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May 10, 2019

CHIMIRA Launch Post

May 10, 2019 | By | No Comments

            CHIMIRA is a metadata schema created for the management and description of cultural heritage assets within an archaeological purview. This metadata schema was incorporated into a digital repository for MSU collections. While the digital repository has been finished and data entry is under way, there is currently no front-end framework to display these data to the public (though there are plans for one in the near future). Since there is no public website linking to my project, I have linked to my GitHub, which contains the documentation for CHIMIRA.

Screenshot of the Project Home for the Digital Library

            Every good metadata scheme has a name. In respect of the fellowship which allowed for the creation of this one, I decided to name my metadata scheme CHIMIRA: The Cultural Heritage Informatics Metadata Initiative for Research in Archaeology. In addition to thanking the CHI fellowship, I wanted the name to reflect how it is many-parted like the mythical, Greek chimera. Multiple metadata standards are responsible for the creation of CHIMIRA, including: CARARE, TDAR/Digital Antiquity, ARGUS, DCMI, CIDOC CRM, and LIDO. With an archaeological audience in mind, I chose parts of these standards which would best consider the identification, provenience and description of heritage assets. The goal was to create a database which could flexibly describe cultural heritage in its many forms and in a detailed manner. The ability to conduct research with this database was not the goal, but it is a possibility. At the very least, the level of detail that can be described will make the planning of research an order of magnitude easier.

Once the standards and entities were chosen, they had to be fit into the particular structure that the digital repository application, KORA, calls for. This eventually led to a structure with 8 overarching forms: Collection Information, Heritage Asset, Digital Resource, Document, Site, Activity, Actors, and ARGUS ID (see the link for the full metadata schema). These forms allow records to be created for archaeological phenomena which may be associated with the archaeological collections at MSU: a specific collection would fall under Collection Information; an artifact would fall under Heritage Asset; an image or 3D model would fall under Digital Resource; and so on. Any of these records can then be associated with one another. Every Heritage Asset, for example will be able to be associated with its relevant collection.

Screenshot of the CHIMIRA Forms

The end result is a new digital repository using a new metadata standard for MSU archaeology collections. Data from the Butterfield Collection have provided the initial substance for this repository, but plans exist to incorporate all data from MSU archaeology collections into the digital repository. This will greatly increase the ease of managing collections and planning research using these collections. Further, this cultural heritage will be available online through the anthropology website both as raw data and as digital exhibits interpreting various aspects of the collections.

Data Entry Page for One of the Forms

The next step in this project will be the incorporation of this digital repository into a front-end framework that can display the data and resources. This will be in the form of a website. Putting data from the collections on the web will further serve two major goals of this project: making the data more accessible to researchers and the public; and allowing for public outreach through “digital exhibits”. Using blog posts and essays labeled as “Digital Exhibits,” archaeologists from the anthropology department will be able to give their own interpretations of cultural heritage. This could include faculty, graduate students and undergraduates who write their own informed essays about the particular artifacts, documents, actors or other aspect of the collections that interest them. This could further generate interest in the archaeological collections at MSU and perhaps even stimulate research. Overall, these collections will be more accessible to researchers and the public, providing better opportunities for important cultural heritage to be reused thanks in part to CHIMIRA.

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