How do we put archaeology online?

Imagine you were an archaeologist.  You have people digging for you, you end up with a heap of photos, some plans, a cardboard box full of artefacts, pottery, bones … perhaps a crate with the Ark of the Covenant in it … and you need to make this stuff accessible to people who live in basements a long way away.  What do you do?

I’ve been thinking about this a bit.  I don’t pay a huge amount of attention to archaeology, but there are a fair number of open-access journals which publish things.

Trouble is, archaeologists are really bad at publishing.  Stuff just gets left in store-cupboards.

I wonder if the answer is simply to create a bunch of PDF’s from the dig; scan the scribbled notes, the plans, and turn them into PDF files.  Upload the photos — not necessarily OCR any of this — and just stick it online in a directory on a web server.  Maybe hook it all together using the software from Wikipedia Commons.  That seems to work fairly well.

Do we need to do more, to facilitate public accessibility?  Would that be very onerous?

3 thoughts on “How do we put archaeology online?

  1. You forgot the crucial step of “you announce to your exhausted grad students that they’ve got an additional job now” and “you resist the urge to hide the really cool or uncool stuff from your professional rivals, who of course have been dying to get their eyes on your hard-earned information so that they can misinterpret it in their usual indefensibly foolish way”.

  2. Yes, I think I would do something more than just a heap of PDFs.
    How about tagging them with a bunch of meta fields?
    -presumed date of material
    -location found
    -known location of material
    -primary custodian of material
    … etc.
    just for starters. 😀

  3. Can’t you get a grad student from the media/IT department? 😉 There are more and more digs out there which keep a ‘dig diary’ in blogform for the general (and interested public) which seems to work well for various annecdotes and random info.

    But the best way to do it mainly depends on your answer to Maureen’s comment: how much information are you willing to give out?

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