AAI News

Open Context on the DAI Cloud

August 11, 2015

We are very pleased to announce a new collaboration between the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) and Open Context.


The DAI, one of the world’s largest institutional sponsors of archaeological research, runs a vast array of scientific and cultural heritage preservation programs worldwide. To support these activities, the DAI has recently built a powerful cloud computing infrastructure. DAI will use this infrastructure to provide mirror hosting and backups for AAI’s innovative data publishing program for archaeology, Open Context.

This partnership between the DAI and Open Context represents an important milestone in bringing archaeology to the 21st century. Archaeological research creates digital data of tremendous scale and complexity, making it extremely challenging to manage. The partnership pairs DAI’s successes in digital preservation (through their IANUS project) with Open Context’s powerful model for open access publication of rich data sets, image collections, maps, and other content that until now, rarely saw public exposure. There are some functionalities in this version that present a tighter integration with Arachne (the central objects archive of the DAI and the Archaeological Institute of the University of Cologne):

Example 1: Bucchero (Etruscan ceramic type)

Example 2: Oinochoe (vessel form)

This marks the beginning of a new phase of collaboration to make information sharing easier and more efficient. Over the next year, the DAI will pilot use of Open Context for disseminating their own data, starting with zooarchaeological collections. Additional collaboration will center on developing Open Context’s open-sourced software to support multiple languages and expand its capabilities for data visualization and analysis. At the same time, mirroring Open Context on the DAI cloud more than doubles Open Context’s capacity and performance while providing additional permanent safeguards for the irreplaceable data it publishes.

Funding to develop this partnership came from a joint fellowship program offered by Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies and the German Archaeological Institute. Additional funding came from the J.M. Kaplan Fund and a U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities – Digital Humanities Implementation Grant.

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Live-Streaming Workshop on Pioneering Approaches to Digital Archaeology

February 24, 2015

Later this week—Feb 27-28, 2015—a cast of leaders and innovators in digital archaeology will meet in snowy Boston to discuss the potential of mobile technologies for advancing research. The Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future workshop, supported by a Digital Humanities Start-Up grant from the NEH, aims to synthesize current practices in the “use, creation, and implementation of mobile technology in advancing digital archaeology.” This is just the kind of work that should be funded and just the way it should be done—highlighting the diversity of approaches to digital archaeology, bringing people together to learn from each other and to build collaborations, and that are broadcasting these discussions openly and widely (this workshop will be live-streamed by the Wentworth Institute of Technology).

AAI’s Eric Kansa will lead a session on “Pedagogy, Data Curation, & Reflection,” which begins at 2:15 Eastern on Feb 28. Eric will also present a paper in this session, where he will challenge the status quo and ask us to think outside the (academic) box about improving data creation through a better understanding of data reuse. He highlights that “garbage in, garbage out” applies to digital archaeology if we do not give more careful thought to the what, why, and how of our field documentation techniques. Other talks will highlight innovative work in digital archaeology from across the globe (including underwater).

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Fall 2014 News and Events

September 2, 2014

The AAI is pleased to announce two new grant-funded projects. With support from Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies and the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), Open Context’s program director Eric Kansa will collaborate with DAI colleagues to develop and promote specific data sharing standards that will facilitate data interoperability in Classical archaeology. The standards will be promoted through their application to several datasets, which will be published by Open Context and the DAI. The DAI has an unrivaled corpus of excavation and survey documentation for Classical archaeology collected over many decades at several sites across the Mediterranean. Related to this work and with a grant from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the AAI will research the interface of archaeological data and conservation data in the project Conservation Data Management to Promote Good Practice. Both projects will benefit from a significant updates to Open Context, taking place in the summer and fall of this year, including interface changes and major “under the hood” work (see a recent blog post by Eric describing the changes).

In September, Sarah Whitcher Kansa will travel to Argentina to participate in the 2014 ICAZ International Conference in San Rafael. Sarah, who was recently elected Vice President of ICAZ, will lead a roundtable discussion on the collection, organization, and dissemination of zooarchaeology data. She will also contribute a paper to the session Meta-analyses in zooarchaeology: large-scale syntheses in the era of “big data”, organized by David C. Orton and James Morris. Sarah and colleague Iain McKechnie (Univ. of Oregon), are collaborating once again on a poster session Recent applications of digital technology in archaeozoology (their co-organized session at the last ICAZ conference in Paris resulted in a special issue of The SAA Archaeological Record.) Sarah will also take part in the workshop on South American camelid osteology and osteometry (organized by Mariana Mondini and Katherine Moore). An aspect of this workshop will be discussion of the Osteometric Database of South American Camelids, a major effort to make osteometric data openly available on the web for research. This is a collaborative undertaking involving a team of Argentine colleagues, Open Context, and camelid scholars worldwide.

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“Best Paper” Prize at 2014 International Digital Curation Conference

March 5, 2014

A collaborative research paper on data publishing won the “Best Paper” prize at the 2014 International Digital Curation Conference in San Francisco last week. Eric Kansa presented the paper Publishing and Pushing: Mixing Models for Communicating Research Data in Archaeology, which he co-authored with colleagues Benjamin Arbuckle and Sarah Whitcher Kansa. The three collaborated with a dozen colleagues on a large-scale project of publication, integration, and analysis of datasets from Anatolia. The IDCC paper presented lessons about data documentation and reuse that emerged from the project. Specifically, the study revealed that recording methods researchers assumed were commonplace actually varied widely from researcher to researcher. This kind of “under the hood” access to datasets that helps highlight inconsistencies in recording practices, will help drive improvements in data documentation. The paper argued for the implementation of a combined model of data publishing and version tracking. Data publishing ensures that datasets are seen as professional research outputs (like peer-reviewed publications). Version control, recognizing that datasets are dynamic and can be updated and built upon, ensures that any updates to a published dataset are clearly indicated and justified. Both publishing and versioning of datasets maximizes their potential for reuse. The research paper will be published in the spring 2014 issue of the International Journal of Digital Curation. The study was funded by the Encyclopedia of Life and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit the project page to learn more.

Eric Kansa accepts award for "best paper" at IDCC 2104. Image credit: Ashley Sands

Eric Kansa accepts award for “best paper” at IDCC 2104. Image credit: Ashley Sands

Posted in: Awards, News, Publications

Eric Kansa Delivers Inaugural Lecture for Harvard’s Digital Futures Consortium

September 12, 2013

This week, Eric Kansa, program director for Open Context, spoke at Harvard University about digital data publication and emerging research needs in the changing landscape of scholarly communications. His lecture A More Open Future for the Past was the first in a series of lectures on digital scholarship organized by Harvard’s Digital Futures consortium. A September 17 article in the Harvard Gazette presents highlights of the talk.

The Digital Futures consortium includes faculty, researchers, technologists, and librarians engaged in the ongoing transformation of scholarship through innovative technology. They are dedicated to sharing expertise across the global academic community, facilitating new forms and methods of research, and fostering collaborative projects that bring about field-changing developments in scholarship.

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