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MATRIX Receives NEH Digital Implementation Grant for next phase of the Archaeological Resources Cataloging System (ARCS) Project

21 August on Archaeology, Cultural Heritage Informatics, Digital Archaeology, Grants  

MATRIX is very pleased to announce that, in collaboration with the College of Arts and Letter and the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, we have received a $350,000 NEH Digital Implementation grant to continue the work on the Archaeological Resources Cataloging System (ARCS) project. The project will be directed by Jon Frey (Assistant Professor, Department of Art, Art History, and Design) and Ethan Watrall (Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and Associate Director of MATRIX).  

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.