Plastic for the People: Printing the Past and Engaging the Public
By Bernard K. Means, Director, Virtual Curation Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University In the Virtual…
On the 29th June, archaeologists from around the world will contribute to an innovative mass-blogging project online called the ‘Day of Archaeology‘ . This digital celebration of archaeology is now in its second year following on from a very successful launch in July 2011 and has attracted over 400 archaeologists from all walks of life to share a day in their working lives with the rest of the world by blogging, tweeting, photographing or videoing their working day.
Based on the ‘Day of Digital Humanities‘, this project was the brainchild of PhD students, Matthew Law and Lorna Richardson, who created the idea during a short discussion on Twitter. It quickly attracted support from a like-minded team of ‘digital’ archaeologists (note, these digital archaeologists work with the digital medium, they aren’t excavating old backup tapes from the archives!). Support for the original project came from the British Museum’s Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure (Daniel Pett), UCL’s Centre for Digital Humanities (Lorna Richardson), L-P Archaeology (Stuart Eve, Andrew Dufton, Jessica Ogden), Wessex Archaeology (Tom Goskar) and this year they have been joined by the Archaeological Data Service at the University of York, and also by Patrick Hadley, Karen Hart and Jaime Almansa Sánchez.
How Does the Project Work?
The ‘Day of Archaeology’ would be nothing without the help of the many participants, all contributing their stories for free. The foundations of the project have been built through a social media campaign on various platforms – Twitter, Flickr and Facebook. For example, since April 2011, over 3300 tweets have been sent using the hashtag ‘#dayofarch’, and the information shared has been recycled many thousands of times via retweets, blogs and Facebook shares.
Within several weeks of the team announcing the project would be happening, enough people had signed up to make it viable and the Day of Archaeology looked like it would be a successful social media experiment (incidentally, social media use in archaeology is part of Lorna’s PhD research at UCL). The project is managed behind the scenes using Basecamp, and the various members of the team contributing their skills to the different aspects of organisation involved (for example publicity, web design, server management etc). Everyone involved is a volunteer, and all the work is done for free. Content was created under a liberal licence (Creative Commons share-alike) and this year, we aim to deposit an archive with the ADS for posterity in case our server space disappears!
What Sort of Things Did People Contribute in 2011?
Last year contributions for the project were incredibly wide ranging, displaying the panoply of archaeological disciplines, and included professional archaeologists and volunteers. There are some wonderful posts made via prose, imagery and video. Some notable examples of historical archaeology posts from last year that the team has been flagging up on Facebook and Twitter in the run up to this year’s event include:
The excavation of two households owned by freed African Americans in the nineteenth century in Annapolis, Maryland
An archaeological exploration of 16th and 17th century warfare in Ireland
Historical archaeology research at the Santo Tomé de Guayana site in Venezuela
Excavations by Binghampton University on an urban site dating from the late-nineteenth to early twentieth centuries at the Binghamton Intermodal Transportation Terminal
Retrieving post-medieval artefacts from the River Wear, Durhamin the North East of England
A report from a community-based historic graveyard survey on an island off the west coast of Ireland
The above posts are just a snapshot of the Day’s content, if you visit the project website (www.dayofarchaeology.com), you can see over 435 posts from 2011 that give the casual reader a snapshot of the rich variety of archaeologists at work. The Day of Archaeology provides a unique behind-the-scenes insight into archaeologists’ daily lives; it is a multi-vocal, unscripted, unedited approach that offers open information about the field, both as a practise and as a discourse, but also delivers the discovery, the excitement and the mystery that is now the bread and butter of popular archaeological media. It also provides an insight into the many mundane office and field based tasks – the paper work, the research in dusty archives, the pencil sharpening – all the things you don’t see on the TV programmes…
Take Part in 2012!
You could be involved too. The event is running again on the 29th June (next Friday), and there is still time for you to sign up! Just email us at email@example.com and we’ll send you details of how to take part. The Day of Archaeology awaits your input!