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2019 February



February 26, 2019

Metadata, Metadata, Metadata

February 26, 2019 | By | No Comments

My project entails the creation of a digital library for the management and public outreach of archaeological cultural heritage. The initial work towards this goal has entailed the building a metadata scheme. That is, finding the right data to describe data. There are a number of factors that go into describing data, but the most important and obvious goal should be its usefulness. There are three things I have done so far that I think have helped to make my metadata scheme useful:

  1. Researching established metadata schemes
  2. Utilizing metadata schemes already in use for the collections.
  3. Learning the collections management system, KORA, to better build my metadata scheme.

Established metadata schemes already exist to describe resources. Utilizing one or more of these uniform systems to describe data has many benefits. First, it makes it easier to compare and search through different collections from different organizations if the entities for describing those collections are the same. Secondly, it does some of the work for you by providing a useful list of possible terms to use that you may not have thought of. The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative, for example, provides standard metadata entities and their definitions for describing resources. These include 15 “core properties” such as contributor, coverage, creator, date, description, identifier, etc. These entities are included in my metadata scheme, especially for the description of documentary resources like articles, newspaper clippings, and journals.

Using established, international metadata schemes is an important way to clearly organize and describe your data in a way that can be compared and clearly understood. But it is also important to transfer data that is already in the books. These collections are already being managed, and as such, have established metadata describing these collections. Transferring data already on record into the digital library will be much easier if the entities from both systems are somewhat analogous. To that end, I am using entities from collections management software already being utilized on campus to influence my choice of entities and the organization of the metadata scheme. ARGUS is one such software system.

The organization of the metadata scheme is also being heavily influenced by KORA; the collections management software program I am utilizing to build the digital library. The structure of KORA is organized around projects, forms, pages, fields and records.  The project will likely contain many forms which will be equivalent to the individual collections within the digital library. The metadata scheme will then be put into pages which will contain fields where data can be entered. The pages and fields will be the metadata scheme. A record will be the actual data describing an object that has been entered into the metadata scheme. The goal for my next blog post is to better describe the actual organization of my metadata scheme after putting it into KORA.



February 19, 2019

The Challenges of the Digital in Digital History

February 19, 2019 | By | No Comments

By any normal standard, I am a relatively tech-savvy person. When it comes to programming, my experience is…minimal. My HTML skills are relatively new and underdeveloped, although growing which each attempt to do something new. My project for CHI focuses on oral histories mapping the history of migration across borders in West Africa, a topic I have spent too many years thinking about. My comfort level was this topic is matched with my lack of comfort of making this project digital.

I bring this up because I am also currently teaching 19 MSU seniors to do digital work. With a great deal of help with LEADR, my students are using StoryMaps to tell digital stories about border regions across the world. Ranging from the Colombia-Venezuela border to Kashmir and back home to the border between Detroit and Windsor, they are using the border analysis skills of our class to do public storytelling digitally.

My class is not a digital humanities class, but we regularly use digital projects/scholarship in discussions of borders around the world. There are few topics as central to public discussions as borders and migration, the topic of my class. I am easing my students into digital tools to demonstrate their importance as storytelling tools, but also to demonstrate to my students the importance of public scholarship.

There is a tension in digital scholarship between free, open-source software and proprietary programs like StoryMaps. Rather than dig into these debates, I want to talk about the reasons I am using StoryMaps. Oftentimes open-source software requires a level of technical expertise difficult to develop in a semester, especially when the course does not focus specifically on the digital.

I hope that this project will serve as a first step into the digital scholarly world for my students, and maybe some of them will even continue to use them going forward. My own extension into the digital has changed my academic focus, and I hope for at least a few of my students, this will be the case as well.



February 13, 2019

Transforming Historical Data into Visualizations

February 13, 2019 | By | No Comments

A central component of my CHI project is working with historical data. The creation of a database from historical documents is a long and tedious process, so I have decided to use one already available online. A group of economic historians published the African Commodity Trade Database (ACTD) by working with the Rural Environment History Group at Wageningen University. One of their datasets includes more than nine thousand commodities exported from Africa from the early nineteenth century to World War II. I plan to build from their work by transforming some of their data into visualizations on a website. This process includes several decisions that will shape my final visualizations and the historical contextualization I will contribute to explaining them. I’ve described part of that process below by highlighting some of the decisions I’ve made in selecting which data to use.

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February 11, 2019

Peruvian Origins Informatics Project

February 11, 2019 | By | No Comments

Introducing my project for the 2018/2019 CHI fellowship: Peruvian Origins Informatics Project. With this project I want to build an interactive, multi-component website that will be accessible to non-academics and will be valuable to future researchers. I want to make this website as accessible as possible by having multiple language options. The site will initially be launched in English but I plan on creating a Spanish version throughout the upcoming year. My project is centered around the South-Central Andes in Peru and is complementary to my own thesis research here at Michigan State University.

The project itself will be hosted on GitHub and will have three main layers. The first layer will be a landing page where users will be able to see pictures I have taken from my field seasons in Peru, access other layers of the site directly through a navigation bar, access related published articles on the archaeological sites included in this project, and be able to interact with the newly created social media pages. Layer 2 is an interactive map with markers designating the various sites included in this project. Users will be able to see the variety of sites represented and click on individual markers which provide site names and links to artifact pages. Layer 3 or the artifact pages will have a 3D model of a projectile point from the site displayed in an interactive viewer. The models will be manipulable with pop-up boxes containing information about the site and artifact viewable on the page itself.

Archaeological sites from the highlands of Peru and desert coast will be featured within my project. I plan on including archaeological sites that date to the initial colonization of Peru (~12.4 kya) to the late holocene (3.1 kya). My project will show the change in material culture through Peruvian prehistory. My future blog posts will outline and detail my progress on the website.