As we enter a new decade, we are so grateful for your continued enthusiasm and support for our efforts to openly publish and preserve the archaeological record. Thanks to your support, we have made tremendous strides in making archaeological data freely accessible to support new research, teaching, and even the arts. Below, we've listed some links to update you on progress over the past year. Feel free to contact us to share additional ideas and stories about how archaeological data can serve new needs and help enrich wider communities.
2019 marked the first year of our multi-year Infrastructure and Capacity-Building Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. We are delighted to report that we exceeded our Year 1 fundraising goal, raising more than $400,000 in straight donations and in-kind services. This is 25% of our 4-year goal and we are grateful to so many of you for helping us get this far! Please consider making a donation to help us kick off Year 2!
Going in to the new decade, Open Context in on the brink of 2 million items! Those represent the publication of 120 projects by 859 people, including 142,000 images, 14,000 documents, 108 downloadable tables, and 1.6 million descriptions of objects (locations, artifacts, ecofacts) from projects in 44 countries in all inhabited continents spanning 200,000 years. While expanding Open Context's data publications, we're continuing to invest in our technology infrastructure. Recent upgrades have made some parts of Open Context twenty times faster, improving the usability of the site.
This post reflects on what "sustainability" means for an open access program like Open Context. The data we publish will be more meaningful and useful to wider communities if we can continue to add to it and improve and enrich the ways that we and others can contextualize it. That requires a sustainability strategy that considers needs beyond the preservation of bits, but also sustains ongoing work in expanding and improving our data publishing services and expanding and improving how the data we publish gets used by wider communities. In 2019, we explored this topic with our newly-formed Sustainability Advisory Board, which includes individuals from libraries, museums, and publishing who are supporting this work as part of our ongoing NEH Challenge Grant.
Most archaeologists use digital tools to document most, if not all of, their work. As a discipline, we critically need new forms of publishing that accommodate both traditional ways of reporting and new forms of documentation-- especially 3D models and content that cannot fit the paper medium. We are delighted to see an increasing number of data sets in Open Context that are published specifically to be linked to print publications. This example from Tel Dor, Israel, highlights one such project published in 2019. The digital objects published here will be cross-referenced from the printed monograph so that readers can explore the content in more depth and in in more dynamic ways.
With Open Context, we like to emphasize that data are for discovery and inspiration, not just management. This creative use of open access data is one of the myriad ways of helping connect people living today with those who lived thousands of years ago -- in this case, three millennia ago in the hills of Tuscany. Check out the post about the "sonification" of data by creators Shawn Graham, Eric Kansa, and Andrew Reinhard, where you can hear the enchanting music, read about the process of making it, and download the data set to try it yourself.
In this new publication, co-authors Sarah W. Kansa, Levent Atici, Eric C. Kansa, and Richard H. Meadow, share lessons on how to improve data creation and sharing practices to better meet the data reuse needs of wider communities. The paper provides practical guidance based on the authors' combined experiences collecting data, teaching with data, and curating data with Open Context.
The Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA) currently documents 1,045,319 sites from 41 states, gathered either directly from agencies, through journal text-mining, or through links with museum collections and other online resources and repositories. This blog post reports on the most recent DINAA workshop and future plans.