Mukurtu

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

Celebrating! All around the World, Old and New!

Today was a merry day for us Archaeologists at CoDA, all around the Old and New World!

Elena, our Web and Mobile Manager, is currently in Italy. She celebrated – a bunch of hours earlier than everyone else – a generous grant by NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) to support the next steps of Mukurtu Mobile!

Mukurtu Mobile is an iPhone app designed for indigenous communities or just any community that wants to document and share memories in its own terms, using protocols, categories and community terms that make sense to its members. It’s distributed as part of Mukurtu CMS, a free, open source platform built with indigenous communities to manage and share digital cultural heritage.

How can you celebrate with us? Join Elena’s party in Italy later today or… if you’re too late for that (as most of our staff is back in California), just join the Mukurtu community!

Check out the app and help us move forward with your precious suggestions!