On Thursday, January 29th, Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences welcomed and hosted a daylong conference for the Archaeology Resource Cataloging System, also known as the ARCS project. Attendees of the ARCS conference proposed and discussed introductory plans for the design and construction of an open-source application that will reestablish archival research in the digital environment. Once operating, the application will offer users a wide range of options to upload, scan, assign specific tags, sort, and link together digitized copies of photographs, drawings, and documents that will produce an accurate and more comprehensive insight into archaeological data and findings.
The development of the ARCS project heavily relies on the discussion and collaboration between researchers and scholars. Members of the ARCS staff present at the conference included John Frey and Matrix’s Ethan Watrall, Catherine Foley, Anthony Donofrio, Alicia Sheill, and Chris Valvano. Also in attendance at the conference was the ARCS Advisory Board, including Eric Kansa of Open Context, Sebastian Heath of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) at New York University, Tom Schopiery of the College of Arts and Letters (CAL) at Michigan State University, and Lucie Stylianopoulos of the University of Virginia.The Archaeology Project Leaders, comprised of William Caraher from the University of North Dakota, Adam Rabinowitz from University of Texas Austin, and Kim Shelton from the University of California Berkeley, were also present to provide their insights.
The ARCS staff shared with the Advisory Board and Archaeology Project Leaders the projected plans of development. Outlined in yearly increments over the next three years, specific goals were discussed and agreed upon for each year. The ARCS Advisory Board and Archaeology Project Leaders provided the ARCS staff with useful feedback and guidance regarding the best practices and methods for data and user accessibility. The group also analyzed a case study of the ProjectO Data project which creates a gazetteer of place names for sites in the Ancient World. Attendees determined the ProjectO Data project’s allowance for users to change the labels and categories of data when necessary to be a particularly significant and beneficial program element.
The ARCS database will specifically focus on an archival database for the documentation of archaeological sites. This will encourage interactions with digital data in ways that retain the benefits of being physically present at an archeological site or archive. With its internet-based interface, the ARCS program will allow digital archival projects to begin without a prerequisite of already having access to a digital archive. As shown by this by the conference among the ARCS staff, the Advisory Board, and Archeology Project Leaders, the ARCS database promotes discussion. It will feature discussion forums, allowing users to ask questions, identify mistakes, and resolve issues as a group. ARCS encourages collaboration between scholars and the public, and will prove itself to be a versatile application to meet a variety of needs.