The Campus Archaeology Program has been hard at work this semester prepping for our collaborative event with Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan. The goal of this event is to teach young women about a career path in archaeology and award them with an archaeology badge…
Author: Amber Plemons
Last Tuesday, November 12, 2019, Campus Archaeology hosted their first Open House. For two hours, Campus Archaeology opened our lab doors to the public. Campus Archaeology strives to have a standing relationship with the community through our numerous outreach events each year, as well as…
In our previous blog, Jeff Bennett introduced the concept of Open Archaeology and some of the ways that Campus Archaeology (CAP) is maintaining and furthering our position within the framework of Open Archaeology. One of the ways in which we plan to further our efforts in Open Archaeology is to develop a digital repository for all CAP projects and artifacts. A digital repository is essentially a database for storing and managing digital data. Development of the digital repository will be a long-term project that requires cataloging artifacts housed in the CAP lab in a standardized way and importing a large amount of information in the repository. Our aim is to develop a public interface so that all of our data is freely available.
We have met with Dr. Ethan Watrall, Associate Director of the Matrix Lab, who is helping with the technical aspects in developing the repository. Matrix has created their own open-source content management system, known as KORA, with the intention of curating digital humanities projects. Two special features of KORA highlighted by Matrix are its ability to be accessed from a web browser and the flexibility in customizing the type and style of metadata associated with the objects. This means that CAP will be able to control how the public interacts with the data and, essentially, the narrative we would like tell about MSU’s history through our artifacts. KORA is currently undergoing updates with the intention of releasing KORA3 in the upcoming months. CAP is working closely with Dr. Watrall to learn the new system and we plan to begin developing the project as soon as the new version is released.
Currently, much of our data is stored in a series of excel files specific to each project. The CAP digital repository will create a central location for all data associated with past and present CAP projects, including site records (e.g. site forms, images, and maps) and artifacts. Further, by creating standardized forms for inputting data, we will create a completely standardized collection and a requirement for recording data in a standardized way in the future. This project will require that all artifacts be cataloged following standards set by the Society for Historical Archaeology so that all artifacts are being identified with the same terminology and have the same type of data recorded, such as weight and other measurements.
The way in which we structure the user interface is a critical component of the project. KORA projects are structured using a series of data entry levels, including the Project, Entity, and Record. The largest data level is Project, which contains all of the entities and records within it. The Project for our digital repository will simply be the “CAP Digital Repository”. This means that all of our data will be encompassed within this single project. Next, we will create the entities. The entities will be what we want to be the central focus of the repository. In this case, each CAP project, or site, will be an entity so that all data (site forms and artifacts) will be organized based on the site with which it is associated. Therefore, the entity would likely be a site report, such as “Saints Rest” or “Beal Street”. The final structure level is the most refined level of data known as records. Records are contained within entities. Our repository records will be any site forms and/or artifacts associated with a site, or entity. Records will have standardized forms with dropdown menus to select from a set list of terms in order to create an efficient and effective searchable database. We will also be able to link images and scanned documents with each record form so that users will be able to view the tangible record.
The CAP digital repository will create a central location of all data associated with CAP projects improving the overall quality of our collection and making future research easier as future CAP fellows, as well as public users, can easily search and view our entire collection. We believe that Open Archaeology is the future of archaeological science by creating complete transparency between archaeologists and the public, as well as between researchers and institutions. Having a digital presence will allow the public to explore MSU’s history in a unique fashion through tangible artifacts.
Over the past couple of months, Campus Archaeology has been in communications with Girl Scout Regional Program and Event Specialist, Bethany Wilson, to develop an archaeology badge for girl scouts across Michigan. We are elated about our new partnership! These annual events will be a…
Dr. Kate Frederick, a recent MSU graduate, worked with Campus Archaeology for two years, where she says she gained wide range of skills sets. She stated that though she had a decade of archaeological experience, there was a steep learning curve in the role of…
Michigan State’s Campus Archaeology program has provided fellowships for a number of graduate students in anthropology. These fellowships are awarded to enthusiastic, motivated students who are interested in gaining a unique learning experience. The fellows dedicate a lot of time and energy into conducting research involving archaeological projects on the Michigan State campus, as well as presenting their work at conferences and participating in public outreach events to educate the public on our program. Due to the amount of effort exerted by each fellow, we thought it would be a great idea to highlight alumni by interviewing them about their experience in the Campus Archaeology program.
In our last blog post, we interviewed Lisa Bright, former Campus Archaeologist, which can be viewed here. For our second alumni highlight, we interviewed Dr. Kate Meyers Emery. Dr. Emery graduated from Michigan State University in 2016 and secured a position as the Manager of Digital Engagement of the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY. We asked a Dr. Emery a series of questions (below) to learn about her experience as a fellow, but we were also interested in learning how participating in the program helped her to secure her current position and how she continues to apply skills learned in Campus Archaeology in her career.
Q: What years were you a Campus Archaeologist?
A: I was the Campus Archaeologist from 2011 to 2013, my second through fourth years of grad school, but I was part of CampusArchaeology the entire time I was at Michigan State, from being part of the team my first year in 2010, to being a teaching assistant and team member in my last two years from 2013-2016.
Q: What were the major projects that you worked on/with fellows on?
A: I had the opportunity to work on some really amazing projects during my time in Campus Archaeology, including the demolition of Morrill Hall and discovery of the related boiler, and the opportunity to excavate a portion of Saints’ Rest that had been previously undisturbed. My final summer with CAP, I got to help lead the field school that excavated the Gunson House midden, which helped us to learn more about a period of campus history that we had been lacking for physical evidence.
Q: What was the most important thing you got out of CAP?
A: There was a lot I learned as part of CAP, from technical skills like report writing and GIS, to more broad skills like how to lead a team and be a mentor. I think the most important was how to communicate with the public about a topic that they may have either misconceptions about, or that they might have no background in.
Q: In what ways did CAP make you more marketable when searching for a job?
A: CAP gave me a lot of highly transferable skills that could be applied to a wide range of positions. I learned how to lead a diverse team with varying skills levels and how to work with different types of departments across an institution. I learned how to write technical reports, blog posts, social media, conference papers, and public presentations, all of which require a slightly different tone and approach. I learned how to use a wide range of digital tools, from mobile apps to social media to databases to mapping programs. Throughout the entire process, I was also learning how to be a professional, how to present myself to others, how to network, how to maintain relationships, how to showcase myself as part of a team.
Q: How did CAP help you in your job now?
A: In my current position as manager of digital engagement at the George Eastman Museum, I’m using various digital tools to reach the public and share what the museum is doing and has in its collections. Many of the skills I use on a day to day basis were ones I either developed or honed as part of CAP. I give public tours of museum exhibitions and the historic mansion at Eastman Museum; a skill I developed as Campus Archaeologist, giving historic tours of the campus. I use social media and blog posts to share what is occurring at the museum; a talent that was honed over the course of my time with CAP using a variety of methods to showcase what we were doing and discovering. I find creative ways to engage the public in our exhibitions by using podcasts, maps, scavenger hunts and more; a skill I used frequently as part of CAP to find new and interesting ways to present what we were doing.
Q: What was your biggest challenge as a Campus Archaeologist?
A: We had some pretty daunting projects while I was the Campus Archaeologist, primarily revolving around the replacement of the steam tunnels around West Circle. There was so much happening at the same time. We would be doing a planned survey in one area, while monitoring construction in another area, all while trying to keep up with planning our next phases in collaboration with the construction crews. We had a couple really intense summers, and had to make a lot of decisions about where our energy was going and how we would divide up the crew to cover everything. During this period, I learned a lot about project management, leadership, and multitasking.
Q: What was your favorite part of CAP (highlights)?
A: There were a lot of great moments for me in Campus Archaeology, but the thing I remember the most fondly was getting to share what we were doing with both the academic community and the broader public. I loved when people stopped by to learn more about what we were finding, I loved sharing new discoveries on social media, I loved getting to work with others to present on our findings. That probably explains why I’ve ended up in a job where my focus is communicating the past with the public.
It is clear that Campus Archaeology has positively impacted Dr. Emery in both her past and present experiences. I suspect she will continue to be able to apply the many skills gained as a fellow in her future endeavors. I, along with all current fellows, would like to thank Dr. Emery for taking the time to share her thoughts and reflections, as well as all of the hard work she put in during her time at Michigan State University to help make the program successful.
Please visit the Campus Archaeology alumni page to learn more about our past fellows and what they are doing now (http://campusarch.msu.edu/?page_id=6301).