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).

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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.