I’ve previously mentioned that Katy Meyers Emery and myself are working on a larger project called ossuaryKB: The Mortuary Method & Practice Knowledge Base. This project is being produced in conjunction with the Institute on Digital Archaeology Method & Practice. This multiyear institute is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and organized by MSU’s Department of Anthropology and MATRIX. We attended the first portion (this past August) along with other archaeologists and scholars to develop new skills in digital method and practice. Each participant is required to develop a significant digital archaeological project by the end of the second portion of the institute (August 2016).
OssuaryKB seeks to leverage the diversity found in mortuary archaeology to improve standards, increase conversation and collaboration between different periods and regions of research, and improve methods and practice. In order to do this, we need a single knowledge base where mortuary archaeologists can see best practices, exemplar case studies, innovative methods, and more. This knowledge base will allow researchers to find new methods, see innovative practices, connect with other archaeologists, comment on these new methods and share their own work.
Each project included in the site will have identifiers or keywords that relate to the methods and practices that they are using that will allow people to easily find the project based on those words. For example, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Historic-Era Cemetery would be listed as a project with keywords such as ‘historic’, ‘inhumation’, ‘block-lifting’, ‘low preservation’, ‘redwood coffins’ etc. Users who were interested in learning about unique methods for dealing with ‘low preservation’ would look that up in the knowledge base, and learn about projects like this. Each record about the site will include a narrative about the site, citations, any documentation they used, and space for commenting from the archaeologists and users. In addition to the project records, there will be information about the new and traditional methods that these projects are using. We will also provide links to various websites or databases that are linked to the projects, methods or practices- such as links to ASU standards or BABAO forms.
So, for my CHI project I’ll be working on a portion of this larger project, specifically building the database. I’m taking a KISS approach (keep it simple stupid) and am leaning towards a SQL database. This will of course depend on the hierarchical data organization we decide on for the website functionality. The Digital Archeology Institute also pairs each of the projects with several mentors who provide feedback and help guide the project. Their input may slightly change our trajectory, but I look forward to sharing the process with you all!