June 07, 2008


And now for something "completely" different...

Day 2 of my Aerobic Workout Camp (UCLA campus sure is hilly!) a.k.a. the UCLA/Getty Storage Symposium. Preservation and Access to Archaeological Materials
has started. I am attending in name of the Alexandria Archive Institute and will record my impressions here. Also, I will come back to yesterday’s activity later.

Unfortunately, I missed the welcoming remarks by Charles Stanish (UCLA) and David Scott (UCLA/Getty).

Ernestine Elster (UCLA) recounts the changes that have taken place in the practice of archaeology since she started her career in the 1970s. She mentions that most WPA projects from the 1930s-1940s in the US were never published. She points out that for instance the NSF doesn’t have a publishing requirement for archeological excavations it sponsors. She advocates a stringent requirement for all funding agencies/authorities to no longer give out new grants/permits to people who haven’t yet finished publishing their previous project(s). Abandoned projects are a scourge, I would add. She basically says that irresponsible archaeologists—we all know who you are...—should be “blackballed” in general, also by fellow archaeologists. She compliments the courageous colleagues who have taken on the arduous task of publishing “ancient” projects. A member of the audience brought up the preliminary vs. final report issue as well as restrictions in for instance Central America where a report in Spanish has to be submitted after every yearly campaign and the project cannot be reported by the foreign archaeologists on their own in a foreign publication. Friction is typical. The required local co-director has a lot of control and may prevent publication abroad. Typically, projects are reported in the local publication system.

Next, Ioanna Kakoulli (UCLA) introduces the Negotiating Safe Storage sesson.

The people from the Institute for Aegean Prehistory – Study Center for East Crete (INSTAP-SCEC), represented by Eleanor Huffman, talked about their work in setting up a centralized repository with laboratories and comparative collections in East Crete. They conserve, photograph, illustrate and store the complete find collections from the American and Greek-American excavations and surveys. They also provide a GPS team and have a library. They concern not only with the physical storage of the artifacts but also with the metadata connected to the named artifacts. 85% of the capacity is taken up by ceramic materials. They’re already running out of space... They make due for now with storage containers for the not heat-sensitive materials. Care is taken to repackage the artifacts and organic/petrographic samples in standardized, durable and appropriate boxes and crates that are easy to store, replacing the odd assortment of temporary containers from the field. The facility also provides climate controlled conditions. They even have been able to re-complete some excavation assemblages by getting materials from local museums where they were deposited. These museums may not have adequate facilities or capacity to store them. The institute is struggling with the increasing amount of digital metadata. They already have 1 terabyte and the pace is accelerating. the catalogue is organized by excavation, no artefact types for instance recorded. That means that they can’t just pull up all figurines for instance. Each excavation uses its own choice of software which doesn’t facilitate things...

Update: I corrected the symposium title, fixed some links, corrected a typo and added the 2nd paragraph.

Update 2: I corrected a few more typos—obviously, I was still rusty at this live blogging thing that morning ;-)


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