do you map that relationship? How many controlled terms for material types do you need to offer to standardize and streamline recording without limiting an archaeologist’s ability to add in an unexpected material type? Others have put much more thought into this area, but the end goal is to design databases that are specific enough to increase efficiency and accuracy while being general enough to compare data across sites, archaeologists, and regions. For Chris and I though, it’s been useful mental exercise to think about these kinds of problems as we program.

Recently the app has started to resemble something that would be useful out in the field, but we still have a lot of work to do. Some of the field situations we need to adapt our app to handle are to expand beyond simple survey to being able to quickly and efficiently record rock art. We have a database up and working in the app and have tested recording coordinates using the mobile device’s internal GPS (it’s nowhere near submeter accuracy, but it’s still handy), but we’d also like to add in some other features, like simple mapping, storing photographs, and making the data exporting work more easily.

3-4pm Wrote an email to a programmer to collect bids on fleshing out the application.

Because neither Chris nor I are professional programmers, we’re contacting several people who are to see what they might charge to help us add features. We’re not sure yet whether we’ll fund that ourselves, release a beta version to fund further development, or seek funding through a crowdfunding website like Kickstarter. If you’re an experienced programmer, we’d love to talk to you. You can contact us through our websites or at russell[at]diachronicdesign.com or chriswebster[at]digtech-llc.com

4-6pm Geeked out with other archaeologists over a new toy

A few other archaeologists and I have been eagerly awaiting a low-cost tablet with both an internal GPS and a >3mp camera that we can use for field recording. Today, Google announced the new version of their Nexus 7 tablet which met our requirements. I’ve been waiting awhile for that right combination of specs, so I bit the bullet and bought one. I’m really excited the Nexus 7 runs on android 4.3, which means I can finally run the FAIMS application on a real device; up until now I’ve had to emulate a Nexus 7 on my laptop, which is not ideal. From their website: “The Federated Archaeological Information Management System (FAIMS) Project is funded by the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NeCTAR) program[…] an Australian Government program to build new infrastructure for Australian researchers.” The researchers at the University of New South Wales and elsewhere have specifically designed for CRM data collection in Australia. I’ve been interested in the FAIMS project since speaking with Dr. Sobotkova at the 2012 SAA meeting in Sacramento and was very impressed when Dr. Crook showed me the progress they made when I saw FAIMS’s booth at the 2013 SAA meeting in Honolulu. The FAIMS project has open-sourced their app, which I love, and a friend and I want to customize the app for an excavation project here in the United States. Now that I will have a new android device, I can finally move forward with playing with the app and (hopefully) pay things back by contributing some code or tutorials back to the project.

If you couldn’t tell already, I’m generally pretty hopeful that technologies like databases, mobile devices, internet blogs, and social networks can help archaeologists record, analyze, and publish about archaeological sites more quickly, sustainability, and openly.  I’m excited about all the other posts I’ve seen on Day of Archaeology today that involved everyone from academic archaeologists to CRM archaeologists, community members, students, authors, and more. I hope this post has been interesting and helped add to the diversity of the voices on this blog. I’m looking forward to reading more posts and can’t wait until Day of Archaeology comes back around next year.

Cheers!

Russell

Digital Archaeology isn’t just Scanning

Connor Rowe, Center for Digital Archaeology, Mukurtu CMS. Today is the Day of Archaeology, in which archaeologists around the world blog about this day in the life of an archaeologist. Now my background is in cultural anthropology and digital media, but I happen to work with a team of archaeologists at the Center for Digital Archaeology here at UC Berkeley, so I tend to jump on the archaeological wagon, especially when it intersects with the digital world. Hence my participation in #DayofArch 2013.

Browsing through digital heritage inside Mukurtu CMS.

Browsing through digital heritage inside Mukurtu CMS.

My current project is Mukurtu CMS, an open-source digital archive originally intended for (and created by) indigenous communities to collect and share their (digital, digitized, and intangible) cultural heritage, on their own terms. It is built on Drupal 7, and attempts to remain community-based in its development process (yes, this is as hard as it sounds). We’ve been supported by generous NEH, IMLS, and university grants, which help us, first, eat, and, second, continue this project for little or no cost to interested communities (notwithstanding Congressional budget cuts…). These grants have allowed us to produce complementary tools, e.g., Mukurtu Mobile, an iOS (and soon, Android) app, and work on projects as varied as museum exhibits and school science curricula. My work consists primarily of community support, software and installation upkeep, and facilitation of internal and external communication. I also get to fly around the continents and help communities implement digital preservation workflows on site.

Pondering bugs in the Treehouse

Pondering bugs in the Treehouse

Today, however, I am in our sunny Berkeley treehouse office, listening to the quiet chirping of birds, leaf blowers, and jack hammers (the archaeological offices surround BP’s new capital investment), staring at lines of code trying, somewhat successfully, to fix a problem reported by a community using Mukurtu in New Zealand. Time zones make it a little difficult to collaborate in real time, but it adds to the sense that the work I’m doing is globally worthwhile. My work in this aspect of digital archaeology, what might be termed digital cultural heritage preservation and management, is a rewarding niche of archaeological work. It allows me to empower others in the face of expectations of steep digital learning curves, manage their own heritage, and make sure that history is not lost, but rather shared. It allows me to build and learn code, while also paying attention to cultural relevancy. There is responsibility tied to certain knowledge, sacred stories, and ancestors. By building, maintaining, and supporting Mukurtu, I help communities retain control over how their heritage is distributed. As Kim of Team Mukurtu (below) would say it, “does all information want to be free?

Team Mukurtu:
Kim Christen, Project Director and persona behind @mukurtu
Michael Ashley, Development Director and Chief Technology Officer of the Center for Digital Archaeology, @lifeisnotstill
Chacha Sikes, Lead Engineer, @chachasikes
and me, Connor Rowe, Service Manager, @mrthebutler

One Day with the Digital Archaeology Lab (University of Foggia)

IMG_8033Today the team of the Digital Archaeology Lab (LAD) is joining the archaeological equipe on the site of Montecorvino (View torre di montecorvino in a larger map). The wonderful medieval site is located about 30 km west from Foggia, on the hills of the Apennines. Starting from 2006, an archaeological team of University of Foggia guided by prof. Pasquale Favia and prof.ssa Roberta Giuliani is working here to understand the sequence of the settlement. Since then, the LAD team realized several projects regarding Montecorvino site. First, the 3D survey of the tower has been carried out using laser scanner and photo modeling. More recently we started the project of a wide reconstructive 3D model of the tower and the whole site (see bottom of the post …). During last months the students of Digital Archaeology realized several 3D models inspired to the tower for their exam.

Today we are climbing on the site to see the results of the last campaign, meet the guys that are digging for their last week of work before summer holidays, and take some shots that will be used in the final reconstruction.

Spend with us your Day Of Archaeology 2013!

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The Archaeology Data Service, keeping the Grey Literature Library going

Welcome to another post to the Archaeology Data Service (ADS)  Day of Archaeology blog 2012

If you want a quick introduction to the ADS and what we do see last year’s post.

We have contributions from two members of staff from the ADS this year, one from Stuart Jeffrey ADS deputy Director (Access) and this one from Ray Moore one of the ADS Digital Archivists.

ADS logoRay Moore

As a digital archivist at the Archaeology Data Service, my day to day activities involve the accessioning the digital data and other outcomes of archaeological research that individuals and institutions deposit with us, developing a preservation programme for that data, but also curating existing ADS collections.

Today, and indeed for the past week, I have spent much of my time working on the Grey Literature Library (or GLL).  The GLL is an important resource for those amateur and professional archaeologists working in archaeology today providing access to the many thousands of unpublished fieldwork reports, or grey literature, produced during the various assessments, surveys and fieldwork carried out throughout the country. These activities are recorded using OASIS (or Online AccesS to the Index of archaeological investigationS) and after passing through a process of validation and checking the reports produced in these projects arrive at the ADS. On first impressions then the digital archive may seem like an ‘end point’, a place where archaeological grey literature goes to die, but the ADS, through the GLL, makes these reports available to other archaeologists and the wider community allowing the grey literature to inform future research. At the same time as a digital archive we take steps to preserve these reports so that future generations can continue to use the information that they contain; an important job as many of these reports do not exist in a printed form.

Grey Literature Reports

Reports from the Grey Literature Library.

So what does digitally archiving a grey literature report entail? Initially all the grey literature reports must be transferred from OASIS to the ADS archive; the easiest part of the process. More often than not the report comes in a Portable Document Format (or PDF) form, and while this is useful for sharing documents electronically it is pretty useless as preservation format for archiving. One of my jobs is to convert these files into a special archival form of PDF, called PDF/A (the A standing for Archive). Sound’s easy, but often it can take some work to get from PDF to PDF/A (my all time record is 2 hours producing a 900mb PDF/A file). These conversions must also be documented in the ADS’ Collection Management System so that other archivists can see what I did to the file to preserve the file and its content. While OASIS collects metadata associated with project, the ADS uses a series of tools to generate file level metadata specific to the creation of the file, so that we can understand what and how the file was created. Only once these processes are complete can the file be transferred to the archive, with a version also added to the GLL so that people can download and read the report. With a through flow of some 5 to 600 reports per month the difficulties of the task should become apparent; and all this alongside my other duties as a digital archivist. This month’s release includes an interesting report on The Olympic Park Waterways and Associated Built Heritage Structures which stood on the site now occupied by the Olympic Park. Anyway I’d better get back to it!