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2014 February

David Walton

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February 28, 2014

important lessons learned by a novice in digital heritage preservation

February 28, 2014 | By | No Comments

For the novice computer programmer or coder, the digital preservation process can be very educational.  Yet, it can also be very frustrating.  The most difficult part for me was actually getting started building the platform to present the cultural heritage being preserved.  I had downloaded the files for the platforms I want to work and experiment with following the directions to a tee.  However, I was stuck.  What do I do now?  Where do I begin?  Two very simple, yet complicated questions.  A fumbled around for about two weeks, not really making progress.  I began to grow weary; I was having major problems that required minor solutions.  Spending much of the time data collecting, I became accustomed to working alone, problem-solving on my own and planning on my own.  Asking for help did not readily come to mind.  After realizing I needed help, I found myself apprehensive because I did not know what to exactly ask people when I asked for help.  All of a sudden, those two previously stated important questions seemed quite silly.  I was embarrassed.  It is here that a lessoned was learned.  Humility and thick-skin are important.

I reached out to two people that helped me greatly.  I wanted help and insight from two perspectives: a programmer’s and a fellow colleague who is more advanced in several of the platforms that I am working with.  I also wanted a diversity of world-view in any fashion I could configure, because ultimately world-views effect how we engage in problem-solving processes.  As a result, I consulted one woman and one man.  Their advice proved invaluable.  The very first step I needed to do was place a specific aspect of my data in a form that I could conceive it being displayed, presented and aggregated.  That simple exercise actually formed the basis of the questions that the programmer could assist me in.  First, I needed to assure that the code and files I had was not the issue.  Secondly, I needed to convey how I wanted to display, present and aggregate my data to the programmer and confirm if the skeletal codes I was building around were not flawed or errand. The answers to ‘What do I do now?  Where do I begin?’ did, indeed, get me started.

What I thus far have learned, as I transition from data collector to a curator of a “Virtual Black Romulus Cultural Heritage Map (VBRCHM),” is that one must never be afraid, embarrassed or hesitant to ask for help.  By definition and nature, projects such as mine are collaborative by nature.  Asking questions about coding, design, aesthetics and etc are vital and intrinsic to the character and success of the project.

lopintoa

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February 28, 2014

Project Intro: Bones in 3D

February 28, 2014 | By | No Comments

Studying ancient skeletal populations can present numerous challenges, particularly when bioarchaeologists work with material that is not kept in museums or well-maintained repositories.  Preservation issues, access, long-term storage, and general data capture all contribute to the difficulty in studying ancient skeletal material in the field.  While methods do exist for extending the use-life of ancient skeletal material beyond the organic lifespan of that material, methods for virtual data capture vary greatly in their ease of use and applicability.  It is in the addressing of these issues that the foundation of my current project is situated.

One of the basic tenets of archaeology is preservation.  As a destructive discipline, it is incumbent on the archaeologist to do everything within his or her ability to preserve as much of the context of a site as possible, be it through site preservation or materials preservation.  We take photos, write copious notes, make maps, and generally document…document, document, document.  While all of this documentation is extremely important, not all documentation is equal, nor preserves information in the same manner.  In the case of skeletal documentation, we do take photos, and extensive notes on the condition of the material noting any pathological lesions, developmental abnormalities, modifications, evidence of disturbance and so on.  A written description, however, only goes so far.  Visual documentation is of paramount importance to the preservation of skeletal material and to the ability to continue study of that material after it is no longer available in physical form.

3D imaging provides a means of data capture that far exceeds written description and simple photography alone.  As beneficial as having 3D models of skeletal material is, capturing skeletal elements in 3D in field situation presents a myriad of issues.  Laser scanning, while generally lauded as the best method for the creation of 3D models due to very high density point cloud generation, is difficult to apply in field contexts, and to skeletal material particularly.  Scanners are large, cumbersome and expensive both to procure and insure.  In a controlled environment, laser scanning is an ideal method, but for most archaeologists, “ideal” is rarely ever attainable.

So, if laser scanning is taken off the table, what remains?  Photogrammetry.  Photogrammetry calculates measurements from photographs.  Unlike a laser scanner which generates point clouds based on light reflection, photogrammetry relies on triangulation of points from overlapping images. The point clouds are generated to create a 3D model of an object, in this case skeletal material, from a series of high resolution images taken around the object.  While some might consider photogrammetry less sophisticated than laser scanning, and in fact it is, in its own way, rather cumbersome (particularly with regard to storing large image files in large quantities), it is also a much more portable method of generating 3D models.  The field equipment necessary undertake the creation of 3D models with photogrammetry can generally be found in most archaeologists’ tool kits: a camera.  For simple model creation, even a good quality point-and-shoot or mobile phone camera can work.

This project, specifically, is going to utilize DSLR and very high resolution images to create models of skeletal material in order to generate a best-practices model for other bioarchaeologists to utilize in their own field work.  The aim is to standardize a method which can be easily implemented in any archaeological setting to capture more data from skeletal material than simple description and basic photography alone can capture.

 

David Bennett

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February 24, 2014

Television and Celebritization: A Louisiana Story from 1960

February 24, 2014 | By | No Comments

Television has been turning everyday people into celebrities since it became a fixture in American households. Although reality television did not begin until 1973 with An American Family, television news reporters were putting everyday people in the spotlight long before that. Throughout the later 1950s and 1960s, we can see television news coverage turning local issues into national spectacles, a single person’s voice into the voice of an entire city. One such early instance of television news plucking ordinary people and thrusting them into the national spotlight occurred during the New Orleans integration crisis in 1960. Read More

Katy Meyers

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February 20, 2014

Mapping the Ancestors: Project Update

February 20, 2014 | By | One Comment

As stated in my previous post, a problem within archaeology is that there are thousands of sites that have been excavated, and information about these sites and their collections can be difficult to find. Cemeteries from Early Anglo-Saxon England have been excavated, studied, and curated since the 17th century. There are hundreds of collections found across England in museums, universities, government offices and private holdings. However there is no single source for learning about what collections exist, who has them, and what they consist of. Studies have shown that sites that are shared online are more likely to be used and reused in new research projects, whether complete data be shared or just location and information about the site.

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havila14

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February 13, 2014

My Project so far……….

February 13, 2014 | By | No Comments

I am in the process of building my website using WordPress. Originally I was going to use Mukurtu  as the platform but it does not look like I will be able to have it hosted on the Matrix Dev space. Because this is a project involving local elders and community members I want to keep the recordings local as well. However I like WordPress and I am going to continue using the Indigenous licensing protocols that attracted me to Mukurtu.

One of the issues I am working on in my research and also for my CHI Fellowship project is recording stories and oral histories. I recently recorded an elder from the Lansing area and his experiences growing up on Manitoulin Island and coming to Lansing and working in the auto industry. I chose a quite place to do the recoding because my first recording was in the MSU student union and the mic picked up every sound coming from the coffee shop as well as every other ambient sound around us. This time even though it was a quiet place I still had some issues. The first, water fountains are noisy. I never even considered how much sound they put out. Second, don’t hold your recording equipment. I’m not sure why I was holding it but every time I moved you could hear it. While both recordings are good in that I can clearly hear the people I am recoding they need to be cleaned up before I post them on my website.

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zaidshan

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February 6, 2014

Africa Inspired Socio-Cultural Heritage in Oriente Cuba: A Digital Mapping Project

February 6, 2014 | By | No Comments

My Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative project is a digital mapping that focuses on contributions from Cuba’s African heritage to socio-cultural spaces and places in the island’s eastern, Oriente region. Oriente has had an historical African presence dating back as early as the 1520s and the area has been the province from which began all of Cuba’s military contestations for independence.

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Ethan Watrall

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February 6, 2014

Talus Released for Android

February 6, 2014 | By | No Comments

We are very happy to announce that the native Android version of Talus is now available for free from the Google Play Store. Created originally as a mobile website by Emily Niespodziewanski (a PhD student in the MSU Department of Anthropology) as part of her Cultural Heritage Informatics Grad Fellowship, Talus aggregates dozens of the most commonly used bioprofiling methodologies into one easy-to-navigate mobile application. The app is designed to help forensic anthropologists, bioarchaeologists, and paleoanthropologists analyze human skeletal material without having to rely upon dozens of physical articles and books.

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