Archaeology for Everyone: A Virginia Digital Repository

Hello, I’m Jolene Smith and I manage data for archaeological sites at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR). Over the next year, I’ll be working on creating a digital repository for gray literature, photos, and other files in our collections. Since we’ve got so much to work with, I decided to narrow down my dataset to materials that I classify as “low risk, high interest.” In doing so, I can focus my attention on creating a front-end webpage for this repository that presents interesting archaeological information to the non-professional general public. Additionally, I’m going to apply the principles of linked open data in order to integrate this material with Virginia data already available through the fantastic DINAA project and Open Context.

For a lot of organizations, making something like this would be fairly straightforward, but operating within state government brings a lot of constraints. Protecting sensitive site locations is always an issue for us, but so is network security. Because of this, I’m limited in my choices of software and hosted services. I’m fully expecting to have to get quite creative to work within the requirements of  my agency, but that’s part of the fun.

This is a big project that could get very complicated. I’m eager to see how it changes shape as I work with agency colleagues, Institute mentors, and as I really dig into development. Sticking to scope will be a challenge, but weekly blogging will be a great help toward keeping me on the right track.

In the end, my hope is that this project will lay a firm foundation for a full digital repository for DHR data that can be accessed by people doing standard compliance-driven archaeology in Virginia, as well as researchers in the state and beyond. We will also have a robust public web resource representing archaeology in Virginia and introducing new concepts and exciting material to lay audiences. I’m aiming high.

Next week I’ll be meeting with colleagues at DHR to lay out my proposal and to make sure my vision aligns with agency needs, requirements, and workflow. As I shift to slicing-and-dicing project management mode, I’m looking forward to feedback from my agency and from Institute faculty to make this an achievable and sustainable project.

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