I have been working to create a basic organizational framework for my repository (https://chi.anthropology.msu.edu/2011/02/28/a-digital-repository-for-mississippian-archaeologists/), and the process is actually coming along much better than I expected it would. A couple of weeks ago, I met with Dr. Goldstein to discuss my plans and to briefly browse through the materials she has available for the Aztalan site. To maximize inter-site comparability, we decided that it would be best to decide on a basic set of material types that I would expect to encounter as the project progresses. My initial decisions are, of course, based largely on what I have available for Aztalan, but these types of materials will likely be available for other sites as they are added to the repository. The preliminary categories are basic site information, maps, images, full text documents, bibliographies, and raw data. Of course, I plan to design the repository in a way that unique or unexpected material types can be easily ingested as they are encountered, but I think that a lot of different items can be reasonably categorized within this basic framework.

Basic site information will include things like site number, dates, location, etc. Maps are a fundamental component of any kind of archaeological work, and I expect that I will have access to several for each site. There are maps of entire sites, topographical maps, geological/environmental-type maps, regional maps, maps of specific features or excavation units, etc. All of these are useful and important for researchers to be able to access. It would be ideal if I could find basic maps for each site that were drawn/created to a similar scale for optimal inter-site comparability, but this may not be possible. The image category will predominately be made up of photographs of everything from artifacts to excavation units to general shots of the landscape. Historical photographs, portraits, and artistic renderings may also become available. Full text documents will include journal articles, grey literature, site reports, etc. Field notes might also be included here, but I actually have not thought about that particular material type until right now. A list of bibliographic references will also be included so that researchers can at least be aware of documents for which I do not have access to a full text version.

Raw data is a somewhat problematic category, and I am anxious to see how this one is going to work out. By ‘raw data’, I am generally referring to unanalyzed qualitative and quantitative observations, which researchers have collected as part of the process of completing a project. Of course, people usually end up analyzing, interpreting, and eventually writing up their results for dissemination, but the raw data is still there, and often times there is a lot more that can be done with it that any individual researcher has the time or interest to accomplish. It would be great if some people were willing to share some version of their raw data with me so that other archaeologists can use it. But, on the other hand, researchers work hard to collect data for their specific projects, and often times this information is of a highly sensitive nature. People are understandably nervous about sharing it. I decided it would be best to design my repository so that I am prepared to ingest such data as its own major category, when and if it becomes available. In any case, I hope to at least gather information on collection locations and contact information for data holders and curators (to facilitate gaining access to collections for new data collection).

The next step is to prepare the repository so I can move on to actual ingestion of information. I met with Catherine Foley (of MSU MATRIX) and she has been a great help as far as teaching me about the KORA platform in general, as well as giving me more specific pointers on the best way to organize my repository. There are some important organizational considerations that are particular to the way that KORA is set up (things like schemes, controls, collections, etc) but I will save those details for another blog post. For now, I’ll just say that I am working on deciding which types of metadata are necessary for each category of materials. These decisions are aided by looking at the standards used in the digital archive world (Dublin Core, for example) as well as by looking at other KORA projects. When I finalize my metadata decisions, I will be able to start actual repository creation and ingestion of materials. I am getting increasingly excited about this process, and I hope to have a really good update for you in the near future.