cultural resource management


DDIG member Ethan Watrall (Asst. Professor of Anthropology @ MSU) sends us the following information about his upcoming Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) field school, which is part of the CHI Initiative at Michigan State University.

Excerpts quoted. For full details, please see this PDF LINK.

Site Link:<http://chi.matrix.msu.edu/fieldschool> Email:watrall@msu.edu

We are extremely happy to officially announce the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool (ANP491: Methods in Cultural Heritage Informatics). Taking place from May 31st to July 1st (2011) on the campus of Michigan State University, the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool will introduce students to the tools and techniques required to creatively apply information and computing technologies to cultural heritage materials and questions.

The Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool is a unique experience that uses the model of an archaeological fieldschool (in which students come together for a period of 5 or 6 weeks to work on an archaeological site in order to learn how to do archaeology). Instead of working on an archaeological site, however, students in the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool will come together to collaboratively work on several cultural heritage informatics projects. In the process they will learn a great deal about what it takes to build applications and digital user experiences that serve the domain of cultural heritage – skills such as programming, user experience design, media design, project management, user centered design, digital storytelling, etc. …

The Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool is open to both graduate students and undergraduates. There are no prerequisites (beyond an interest in the topic). Students from a wide variety of departments, programs, and disciplines are welcome. students are required to enroll for both sections 301 (3 credits) and 631 (3 credits) of ANP 491 (Methods in Cultural Heritage Informatics).

Admission to the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool is by application only.

To apply, please fill out the Cultural Heritage Informatics Fieldschool Application Form <http://chi.matrix.msu.edu/fieldschool/chi-fieldschool-application>. Applications are due no later than 5pm on March 14th. Students will be notified as to whether they have been accepted by March 25th.

The annual report of DDIG is due to the SAA on Friday, February 4th. They ask for a “report on interest group/representative activities” and “action items” to be included. The text below is merely a report, I am not presently planning to submit any action items. I’m glad to take comments on the DRAFT text below, and proposals for action items.

Use the comments field for this blog entry to communicate about this …

Cheers,
Josh

DRAFT REPORT OF THE DIGITAL DATA INTEREST GROUP TO THE SOCIETY FOR AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY

The Digital Data Interest Group (DDIG) had a productive year in 2010. The expansion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) creating digital data from archaeological practices appears to continue at a rate relatively equivalent or higher than that generally found within the social sciences. This year saw the publication of a number of items pertaining to digital data use in archaeology in SAA periodicals. The annual SAA meeting in Saint Louis contained a variety of symposia and general contributions specifically pertaining to the implications of ICTs and digital data in archaeological practice, including a DDIG-sponsored digital symposium. This report will address SAA activities related to DDIG, and then provide a general assessment of digital data developments in general with the potential to affect American archaeology as construed in the SAA mission statement.

SAA periodicals published several items this year directly addressing digital data practices. Three items were in the SAA Archaeological Record, “Transforming Archaeological Data into Knowledge” (McManamon and Kintigh 2010), “Fieldwork in the Age of Digital Reproduction: A Review of the Potentials and Limitations of Google Earth for Archaeologists” (Meyers 2010), and “Open Context in Context: Cyberinfrastructure and Distributed Approaches to Publish and Preserve Archaeological Data” (Kansa 2010). One article was published in American Antiquity, “Computational Modeling and Neolithic Socioecological Dynamics: A Case Study from Southwest Asia,” (Barton et al. 2010). A number of articles in both publications also indirectly included ICTs and digital data as part of their subject matter.

The 2010 SAA meeting in Saint Louis contained a large amount of activity related to ICT and digital data use. This included sessions on the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR), digital curation, and digital publishing. The DDIG-sponsored digital symposium at the SAA, “Practical Methods of Data Production, Dissemination, and Preservation,” contained 13 individual presentations created by 27 contributors; the symposium highlighted results-driven applications of digital data management undertaken by DDIG members which could serve as examples of best practices in the field. Outside of specific symposia, at least 13 other presentations and posters appeared at the meeting with direct focus on ICT and digital data practices in their titles and abstracts. Although not part of the SAA, the

This past year saw the emergence of two important developments on the subject of digital data, with the potential for profound influence on archaeological practice: (1) The National Science Foundation (NSF) implemented a requirement for a data management plan to be included with all proposals beginning January 18, 2011; and (2) the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) called for commentary concerning how a new policy similar to that of the National Institute of Health (NIH) might be generally constructed for other agencies, creating a requirement for public access to data resultant from publicly-funded research.

The NSF requirement, now active, will have an immediate effect on archaeological practice in that all proposal writers now must make their data management plans explicit in less than two pages. This is a generally positive development. In order to help mitigate the most onerous step for proposal writers, the NSF has proactively suggested (but not required) that proposal writers avail themselves of the expertise of two non-profit, research organizations run by DDIG members, the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR), and Open Context. However, in order to realize the best benefits of this new requirement and subsequently derived practices in other funding and regulatory agencies, the American archaeological community will need to engage in a substantive dialogue about data management standards, ethics of data sharing, and citation practices. This is not a call for prescribed, one-size-fits-all requirements, but for recognition of the fact that the ongoing development of open community standards takes explicit work in order to keep researchers from producing data management plans with low levels of interoperability.

The OSTP call for comments closed on January 21, 2010. The last update on the subject was March 8, 2010, which indicated that input was still being reviewed. Five PDF files are available on the OSTP website , with the contents of emails and other materials sent in response to their call. Comments from the archaeological community included a generally supportive letter co-authored by DDIG member Francis P. McManamon, executive director of tDAR, which also recognized the need for some measure of disciplinary cohesion around to derive benefits from such openness. Similar statements were made by many commenters representing a wide swath of the sciences and humanities. This OSTP initiative also will raise significant questions about what constitutes proper citation, and other recognition of contributions made by previous researchers, in professional reports of new findings involving curated public data.

The expansion of professional outreach and communication on digital data issues remains a top priority in DDIG. Such expansion is devoted to development of greater awareness within the SAA community of the ways in which ICT use and resultant digital data both structure work while simultaneously creating new affordances. The ability to capitalize on these new affordances is increasingly dependent upon the development of recognized data standards and (note: not necessarily mandated) collaborative networks of users (researchers, managers, educators, etc.). The position of tDAR and Open Context as institutional points of reference will be exceedingly valuable in the near- and medium-term. However, without the appearance of a more engaged community of archaeological data practitioners in the medium- to long-term, the expansion of broad efforts like those at the NSF and OSTP may not be highly beneficial. Similarly, in order to ensure that the population of archaeological practitioners remains prepared to create and maintain interoperable data sets and standards it is time for disciplinary conversation and concerted action on what constitutes appropriate technical training at various levels of educational development.

Sincerely,

Joshua J. Wells, Ph.D, R.P.A.
Convener, Digital Data Interest Group of the Society for American Archaeology
Assistant Professor of Social Informatics
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
& Department of Informatics
Indiana University South Bend

References Cited

Barton, C. Michael, Isaac Ullah, and Helena Mitasova
2010 Computational Modeling and Neolithic Socioecological Dynamics: A Case Study from Southwest Asia. American Antiquity 75(2):364-386

Kansa, Eric C.
2010 Open Context in Context: Cyberinfrastructure and Distributed Approaches to Publish and Preserve Archaeological Data. The SAA Archaeological Record 10(5):12–16.

McManamon, Francis P., and Keith W. Kintigh
2010 Digital Antiquity: Transforming Archaeological Data into Knowledge. The SAA Archaeological Record 10(2):37–40.

Meyers, Adrian
2010 Fieldwork in the Age of Digital Reproduction: A Review of the Potentials and Limitations of Google Earth for Archaeologists. The SAA Archaeological Record 10(4):7–11.

Martin Bailey has another good article in the June issue of The Art Newspaper, this time on the new director-general of UNESCO, Francesco Bandarin. He was promoted from within: he comes from the World Heritage Centre. A few excerpts:

From organising the restoration and re-erection of the 1,700-year-old Obelisk of Axum in Ethiopia more than 70 years after it was looted by Mussolini, to working to protect the ancient capital city of Samarra in war-torn Iraq, Italian-born Francesco Bandarin has been involved in many well-known projects during the decade he has served as the director of the World Heritage Centre, …

How damaging is tourism to the major world heritage sites? —— FB: It is an issue of scale, and context. Machu Picchu now has one million tourists a year, which may not seem so many, but it is an isolated mountain site. This led to the development of the city of Aguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu. All the rules of conservation have been overrun by the sheer volume of tourists. At Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, the temples are being conserved, but we did not realise that nearby, at Siem Reap, 150 luxury hotels have sprung up like mushrooms. —— Should Unesco have been tougher in monitoring Angkor Wat? —— FB: We were distracted because we were focusing on conservation of the temples, not on the environment. Now it is a problem. We are not an international police force, but we do run a substantial monitoring system. This year we will be reporting on 180 World Heritage Sites, out of 890. Sometimes monitoring works in terms of results and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a bit frustrating.

Culture is not a luxury, it is a constituent of development, both economic and social. Culture is not entertainment, it is actually production or capital for development. … Unesco deals with four aspects of culture. First, conservation of heritage sites, both cultural and natural. Secondly, preservation of intangible culture. That comprises traditional knowledge, such as rituals, dance or skills. For instance, the Tango was born in Argentina and Uruguay, but it is now found all around the world. Thirdly, museums. And finally, intercultural dialogue.

I will be organising a major international conference on the future of the book. The book is the most important cultural object, but Unesco has been absent from the debate. The argument between Google and the French government is not healthy, and I think we should provide a forum for the actors [French publishers are resisting Google’s attempts to scan their books]. There is the issue between the Anglo-Saxons and the rest of the world, with English dominating language and technology. Amazon did not exist a few years ago. Books won’t disappear, but they will mutate.

PennDesign, the R. Lemaire International Centre for Conservation at the University of Leuven and theUniversity College St Lieven are pleased to announce an international symposium titled, Heritage Recording and Information Management in the Digital Age (SMARTdoc), … will be held on November 19-20, 2010 at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Supporting institutions include UNESCO World Heritage Centre, UNESCO Chair for Preventive Maintenance, Monitoring and Conservation, ICOMOS Scientific Committee on Heritage Documentation (CIPA) and the International Society on Virtual Systems and Multimedia.”

“Good decisions in heritage conservation are based on timely, relevant and accurate information about the conditions, materials and evolution of heritage buildings and landscapes. Therefore, documenting, recording and analysis of heritage places is an essential part of their conservation and management. The rapid rise in new digital technologies has revolutionized the practice of recording heritage places. Digital tools and media offer a myriad of new opportunities for collecting, analyzing and disseminating information about heritage sites. With these new opportunities, there are also conflicts, and an intense effort to build digital media into the education of conservation professionals. Issues regarding the proper, innovative and research-focused uses of digital media in heritage conservation are an urgent topic in the global heritage conservation field, and Penn, KU-Leuven and its partners have played a leading role in this area of cross-disciplinary research and practice.”

I’m a bit confused. The National Treasures website, set up by the Israel Antiquities Authority, provides a gallery and info: “This on-line site offers a selection of published artifacts from the collections of the National Treasures and is available for researchers, curators, students and the general public in Israel and abroad. This site is updated continuously, and new artifacts are added on a regular basis.” So far so good. However, when you dig down to an actual artifact page, this is what jumps out:

There are two links for “Purchase”? Fortunately, when I clicked these, nothing happened, the page stayed the same. Still, is the IAA in the antique dealing business now?

Correction: As Mark and Catherine were kind enough to point out, the entry page of National treasures actually does state: “The artifact’s information card presents detailed archaeological data about the selected artifact, including provenance, type, dimensions, material, site where discovered, dating and bibliography. In addition, hi-resolution images of on-line artifacts may be purchased on-line from the photographic archives of the Israel Antiquities Authority.” I am sorry for any confusion I may have caused. Just goes to show that it isn’t always a good idea to write blog posts (very) late at night…

Given the recent discussion of the role of digital data in CRM archaeology, I think that this conference might be of interest to some of you. The 2008 Computer Applications in Archaeology Conference in Budapest, Hungary will focus on the use of computer applications and quantitative methods in large-scale rescue excavations and during the processing and analyzing of the large amounts of data from such excavations.

The website for the conference (http://www.caa2008.org/topi.html) explains:

“In Hungary and the neighbouring countries, 90% of all archaeology is concentrated on such rescue excavations. The infrastructural backwardness of EU accession countries has induced large-scale road constructions, railroad reconstructions and greenfield investments. For archaeology, these have resulted in the full excavation of large areas not connected to particular periods with huge amounts of finds and data. Our work is part of the investment, therefore it is evaluated based on economic effectiveness. The archaeological processing and historical evaluation of rescue excavations bring new opportunities for archaeology not only in quantity but also in quality. We construct new roads, and while doing so we have to use the latest methods to ensure that we create the most detailed documentation before a site is destroyed.Computer applications and various quantitative methods can be of immense help during such projects, and the aim of the conference is to explore the possibilities offered by such technologies during survey and prospecting, excavation, documentation and analysis.”

I will be in attendance and it will be interesting to see if our European colleagues have come up with any solutions (open-source or otherwise) for analyzing, comparing, accessing, and curating the large amounts of digital archaeology data created by such salvage projects. Their introductory text seems to indicate though that they too are looking for new solutions to the digital version of the “curation crisis”, so it should be a fruitful discussion.

Kevin Schwarz

This announcement came in from Fred Limp (University of Arkansas, ArchaeoInformatics):

The Archaeoinformatics Consortium is pleased to announce the participants in the 2007-2008 Virtual Lecture Series schedule. The Virtual Lecture series involves leaders from around the world and many disciplines who each will be presenting information on their cyberinfrastructure initiatives and strategies and the ways in which their lessons learned may be useful to archaeology. In addition there will be presentations from archaeologists describing their successful cyberinfrastructure efforts.

These lectures are presented every other week using the NSF funded Access GRID video conferencing system. Many universities across the US, UK and Australia have Access GRID or compatible facilities. It is also possible to participate in the lectures by downloading the presentation slides and participating via a telephone bridge. Information on how to connect to the Access GRID system and alternatives are provided at http://archaeoinformatics.org/lecture_series.html. The lectures from the 2006-2007 series and this year’s lectures are also available as streaming video from the archaeoinformatics web site.

Archaeoinformatics.org
Archaeoinformatics.org, has been established as a collaborative organization to design, seek funding for, and direct a set of cyberinfrastructure initiatives for archaeology. Archaeoinformatics.org seeks to coordinate with and, develop interoperability of its own projects with other relevant data-sharing initiatives. It offers to work with professional organizations and federal agencies to promote policies that will foster the development of cyberinfrastructure for archaeology. More information is available at http://archaeoinformatics.org

2007-2008 Lectures

Lecture 1 (Archived)
September 19, 2007, 10:30-12:30 CDT (Archived)
LionShare: Secure P2P File Sharing and Collaboration
Michael J. Halm, Penn State University

Lecture 2
October 17, 2007, 10:30-12:30 CDT
Sharing our resources, sharing our understanding: Cyberinfrastructure
for Archaeology

Mark Gahegan
GeoVISTA Center, The Pennsylvania State University

Lecture 3
October 31, 2007, 10:30-12:30 CDT
“Developing strategies and tools for successful interoperability – lessons from the Open Geospatial Consortium”
Fred Limp
Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies, University of Arkansas

Lecture 4
November 14, 2007, 10:30-12:30 CDT
“The Science Environment for Ecological Knowledge (SEEK) Ecoinformatics” (Tentative Title)
Mark Schildhauer
National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Santa Barbara

Lecture 5
November 28, 2007, Time TBD
“Cyber Lessons from England’s Archaeological Data Service” (Tentative Title)
Julian Richards
Department of Archaeology
University of York

Lecture 6
December 12, 2007, Time TBD
“The Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative (ECAI)” (Tentative Title)
Ian Johnson
Archaeological Computing Laboratory
University of Sydney,

Previous Archaeoinformatics Lectures are available from the web site.
2006-2007 Lectrue Series

Lecture 1
March 26, 2007 (Archived)
Executive Council Town Hall Meeting with an introduction to the activities of Archaeoinformatics.org.

Lecture 2
April 9, 2007 (Archived)
“Open Context: Community Tools for Publishing Research Data on the Web”
Eric Kansa
Alexandria Archive Institute

Lecture 3
April 23, 2007 (Archived)
“GEON: Geosciences Network”
Chaitan Baru
Science Research and Development
San Diego Supercomputer Center

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Reading the recent posts by Fennelle Miller and Kevin Schwarz got me to look into the spatial data a bit more closely. One of the issues that seems to crop up again and again is cost and complexity.

GIS data is still difficult to share dynamically over the Web, but things are changing. GoogleEarth, Google Maps, Open Layers, etc. provide great tools on the client side for viewing and interacting with spatial data (not just points too, but also vector lines and polygons). GoogleEarth and Google Maps are proprietary, but they are available as free downloads or free APIs. They also work with an XML format (KML) that is pretty simple, enjoys a wide user-community and can work with non-Google developed tools.

There are some tools for transforming the ubiquitous ESRI shape files into KML documents (the XML format used by Google’s applications for spatial data)(See this blog post at PerryGeo, see also the post’s comments). Here’s a link to some “how to” discussions on using PHP to read MapInfo (.mif) files to use with Google Maps. Here’s a link to an open source PHP class that reads ESRI shape files, the first step needed in converting them on a server to KML or other formats. The point of all this is that, with some development work, we can transform (to some degree at least) typical GIS data into formats work better on the Web.

Of course, GML (the community developed open standard) is a better choice for GIS data than KML. KML is needed for Google’s great and easy to use visualization tools, but GML is a much more robust standard for GIS data. GML also has the advantage of being an open, non-proprietary XML format. You’re not locked into any one software vendor and you have important data longevity advantages with GML. It should be noted that Open Layers (the open source equivalent of Google Maps) supports GML.

However, I’m not sure of the immediate need to go through all this effort. Sure it’s nice to have GIS data easily viewable on a web-browser or slick visualization tool like GoogleEarth. But the fundamentals of data access, longevity and discovery need to be in place first before we put lots of effort into online visualization.

Instead, we should look at some strategies to make our GIS data easier to find and maintain. And we need to approach the issue pragmatically, since overly complex or elaborate requirements will mean little community uptake. Perhaps we can look at ways of registering GIS datasets (ideally stored in GML) in online directories with some simple metadata (“information about information”). A dataset’s general location (say Lat / Lon point coordinates), some information about authorship, keywords, etc. and a stable link to download the full GIS dataset would be an excellent and simple start. Simple point data describing the general location of a project dataset will be enough to develop an easy map interface for users to find information about locations.

Such directories can be maintained by multiple organizations, and they can share/syndicate their content with tools such as GeoRSS feeds (RSS with geographic point data). It’s easy to develop aggregation services from such feed. You can also use something like Yahoo Pipes to process these feeds into KML formats for use in GoogleEarth! (We do that with Open Context, though it still needs some trouble shooting).

Also, Sean Gilles (with the Ancient World Mapping Center) is doing some fantastic work on “Mush” his project for processing of GeoRSS feeds. See this post and this post for details and exanples. Thus, simple tools like GeoRSS feeds we can contribute toward a low-cost distributed system that makes archaeological datasets much easier to find and discoverable with map-based interfaces and some types of spatial querying (such as buffers). This may be a good way to address some of Fennell Miller’s concerns about recovering and reusing all that hard-won geospatial data.

Of course, site security is an important issue, and finding ways of making our data as accessible as possible without endangering sites or sacred locations is important. I’m glad Kevin Schwarz raised the issue, and it’ll be very useful to learn more about how he and his colleagues are dealing with it.

         Fennelle makes a good point.  My impression is that agencies are often protective of their GIS data and may fear that wide disclosure will lead to people with nefarious purposes knowing where sites are located.  One of the frustrations (also an opportunity) is that through CRM investigations incredibly detailed GPS and GIS databases are often built-up about archaeological sites or regions, but there is no policy in place or architecture for capturing much of that data long-term.  For example, my firm often conducts GPS-based archaeological survey such that every artifact collected is associated with a GPS point (for example in a controlled surface collection).  But typically, agencies will only want one or a few GPS points for each site (or a shapefile with site boundaries).  A lot of these points are also, or could be tagged with information on stratigraphy, soils, slopes, groundcover, or prior distubance.  So aside from legacy data storage within your own firms’ archives there is no long-term organized effort to preserve the painstakingly collected data.  I am sure there are people in SHPO offices and elsewhere who would be interested in a broader-based archaeology GIS (currently state CR GISs work well but data collection/display is somewhat limited).                                                

          The possibility is that web-based and accessible formats could be used to store and make available archaeological data without compromising the need to secure certain kinds of data.  A collaborator of mine has written an XML data format that could be used to tag archaeological data in ways that could be read by various internet scripts.  It is pretty basic right now but it or something like it could make distributed GIS or GPS archaeology on the web more possible!  He and I also are collaborating on a webviewer that allows for analysis of spatial archaeological data within any webbrowser (he is the programmer not me!).   Both icon and  color-based intuitive analyses (Jacques Bertin’s visual variables) as well as results of quantitative analyses are available. I’ll post some more information on these ideas if anyone is interested in seeing it.

 

Kevin Schwarz

     

 

I have noticed that more and more federal agencies are requiring archaeological contractors to use GPS and GIS, but few of the agencies are then offering the contractors the GIS shapefiles to use in the field. Why are we documenting sites, features, artifacts with sub-meter accuracy and then using paper records to re-locate those same sites the next time out in the field?

I am hoping to persuade everyone to embrace the use of as many of the digital technologies as possible. I use GPS and GIS, but I do not own the hardware and software yet. However, they are the very next purchases I will make, as I consider them almost as important in doing business in 2007 as a computer and shovel.

Interested in hearing other people’s input on this topic. And I’m really interested in hearing what hardware and software people are using for GPS with real-time GIS data. ArcPad, right? Loaded onto what machine?

Fennelle Miller

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