From 17-19 March 2023, members of the Alexandria Archive Institute / Open Context (AAI/OC) team attended the Society for California Archaeology (SCA) Annual Meeting in Oakland, CA. The team had a booth for Open Context and Paulina co-authored a poster for the conference with Meghan! Beyond that, there were a lot of other cool things that we enjoyed and we hope to give you a taste of the conference.
It was the first time that Paulina attended an SCA meeting and her first in-person conference since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also the first SCA Sarah and Eric attended since 2010. Here are some of our highlights from the meeting.
Eric: It was great to dip our toes into a new (to us) community of colleagues. I really enjoyed meeting people with cultural resource management, public sector, and Tribal government roles. Because our team has grown, we can offer more than only data publishing services to different sectors of the archaeological community. Data literacy, professional development, and help with using open source software for capacity building (tools like Arches and Open Refine, see our thrilling(?) video!)
Sarah: A main takeaway from the conference for me was a cold, unfortunately. I guess that’s another good sign though that things are returning to “normal” after several years. To celebrate the return to in-person exhibit halls, we updated our Open Context booth banner (sadly, there was no means to hang it on the wall but maybe readers will have a chance to see it at the Society for American Archaeology conference in Portland next week!). This marks a milestone for us because the new banner reflects the most recent “rebuild” of Open Context that Eric recently completed. (There are changes to the interface and search capabilities, so check it out and let us know what you think!)
The last SCA we attended was way back in 2010 (Riverside) when Open Context was brand new and undergoing beta testing. In fact, a brief excavation of my old files recovered the screenshot (below, left) of an Open Context item from our presentation at that very conference. Five iterations later (below, right), here’s what the same item looks like in the new Open Context (at the same link– hooray for stable identifiers!).
For the 2023 SCA meeting, we decided to have an exhibit hall booth rather than give a talk, and that turned out to be a great choice because we met a whole bunch of new people and caught up with some we hadn’t seen in a super long time. We also learned from booth visitors about California archaeology specific-challenges around data documentation, preservation, and linking.
Paulina: There were so many cool things at the SCA and I’m so glad that I got to attend such a big regional conference. It was a great mix of familiar and new faces. I enjoyed talking to a bunch of people about the Data Literacy Program! Unfortunately, like most conferences, I managed to miss most of the talks I wanted to attend. Mais, c’est la vie en conférence.
An unexpected upside to the meeting were some of the best working professionals I’ve ever met. Of course those would be the energetic employees of the Institute for Canine Forensics who made the book room much more exciting… and slightly fluffier. This group deploys dogs for remote sensing, which is just really cool. There are lots of other non-canine technologies that we use for remote sensing. However, these four-legged pros are a great reminder that remote sensing does not always equal technology. Remote sensing is defined by the fact that the sensor is not in direct contact with the thing being sensed. This means that most of our senses (sight, sound, smell, direction, balance) are actually remote sensors and we should be able to use them just as well as our digital sensors to do archaeology!
These moments remind us of the value of attending in-person conferences and we’re excited that we got to promote the Data Literacy Program and the Data Stories Project with our poster. We’re hoping to share our poster from the conference, adding some extra details for folks who couldn’t attend and details we may not have shared during quick conversations at the poster. So stay tuned for that in the next few weeks!