Social Story Time in the Sala Niobe!

Get ready for social story time in the Sala Niobe! Beginning at 10.30am tomorrow at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Fabrizio Paolucci, Cristiana Barandoni and Giovanna Conforto will give a dynamic presentation on the Niobid sculpture group.

Part of the international Day of Archaeology 2015, storytelling sessions are planned in both Italian and English.

Can’t be at the museum? You can still follow all of the action on Twitter (@GoldUnveiled, ‪#‎dayofarch15‬) and on the Facebook page Gold Unveiled.

Niobe...work in progress


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.

How to spend a day at your museum, when you are an archaeologist but you work as a guardian

Once upon a time, there was a young girl and archaeology student. She visited the National Archaeological Museum of Florence and, when she saw the terrible and magnificent bronze statue of the Chimera, she said “One day I will work here!”. Maybe Someone listened her and a few years later, when she graduated, the Italian Ministry of Culture announced a competition for more of 300 Museum Assistants to archaeological Superintendencies. For the Archaeological Superintendency of Tuscany only 10 people won, and among these, there was me.

The Etruscan bronze staue of Chimera

The Etruscan bronze statue of Chimera

Yes, it’s me the young girl who expressed the desire in front of Chimera! In may 2010 I and nine other young archaeologists like me started to work at National Archaeological Museum of Florence.

Yeah, that’s right: our work consists in checking the halls of the archaeological museum. We are guardians (the correct name is Museum’s Assistant…) so we check our masterpieces, like bronze statues of Chimera, Arretian Minerva and Arringatore, or the François Vase, or coffins and mummies in the Egyptian Museum.

The daily life of the Museum’s Assistant is boring. We spend 6 hours each day in our hall and we intimate to the people “No flash” and “Restrooms are on the Second Floor”… It’s not an exciting work at all… Rarely, visitors ask for some information about the museum’s collection or about some archaeological artifact; above all, the Archaeological Garden of the Museum fascinates the public, and a lot of people ask for information about it.

The Museum's garden

The Museum’s garden

When we don’t stay in museum’s halls, we work at the “supervision room”, a space where we supervise all the museum for security: the museum is checked by cameras and in this room we watch the cameras. It’s a surveillance system that helps Museum’s Assistants in their work. Furthermore, we work three or four nights a month, to ensure the surveillance at night.

The work of Museum’s Assistant is boring. It’s boring if you know that you could use your working time in a different way. It’s boring because we are archaeologists and our competence is wasted. We could really help the museum in its mission to engage the public, to educate young public, to communicate archaeology, to increase culture. Instead, our competence is not appreciated and we stay in our hall to sentence “No flash” and “Restrooms are on second Floor” (but also “Second floor today is closed, I’m sorry” or “The garden is closed, I’m sorry”…).

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m glad to work in the museum. But I can’t use my competence as an archaeologist because my work is to check the artifacts and no more! My job profile instead consists of a lot of others roles: communication, treatment, collaboration in educational activities with schools… From 2010 to 2012 I didn’t carry out any of these others features of my job profile. Finally, from spring 2013 something changed.

Our Superintendent asked to the Museum’s Assistants collaboration in increasing accessibility for the Museum. I am able to write a blog, I’m archaeoblogger and museumblogger too, so I suggested to open a blog dedicated to all the Florence Museum’s activities. The Superintendent liked the idea, but he wanted a blog dedicated to all the Archeological Superintendence of Tuscany! From May 2013 the Archeotoscana blog is active, together with a facebook fanpage and a twitter account. I and another colleague, a young archaeologist like me, we work everyday on the blog and social media communication. When? Yep! When we work in the “supervision room” or when we work by night! We have not an office, obviously, it’s impossible to think that! But when we are in museum’s hall, if you see us with smartphone in our hands, you know that we’re not playing, but we’re twitting… (and of course, I dedicate a lot of time when I’m at home, as a real social media manager… my husband is not happy, but… 😉 )

Chimera is the symbol of Archeotoscana Blog and Social Media

Chimera is the symbol of Archeotoscana Blog and Social Media

In my opinion, our blogging is great work because there are very few museumblogs in Italy, and very few archaeological museum’s blogs. So, I think our work is important to increase communication with the public and to increase public too. I believe strongly in this, so I want to keep up the good work!

Furthermore, during last winter Museum’s Assistants took part in educational activities. So, we collaborated with Educational Services and we organized some events like the “Families at Museum’s Day” or the “Digital Invasions” that had a lot of success. These are good opportunities for the Museum to open its doors to more and more people in a different way… I’m glad to be part of this activities and for the future we will plan others cultural exhibitions… stay tuned!

The Families at Museum's Day at National Archaeological Museum of Florence

The Families at Museum’s Day at National Archaeological Museum of Florence

Yes, I know, my main role is staying in museum’s hall to say “No flash” and “Restrooms are on Second Floor”. But I hope that the current situation will change. And for me, now, the Museum’s Assistant is not a so boring work…

Archaeology on the Puccini Lake

Sun is shining in Massaciuccoli, Tuscany! We’re diggin’ this interesting Roman building, it’s 5 professionals, plus many students from Pisa, Florence, Cardiff & Aberdeen Universities!

The excavations in Massaciuccoli started long ago with the digging up of the thermal bath covered by beautiful I century A.D. mosaics in 1934. Today the Team of professionals and students is immersed in the excavation of the rest of the building, just across the road. This more recent excavation started in 2006 and it will finish in the next year, 2012.

Because of the display of the building and its surronding, initial therories categorised it as a Roman Villa, but due to new finds such as a pottery stamp with the image of two gladiators and pieces of a furnace, new theories have arose. One of them  is the possible use of the building for pottery production, and the area 4000 may have been a market place open to the public. In the area next to area 4000, there was also found a holy room containing an altarpiece and in front of it a base for a statue. In this room the walls are covered by a mix of mashed bricks, clay and a kind of mortar that draws them together.

It is an interesting site which offers new challenges and experiences everyday. Young archaeologists and students from around the world are invited to join our excavation!

Click here for a brief video about these last months of excavation (Febr-June 2011), and here for a video and interview (the latter in Italian), or follow us on Facebook!