It’s not every day that one sees friends and colleagues awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop open-source applications for uploading, organizing, and sharing archaeological data and records. I was delighted last month when I saw the announcement circulate on FB that Dr. Jon Frey of Michigan State University received a Digital Humanities Implementation grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities on the order of $324,586—all to continue to develop and expand a tool called Archaeological Resource Cataloging System, or ARCS for short. These grants are incredibly competitive and award little more than 10% of applications, so congratulations to Dr. Frey and his colleague Ethan Watrall for developing a compelling archaeological tool that has earned the national recognition of a tough group of external reviewers.
I’ve invited Jon to contribute a post about the work of Michigan State University and Ohio State University at Isthmia over the last few years in digital affairs, and map out what he plans to do with the grant he’s been awarded. So, tomorrow’s post will come straight from Jon. In the meantime, here’s the press release from the NEH.
“The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded nearly $1 million to Michigan State University as part of its Digital Humanities Implementation Grants program.
Marking the largest grant, Jon Frey, assistant professor of art history and visual culture, and Ethan Watrall, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology and associate director of MATRIX: Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences, received $324,586 for ARCS: Archaeological Resource Cataloguing System.
It will provide an open-source application in which users can upload, tag, sort and link digitized copies of photos, drawings and archaeological documents. The project builds upon the original case study of Ohio State University’s Isthmia excavations, for which Frey is field coordinator….”
The blog site for MATRIX: Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at MSU, provides a little more context:
“Originally funded by an NEH Digital Startup Grant and developed as a proof of concept by a small research group in the College of Arts and Letters (http://arcs.cal.msu.edu), ARCS is an open-source application designed to reintroduce many of the advantages of traditional archival research into its new electronic form. By means of an intuitive web-based interface, users can upload, visually scan, keyword, sort, and link together digitized copies of photographs, drawings, and (frequently handwritten) documents that together are the most faithful representation of the archaeological record. What is more, ARCS relies on a crowd-sourced approach to augment the information it contains. This not only provides a ready alternative to archaeological projects that lack a staff of dedicated archivists, but also encourages collaboration among scholars as well as public interest in a project’s ongoing research.
While the start-up phase of the project was very successful, the NEH Digital Implementation Grant will allow the project team to address several key software, design, and sustainability issues, including improved software architecture, interoperability, and community adoption and use.
As part of this new phase of the ARCS project, the project director’s have identified three archaeological projects that have already begun to digitize their primary documents and are interested in using the ARCS software in order to meet their research needs. Implementation at each of these projects will involve a further development of ARCS, which will in turn yield an even more flexible platform that can be customized to match each individual project’s unique system of archaeological documentation. Most importantly, because our implementation of the software involves multiple projects, we will be uniquely suited to develop a middle-ground solution that bridges the gap between the need to preserve the unique character of each project’s evidence and the larger goal of utilizing the evidence from several locations in research at a regional scale.”
Stay tuned for Jon’s fuller presentation of his work with ARCS and outline of where he plans to take it.