Workshop Recap: State Site Files, DINAA, and Archaeology

We recently concluded a workshop for the DINAA project, held at the University of Tennessee (UT), Knoxville Office of Research on March 19th and 20th. The workshop brought together more than 30 participants, including managers and researchers from universities and state and federal agencies across Eastern North America, as well as graduate students from UT and Indiana University.

workshop participants
Participants of the DINAA workshop on archaeological site file data management and sharing

The DINAA project aims to provide a foundation for distributed Linked Open Data initiatives in North American archaeology using securely-shared public data. The result will be a free and open framework of millions of pieces of never-before-compiled information documenting human settlement on the continent, and use that record to address questions of critical importance to our society’s future.

In time for the workshop, the DINAA team successfully integrated and published archaeological data from 8 states east of the Mississippi. DINAA has made publicly available over 270,000 of the anticipated half a million site records to be published by the conclusion of the grant. The data include rich chronological, legal, and environmental metadata used by government officials and the research community alike.

Here are some links to browse and visualize data published through DINAA:

  • Map based browsing of data through Open Context
  • Testing demo of an alternative “Heat Map” visualization of DINAA data. (Please note: this is just a proof-of-concept demonstrating how Open Context’s APIs can support alternative visualizations, it is not a fully functional interface)

Sharing Good Practices

Representatives from 9 states, museums, libraries and federal agencies attended the workshop and spent two days discussing the challenges of working with archaeological site files, and tools they’d like to develop to make their work more streamlined. They share common goals in working to make their content reach wider communities. For most participants, this was the first time they had met their peer site file managers from other states and had the opportunity to discuss data management. The participants were thrilled to have the chance to learn how their peers work and to get ideas for ways to improve their data documentation, presentation, and management. One of the key outcomes of the DINAA workshop was this cross-pollination of site management expertise across state-lines.

In addition, workshop participants explored a variety of methods and tools popular in open science and digital humanities applications. These ranged from linked data methods, ontologies, web mapping and GeoJSON, and most popular of all, OpenRefine’s data clean-up tools.

Sustaining a Commitment to the Public Good

Public funds (NSF grant, and partner university grants) support DINAA and all project outcomes are freely and publicly accessible without restrictions, but this is a short-term funding source. The workshop conversation discussed longer term sustainability concerns. A theme of the discussion focused on the need for independent financing to maintain DINAA’s orientation toward serving the public good. “Open data” are by no means anti-commercial. DINAA published data can be freely used not only by allied nonprofit efforts such as tDAR, but also by commercial entities and efforts aligned to particular industries (such as the GAPP initiative). Nevertheless, Josh Wells and Eric Kansa talked about how foundational information resources such as DINAA should not be dependent on commercial financing, which would necessarily privilege particular commercial agendas. Thus, alternative forms of governance and financing sustained by broader communities are needed.

Learn More

We also want to thank Ethan Watrall and Andrew White for their remote participation and presentations. We’ll soon share links to their slides and the resources they discussed. Additional results of the DINAA workshop will be presented at the upcoming SAA meeting in Austin, TX. A link to a pdf of the poster will be added to this post shortly.

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