By day, I work full-time at a law firm as a receptionist/ Mrs. Doyle from ‘Father Ted’. By night, I’m studying part-time towards a BA (Hons) in Classical Studies with The Open University. I also volunteer my desk and laptop to digital public archaeology for www.Micropasts.org when I have a spare moment from studying, working and binge watching Netflix (current binge is ‘Orphan Black’).
This may sounds cheesy, but one of the things that I love about material culture is holding or looking at an object and thinking “who used this?” and imagining a whole life of the owner and the object to together. I love that creativity goes hand-in-hand when dealing with archaeological material, and piecing together the puzzle of the past, which brings me to my blog subject of Public Digital Archaeology for The International Day of Archaeology.
I feel that online crowd-sourced platforms such a MicroPasts are fantastic opportunities for the public, whether they are students studying archaeological disciplines, or people with a genuine interest or passion for archaeology to make a direct impact on archaeological research projects from their computers. You can contribute as much as you can- there are contributors that have done a whopping 3,000 plus tasks, and some have done a few. I try and hop on when I have a spare moment, which is not so much these days as studying for a degree takes up a lot of my time, as well as my day job! It doesn’t matter how much or little you can contribute, as everything is a contribution and makes an impact on archaeological research. Projects on the site are for various museums and educational establishments such as UCL and The British Museum. To find out more about MicroPasts and what the fantastic team do, please visit www.micropasts.org
There is even a bit of healthy competition between contributors with a ranking system, and contributors are mentioned in the credits for each completed task, which is a nice “thank you” from the MicroPasts team. I think my favorite task I have contributed to is photo-masking, which involves drawing a polygon around an object so that when the team create a 3D model of an object, the background is ignored. These 3D models are made public, and are used in various ways such as for displays in museums, gaming and virtual reality. I really enjoyed photo-masking the ancient Egyptian Shabti for the UCL Petrie Museum project. I’ve found photo-masking to be quite therapeutic and a good way to switch off from the mundane day to day. Pick your favorite album and photo-mask away! Please visit http://crowdsourced.micropasts.org/project/photomaskingPetrie/ for more information.
Now that I’m on Summer break from university and I’ve got my exam results for this academic year, I have some time to contribute to digital archaeological research projects with MicroPasts. I’ve made my cup of tea, popped a few brownies on a plate, set my favorite ‘Nightwish’ playlist on Spotify and I’m ready to start on artifact index card transcription for the British Museum’s archives of Bronze Age Axes. Some of the index cards I have helped transcribe over the time I have been a contributor are so beautiful, with detailed drawings of artifacts, that I would love to hang some on my walls at home!
Almost straight away, I’m struggling a bit with this first index cards’ handwriting! Luckily, ‘Google’ is on hand and I type in what I think reads ‘Pitt Rivers Museum’ into the search. Thankfully, there is a Pitt Rivers Museum and it’s in Oxford, which helps with the other word that is pretty much unreadable but now I can see it says “Oxford”. Now that I’ve completed the transcription and georeferenced the site, I click “submit” but it appears the site is stuck. So I’ve refreshed the browser and the same index card pops up to be transcribed, so I will have to do it again. It submits successfully second time round! Phew! This index card will pop up a few times to other contributors to get the most accurate transcription possible.
For more information or to contribute to the ‘British Museum Bronze Age Index Irish Axes Draw B5’ please follow this link http://crowdsourced.micropasts.org/project/IrishAxesB5/
It looks as if this collection of index cards are dated around the 1920’s, as not all of them are dated. This new card I’ve started is dated 1924, so now I’m imagining either gentleman with perfectly partitioned hair and a curly moustache, or a lady with round horn-rimmed glasses and a faux wavy bobbed hairstyle, a bit like ‘Evie’ from ‘The Mummy’, penning this card. Archaeology and History never fail to capture the imagination!
The next tasks I’m contributing to is photo-masking of the ‘Conall Cael Bell’ project on behalf of The British Museum. This is a tricky one as I’ve had to start all over again about 4 times before successfully masking the bell! This will be done from numerous angles and numerous times masking until there is enough data to create the digital 3D model. For more information on the project, click the link below http://crowdsourced.micropasts.org/project/conallCaelBell/
Here is the start of my photo-masking of the bell
Here is my finished mask of the bell.
As this blog draws to a close, I hope at least someone reading this who maybe wasn’t aware that public Digital Archaeology was available, will be inspired to seek out online platforms and have a lasting impact on data of the past, collected for the future. Plus it’s good ol’ geeky fun!