Data sharing in archaeology is not a problem to solve, but a new area of research unto itself that will continue to develop over time. Our research since 2003 has been iterative, with one project informing the next, and has occurred at the cutting edge of the discipline. This work led us to be the first program to implement many of the approaches to data sharing that have become commonplace in archaeology, such as data citation, the implementation of library DOIs, the use of “one URI per pot sherd” for high data granularity, and participation in Linked Open Data.

Current Programs

The Secret Life of Data (SLO-data) Project

In January 2016, the AAI launched a 3-year project funded by a Research and Development grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The project involves a longitudinal study of practices of creation, management, and re-use of archaeological data drawn from three geographical areas (North Africa, Europe, and South America) to investigate data quality and modeling requirements for re-use by a larger research community. The project will improve the quality of information collected during archaeological excavations across the globe, preserve this information, and share it with the public. Outcomes include exemplary open datasets, an expansion of Open Context’s data publishing services, and online educational modules. The project team includes researchers at Stanford University, OCLC Research, the University of Michigan, and the Institute for Field Research. Please check the project page for updates and outcomes.

The Digital Index of North American Archaeology


The Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA) is a multi-institutional undertaking to create interoperability models for archaeological site databases in the eastern United States. The project was funded in 2012 and 2016 by the National Science Foundation and in 2016 by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The DINAA project page provides ongoing information about the progress of the project.

Publishing and Linking Partnerships

Our work is built on leveraging the Web to improve access and understanding. We join many organizations around the world to build linked open data. We are also working to enhance conventional publications by linking them to datasets published on the Web with Open Context. Our growing list of publishing collaborators includes the following:

  • The University Press of Colorado
  • The Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press
  • Lockwood Press
  • Internet Archaeology
  • The Journal of Open Archaeology Data

Past Research Programs

Collaborative Programs

In collaboration with Professor Nada Shabout (University of North Texas), the AAI developed the Modern Art Iraq Archive (MAIA), an open access, online system for gathering and sharing information about the works of art, many of them now lost, from the Iraqi Museum of Modern Art in Baghdad. This project, which was funded by an NEH/IMLS Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant in August 2009, documents and shares Iraqi artistic expressions and experiences by providing images of the works, information about their current whereabouts, related documentation, and tools for the global community to contribute content to the archive.

We joined a team of researchers from the School of Information at the University of Michigan to explore data documentation strategies that better facilitate reuse of shared data. The multi-year “DIPIR project” (“Dissemination Information Packages (DIPS) for Information Reuse”) took a comparative perspective, exploring use of data repositories in the social sciences, zoology, and archaeology. Open Context was one of the systems investigated by this study. The project has helped us to better understand user needs vis a vis data sharing and to further refine Open Context’s interface and services and our data publication work-flows so that we capture the kinds of information researchers need to best reuse data published by Open Context.

The Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH) research project was an international collaboration of archaeologists, Indigenous organizations, lawyers, anthropologists, ethicists, policy makers, and others working to explore and facilitate fair and equitable exchanges of knowledge relating to archaeology. Their concerns included the theoretical, ethical, and practical implications of commodification, appropriation, and other flows of knowledge about the past, and how these may affect communities, researchers, and other stakeholders. The AAI was a Partnering Organization on the IPinCH project and Eric Kansa was part of the Research Team.

User Experience in Archaeology

The Alexandria Archive Institute received a grant of $250,609 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for the project Enhancing Humanities Research Productivity in a Collaborative Data Sharing Environment. The project observed creators and users of online cultural heritage collections to determine how they use current tools in their research and to identify areas where innovations can improve Web-based scholarship of cultural heritage collections. In collaboration with the Information and Service Design (ISD) Clinic at UC Berkeley’s School of Information, we worked intensively with data creators and users in small working group settings to document their needs and experiences working with cultural heritage data sharing systems. We drew on the diverse experiences and insights shared by representatives from multi-organizational and interdisciplinary stakeholder groups, including museums, active field projects, public archaeology, cultural resource management, specialists, and junior and senior scholars, to explore how current Web technologies may better meet the needs of these groups. Outcomes of this project include “Other People’s Data: A Demonstration of the Imperative of Publishing Primary Data”, published in the in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory (April 2012).