Start-up Phase

In August of 2001, our team formed the Alexandria Archive Institute, a California tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Named after the famous ancient library in Alexandria, Egypt, the AAI is dedicated to preserving and sharing archaeological and other cultural heritage information.

We believe that dedicated organizations like the AAI are needed to continuously keep pace with developments in scholarship, build and maintain collaborations, and provide needed guidance in data preservation and Web dissemination. We work with the larger community of “open knowledge” practitioners and have collaborated with numerous universities, non-profits, and individuals in a growing network of open data initiatives.

Important Milestones

From the beginning, we’ve targeted practical solutions to making research more open and accessible. Here’s a timeline of some important organizational milestones:

  • 2001: The AAI is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization in California.
  • 2003: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation awards the AAI a start-up grant to demonstrate the feasibility of data sharing in archaeology.
  • 2004: We demonstrate an “alpha” common platform for data sharing with excavation data from Domuztepe. This success helps lead to a second round of Hewlett funding to develop a data-sharing system in collaboration with OCHRE at the University of Chicago.
  • 2005: We host a workshop on cultural heritage and intellectual property with participants from Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Internet Archive, as well as indigenous rights activists and researchers. Collaborations and partnerships incubated at this meeting led to publications and continue with our participation in IPinCH.
  • 2006: We facilitate a student internship program in collaboration with the Presidio of San Francisco’s Archaeology Lab.
  • 2006: We launch the first iteration of BoneCommons, a site to promote communication in zooarchaeology, including the ICAZ conference in Mexico City. BoneCommons sees 1 post (!) from the ICAZ conference, and that came from Sarah Whitcher Kansa. Tracking of BoneCommons use over the next four years sees a dramatic increase in participation (see below).
  • 2006: Because the OCHRE team emphasized different capabilities and needs, while we needed a more public facing data-sharing venue, we began to independently develop a more publicly oriented data-sharing system using standards pioneered by OCHRE. “Soft-launch” of Open Context occurs at the end of 2006.
  • 2007: Public launch of the first iteration of Open Context, a data sharing system for archaeology oriented toward the Web and public use. Open Context is one of the earliest adopters of Creative Commons licenses in archaeology. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation awards the AAI a third grant to promote open access, open educational programs, and data sharing in archaeology.
  • 2007: Open Context quickly gains recognition among leading archaeologists. In April 2007, Archaeoinformatics (later to become Digital Antiquity) invites us to present upon Open Context in its online lecture series (archived here).
  • 2007: Sarah Whitcher Kansa becomes Executive Director after Eric Kansa joins the School of Information at UC Berkeley.
  • 2007: Open Context publishes data from Brown University’s Excavations at Petra, a World Heritage site.
  • 2008: The NEH and IMLS award the AAI a major grant to study user needs in archaeological data sharing with Sarah Whitcher Kansa as PI. The outcomes of the project led to substantial design changes in Open Context, as well as design guidance for others developing similar systems. Grant outcomes are available here.
  • 2009: Eric Kansa collaborates with the newly formed Digital Antiquity by joining its Scientific Advisory Board.
  • 2009: The NEH awards the AAI a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant to develop the Modern Art Iraq Archive (MAIA).
  • 2010: The California Digital Library formally backs Open Context with digital preservation and curation services.
  • 2010: In response to a user needs study, we revamp BoneCommons, a content-sharing site for zooarchaeology. The changes lead to vastly greater participation in the site. Conference participants upload over 170 presentations and posters relating to the 2010 ICAZ meeting in Paris (compared to 1 shared presentation from the 2006 ICAZ meeting), indicating to a sea change in uptake.
  • 2010: Open Context joins the IMLS-funded DIPIR project (University of Michigan) to explore data documentation strategies to improve the reuse of shared data.
  • 2010: Elton Barker, Leif Isaksen and Eric Kansa win funding from Google for the GAP project. This project explores text-mining identification of ancient places in the Google Books corpus and the AAI hosts many of its outcomes.
  • 2010: The National Science Foundation archaeology program links to Open Context in relation to Data Management Plans. Soon thereafter (summer 2011), the National Endowment for the Humanities does the same.
  • 2011: The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation awards the AAI a grant to develop editorial workflows for data publishing.
  • 2011: “Archaeology 2.0“, a volume co-edited by Eric Kansa, Sarah Whitcher Kansa, and Ethan Watrall is published open access on the California Digital Library’s eScholarship system.
  • 2012: Eric Kansa receives a Digital Innovation Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) to support research on data publishing.
  • 2012: Eric Kansa and Sarah Whitcher Kansa are co-investigators on the NSF-funded Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA) project.
  • 2012: The AAI wins the Encyclopedia of Life’s Computable Data Challenge for the project Exploring Biogeography of Early Domestic Animals using Linked Open Data.
  • 2012: The NEH awards the AAI a Digital Humanities Implementation grant. The grant supports data publishing and collaborative research by scholars exploring ancient trade and exchange.
  • 2013: Eric Kansa delivers a keynote presentation “Reimagining Archaeological Publication for the 21st Century” at the Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology Conference (CAA 2013) in Perth, Australia.
  • 2013: Eric Kansa is honored by the White House as a Champion of Change in Open Science, along with 12 other “leaders and organizations promoting and using open scientific data and publications to accelerate progress and improve our world.”
  • 2014: The AAI team and colleague Benjamin Arbuckle receive the “Best Paper” prize at the 2014 International Digital Curation Conference for their contribution Publishing and Pushing: Mixing Models for Communicating Research Data in Archaeology.
  • 2015: The NEH awards the AAI a Research and Development grant. The grant supports a longitudinal study of practices of creation, management, and re-use of archaeological data in three world regions to investigate data quality and modeling requirements for re-use by a larger research community.
  • 2016: The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) honors Open Context with its 2016 Award for Outstanding Work in Digital Archaeology.
  • 2016: The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awards the AAI a National Leadership Grant to expand the Digital Index of North American Archaeology.