Originally published at: http://research.micropasts.org/2014/04/30/preparing-the-index/
Since late 2013, the MicroPasts team has been preparing the British Museum‘s (BM) Bronze Age Index to be the first offering on our crowd-sourcing platform. This corpus consists of around 30,000 (roughly A4 sized) cards (holding information going back to as early as 1913). The majority of these are double sided and generally have text on the front and a line drawing on the reverse (there are many variants that have been discovered, such as large fold out shield plans.)
Over the last few years, several curators have mooted exercises (Ben Roberts, now at Durham University attempted to turn the transcription into an AHRC funded collaborative Doctoral Award) to turn this amazing resource into a digital archive, but this had not come to fruition until the advent of the MicroPasts project. Internal discussions had been raging on how best to deal with these cards for a number of years, and it was felt that this project could perhaps be the ideal solution and provide museum and public interaction of a new type, which the BM had not explored previously.
To enable this corpus to be digitised is reasonably straight forward and we have employed Dr Jennifer Wexler (@jwexler on Twitter) to manage the scanning process, and she has been doing this since February after her return from field work in Benin.
The equipment needed for this is relatively straight forward, the BM has acquired two high capacity/speed scanners (Canon) which can scan 60 and 100 sheets per minute at 600 dpi and once this initial project is over, they can be reused for turning more archival materials into potential crowd sourcing materials. You can see a picture of Neil’s former office (he’s just moved to a nicer one -we’re not jealous) being used as the scanning centre below in one of his tweets:
The first drawer scanned is known as A9 (this application on the platform), and this was done by the Bronze Age Curator Neil Wilkin (@nwilkinBM on Twitter) over a few weeks whilst dispensing with his other duties. Once Jennifer returned, scanning started in earnest! These high resolution images were then stored in various places to facilitate good data preservation (on an external 4TB hard drive, the Portable Antiquities Scheme server cluster and onto Amazon S3) and they were then stitched together by Daniel Pett (@portableant on Twitter), as composite images using a simple python script and then uploaded to Flickr (for example see this set) for the crowd-sourcing platform to access and then present them as tasks for our audience to assist with. All of these images have been released under the most liberal licence that Flickr permits (we would have ideally liked to make them CC0, but this option does not exist) and so they are served up under a CC-BY licence. The data that will be transcribed, will also be made available for download and reuse by anyone, under a CC0 licence. The embedded tweet below, shows an example of one of the stitched cards:
The platform that we’re using for serving up the crowd sourcing tasks has been created by Daniel Lombraña González (lead developer – @teleyinex on Twitter) and the Pybossa team, and it is a departure from the usual technology stack that the project team has used previously. Installation of the platform is straightforward and it was deployed on to Portable Antiquities Scheme hardware in around 15 minutes. We then employed Daniel to assist with building the transcription application skeleton (in conjunction with project lead Andy Bevan (not on Twitter!) and Daniel Pett) that would be used for each drawer, whilst we also developed our own look and feel to give MicroPasts some visual identity. If you’re interested, the code is available on GitHub and if you have suggestions from improvements, you could either fork the code or comment on our community forum.
Originally published at: http://research.micropasts.org/2014/04/30/preparing-the-index/
For the last few months, building up to launch, lots of debugging and user testing was conducted to see how the site reacted, whether the tasks we offered were feasible and interesting enough. Chiara Bonacchi (@Chiara_Bonacchi) and Adi Keinan (@Adi_Keinan) worked on the main project site, building our Facebook and Twitter engagement.
Chiara has also developed our evaluation frameworks, which we were integrating into the system and feel are vital to discovering more about people’s engagement with our platforms and how their motivations progress through time, and hopefully the project’s success! This evaluative work hopes to be one of the first following the development of individual users’ interaction on a crowd-sourcing website.
This project is very exciting for the BM and especially for our curatorial staff. It could unlock new opportunities and Neil sums up very succinctly, why we are doing this public archaeology project, so we’ll leave it to him:
Opening the treasures of the Bronze Age to the widest public is why I get up, I would love your help: http://t.co/q7eWlIrD9j
Yesterday UCL’s Institute of Archaeology (which incidentally is top ranked archaeological institution in the UK) hosted a workshop of papers centred around archaeological engagement using digital technologies and the development and implementation of strategy to achieve this. The conference/workshop was badged under the Centre for Audio Visual Study and Practice in Archaeology and the Archaeology and Communication Research Network and was organised by Chiara Bonacchi (with some help from me, but she did the majority of the work!). We managed to assemble a varied audience (full house) via eventbrite and a wide range of speakers and the below (sorry this will be long and maybe dull and I didn’t make notes so most of this is from memory!) will recap on the presentations that were given and in the next month or so, they will be available in video podcast format. There was some backchannel discussion by various Twitter users (myself included) and I’ll also show some analysis of what they were saying. Another bonus from this workshop, was the networking opportunities that it produced. I met lots of people that I knew digitally, but not in real life, so it was excellent to make their acquaintance!
If anything is wrong please do correct me!
Morning session one ~ chaired by Don Henson
Smart phones and site interpretation: The Street Museum application ~ Meriel Jeater (Museum of London)
Meriel spoke about the Museum of London’s recent launches of a dual platform smart phone application entitled Street Museum. This used location based technology via the GPS chip of the user’s phone to pinpoint their position and deliver content from the Museum’s archive of pictures that related to their present location. The application was created by Brother and Sisters agency, originally on just the iPhone during a 5 month cycle (concept created in January 2010, specified in February and delivered in May 2010) at a discounted (!) cost of £20,000 (they were told the actual cost would be £40-50k, but I think that this could be built in house or at a hackday using appropriate technology – jQuery mobile, HTML 5 etc). The Android application that was delivered subsequently to this cost a further £28,000.
Other applications are now being developed by the Museum, specifically a partnership with Nokia is producing an application entitled “Soundtrack to London” and this was shown with an example of the great Robert Marley and a Romanised version of Street Museum (a name they have trademarked) called Streetmuseum Londinium. The Londinium app uses green screen generated Roman re-enactors and layer them over current images. I am unclear if this uses their API (a hack was produced at history hack day using this for mobile devices). If you want to find out more about their applications, you can view more on their dedicated page . This does raise the issue of social exclusion for those without access to premium handsets, but that comment was raised via twitter…. Other issues that came up with these apps, included questions relating to why the application wasn’t just a new layer with the current Street Museum application.
Social media as marketing tools at the British Museum ~ Lena Zimmer (British Museum)
Unfortunately, Lena couldn’t attend the workshop, so I was persuaded to give her paper and I probably didn’t do it justice! This talk centred around the use of Social media platforms for the dissemination of propaganda about the British Museum and to facilitate dialogue between the institution and fans/followers etc. This talk was pretty straight forward and there’s a lot of statistical information that can be used to benchmark with archaeological and museums. The BM started to explore the concept of Social Media when refreshing the web presence back in 2006, but the full on uptake of these facilities only began in January 2009 (Twitter) and April (Facebook). A relaunched Youtube channel came online in August 2010 and a blog came online in April 2010. (These are all subsequent to the Portable Antiquities Scheme using these facilities and other departments have a presence as well.)
Two points Lena wanted iterated, that I probably didn’t push heavily enough: “A recent study by the Arts Council England, MLA and Arts & Business Digital audiences: engagement with arts and culture online (November 2010) has shown that 53% of the online population have used the internet to engage with arts and culture in the past 12 months…. The report also states that in particular Facebook ‘has become a major tool for discovering as well as sharing information about arts and culture, second only to organic search through Google and other search engines.'”
The Museum’s use of social media is closely allied to the Museum’s strategy, specifically “to enhance access to the collection (engagement)” and “to increase self-generated income through growth” and therefore Lena’s use of social media allows for:
Increase engagement and discussion around exhibitions and the collection with a world-wide audience
Drive income streams for exhibition tickets sales, events, Membership, donations, BMco, and Do&Co
And also to grow audiences across our online platforms by March 2012 (targets given by Lena are Facebook 200,000 fans and Twitter 100,000 followers)
Of interest to many would be the methodology for supporting analysis of social media and the fact that the Facebook audience shows a 60% figure of female fans! The analysis of social media uses several measures:
Popularity matrix TweetLevel for influenece, populaity, engagement and trust and Klout for other influence measures (measures that Lorna Richardson will use in future for her research).
Audience advocacy (re-tweets, likes, shares) on average we get 11 re-tweets per tweet (measured between Oct 10 – Jan 11) and Facebook likes average 158 per post and 12.2 comments (measured Aug 2010 – April 2011)
Observation and close monitoring of social media sites à What type of comments are being made, how are people responding to our content using Tweetdeck etc.
Mobile learning: connecting pupils, curriculum, and informal learning environments ~ Theano Moussouri (UCL)
Theano presented about a collaboration between the National Maritime Museum (NMM) and UCL which investigated mobile phone based learning and its outcomes centred around the trans-Atlantic Slave trade of Black Africans. This used the ookl platform to deliver content and had a structured visitor study to work how well the project had engaged with the target audience (remember this workshop is all about engagement and digital!) The study was based around social-constructivismprinciples and followed a three step model of qualitative research i.e. before, during and after the visit to the NMM and involved staff of the school, the children and the museum staff themselves. Key elements in this process included the people, the content, the technology and the context in which all of these interacted. Theano stated the relevancy of content was imperative, that there were issues with the choices of technology involved and that the people involved would also limit the experimental nature of this work.
I lost track of the outcome of this talk as I was fixing our work website via SSH, so I am unsure if this project was deemed a success of not. If you can help finish the notes on this, do comment!
Morning session two ~ Chiara Bonacchi (UCL)
The nature of archaeological communities and spatial data online ~ Andy Bevan (UCL)
Andy Bevan, GIS wunderkind, presented the seminar that he gave during the CASPAR series. It included references to Asterix, Mortimer Wheeler and agency and models. I enjoy these sort of theoretical talks! Andy covered the following concepts and also referred to the Long Tail idea of digital engagement:
Free and Open Source software vs vendor lock in
The concept of authoritative content/authorship
monetisation of content
game based theory or gamification of applications and websites
agency (online and offline) – this is where Asterix featured heavily with pictures for the individual, the household, institutions and artefacts (a menhir, I must have another menhir!)
Relational models – covering lots of theory from Alan Fiske’s work from 1991 and 2005
Online community building within social networks (including geocacher for example).
Open data and Open archaeological initiatives (specific mention was made to iosa.it, Ordnance Survey opendata, the ADS and the Open Knowledge Foundation
Geo and neo-geo concepts
Augmented reality experiences
Twitter and archaeology online ~ Lorna Richardson (UCL)
Lorna Richardson, current PhD student at the Centre for Digital Humanities UCL, presented on her research into the use of twitter and archaeological engagement online (you can read far more on her research aims on her website). Lorna’s been working with me since her Masters, so I’m quite familiar with her work and so I hope I have captured the essence of her presentation below. As we should quite rightly assume, not every one uses or is au fait with the concept of Twitter (very small percentage of the world’s population use it – newspapers get over the fixation please) and so she gave an introduction as to what the social media platform is and how it works, specifically:
explaining its genesis (140 characters dictated by concept originally being for mobile phone sms)
How the @ syntax worked
How hashtags came about to facilitate sharing
How retweets work
User figures of use – peer index sent a good stat out on twitter – “Twitter Confirms It Has Passed 200 Million Accounts, 70% of Traffic Now International” which I passed on a few weeks ago
Where the peak usage seems to be in Europe taken from a recent visualisation posted by a company called “eeve” (shown in this post) with some interesting spikes on capital cities, with London being the most dominant centre.
Lorna finished by making a call to arms, asking everyone there to consider using twitter to facilitate archaeological engagement and her research. Welcome Elizabeth Warry and Chiara today!!
Wessex Archaeology on the web ~ Tom Goskar (Wessex Archaeology)
The man of Kernow, Tom Goskar then presented on his fantastic work for Wessex Archaeology, managing their open source-tastic web presence. Tom operates in a very similar manner to me, using the best open souce tools and software to complete the task in hand. His talk resonated deeply with what I normally lecture on for Tim Schadla-Hall’s course. Tom’s organisation is at the forefront of commercial archaeological work, employing nearly 200 people from 4 locations around Britain. It has a relatively high turnover of £7million pounds and generates reams of web content and ‘grey’ literature (a pigeon hole term that Tom wants to eliminate) and his skills turn this work into a cohesive web presence that is visited by on average 12,000 people per month. Their website was orginally produced to cope with the interest around the Amesbury Archer, which was discovered in 2002 and this served to highlight the benefit of pushing their really interesting work out digitally.
Tom has moved on substantially since 2002, away from static HTML to sophisticated content management and blogging tools (currently have 14) and he uses the best software for the job:
Drupal for the main site
WordPress for blogs
Omeka for the forthcoming collections and publications data
Tom has fully embraced social media, creating podcasts (first in 2005) and has used flickr to disseminate images (like us) and they have received over 600,000 views since they started to use the platform and been remixed into interesting work due to the use of the Creative Commons licence. In his current stewardship, Tom now has to manage over 4000 pages, has hundreds and hundreds of downloads (on Scribd etc), manages social media presences and has managed to get them a high profile on sites such as Time Team on channel 4. His work is definitely an exemplar in the field of Public Archaeology.
Tom’s last slide summed up today’s workshop completely for me – It’s all about the public – spot on young man.
Afternoon session ~ Chair Tim Schadla-Hall (UCL)
Blogs and wikipedia: New frontiers for archaeological research? ~ Amara Thornton (UCL)
Amara Thornton has recently completed her PhD at UCL (award pending) on social networks around famous Palestine linked archaeologists (Garstang, Kitchener etc) and at the conference, she presented on blogging and wikipedia use in the archaeological research sphere. Amara ran through the concept and history of Wikipedia and gave some statistical analysis of the most popular pages for their articles – from her research, the most popular archaeological linked article was for the Acropolis and she also showed how many views archaeological topic pages received and how you could access the editing logs!
There were a couple more wordle graphics, one showing non archaeological thoughts on archaeology (am I right here?), which has Indiana Jones and pith helmets to the fore. She then went on to talk about the convergence of wikipedia and facebook – or wikipedia meets facebook and she showed how people had befriended John Garstang (6 likes) and Flinders Petrie (over 200 likes). Sean Graham’s Electric archaeologist blog and his research on blogging was then mentioned, with the network graphic being shown to the audience which demonstrated that Coleen Morgan’s blog appears in the middle with links from all over the place. (If you’re interested in how he produced this, check out Gephi.) Amara also suggested that a concentrated effort to increase reliability and scope of archaeological wiki articles could be co-ordinated – something that has also been mooted on Twitter by various people.
Open access and open data ~Brian Hole (UCL)
I was starting to flag a little at this point, so maybe my memory is a little hazy here. Brian currently is completing a PhD at UCL and also works at the British Library and Ubiquity Press. What stood out for me at the start of Brian’s presentation was my hatred of the Prezi format – nausea inducing as it goes backwards and forwards around his Indian figurine of Shiva. Brian was talking about the attempts being made to make access to data more accessible via the implementation of open licences and adoption of DOIs for cataloguing or archiving and providing an endpoint resolver for journals and data. Many in the audience felt that the process was simplified too much for the data aspect, but that can probably be overcome. Brian also presented his concept of a new archaeological journal that would interact with the Archaeological Data Service and have DOIs built in.
If anyone has better recollection of this paper, please do comment!
Strategy games and engagement strategies ~ Andrew Gardner (UCL)
Andrew presented the strategy game seminar that had been part of the CASPAR seminar series and this centred around the use of strategy games as a means for archaeological engagement. Andrew ran through the development of games covering Age of Empires, Civilisation and the use of historians to try and ensure historical integrity and accuracy; he also covered how much money the games industry turned over annually, some concepts of strategy development and how personas and people’s own minds can shape the virtual worlds that they create online or offline (if the game isn’t internet based.) The archaeological type games that I tend to play are the more swashbuckling type – Indiana Jones or Lara Croft – and I have tended to stay away from the turn based game concept. Andrew stated that if they had been around when he was doing his PhD, he would never have finished it!
Archaeological TV channels online: an assessment of potential ~ Chiara Bonacchi (UCL), Charles Furneaux (Kaboom Film and Television), Dan Pett (The British Museum)
The final paper of the day was presented as a combination paper between myself, the conference organiser (Chiara) and Charles Furneaux and it was centred around the potential engagement provided by the use of archaeological television – TV and web TV. Charles presented at the CASPAR series, but I unfortunately missed out on that! Rounding up this talk is easier than for the others, as I have the presentation!
Charles in his section covered traditional archaeological programming from 2003 to the present by presenting some statistics:
45 hours of archaeological TV in the UK in 2010
25 hours in 2009
2 types of archaeological TV – presenter led and Time Team type shows
in 2003, terrestrial TV showed 185 hours of archaeology and ancient history and 90 hours of heritage
Traditional TV has suffered due to the massive take up of multi-channel TV in homes
Since 1983, ITV’s market share has declined from 48% to 17%!
Charles sees the take up of web TV as a chance for the takeup of narrowcasting rather than broadcasting and this presents a great opportunity for archaeologists to engage!
Chiara then presented her section on archaeological web TV, specifically with regards to two Italian channels – Archeologia Viva TV and Sperimentarea TV and the Archaeology Channel . Chiara covered the uptake of their websites and presented some interesting statistical analysis:
Archeologia Viva TV has a bounce rate of 0.5% (amazing figure! Scheme website is 30%)
They have 177 videos available online in three categories – news and events, documentaries and conversational pieces
They page view level and number of visitors is low in comparison to many sites, but the users have high quality engagement! They stay for an average of 8 minutes – does this show a maximum length of video?
Visitors from 82 countries, but dominated by Italy
I then presented badly on institutional web TV channels, something that is being explored in many national and local institutions as the technological and cost barriers come down when making video footage. Things I identified were:
The UK produces some very high quality footage online – eg Wessex Archaeology, 360 Productions
There’s a wide variety of institutions with successful channels – V&A, ArtBabble at Indianapolis Museum, Thames Discovery Project
the most successful videos are shorter, with high production levels, punchy & dynamic story telling
people need training in editing, in filming and you need to get engaging presenters
videos aren’t necessarily viewed a lot
strong brands can help you get the most views
Overall, our paper tried to show that archaeological TV can survive and thrive on the web platform!
Discussion and next steps ~ Chair: Dan Pett (The British Museum)
For some reason, I was assigned the task of running the discussion at the end of the event and hopefully I managed to help facilitate some good discussion on the day’s topics and the issues that it raised. As I was chairing, my memory of this isn’t great! Things covered included the digital divide between those who can do the digital because they have the skills, how to get trained to produce digitally, sustainability, burden of web not being put on just one person’s shoulders, the need for institutional buyin. We also covered possible topics for the next CASPAR event – a conference at some point and what things the centre could eventually do. Audience research is an angle that could be pursued, training in digital resources and providing templates etc for how to create and engage in the digital sphere. Mention was made of the excellent work of the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre at the British Museum by Elizabeth Warry, comments were raised relating to twitter chat and I basically bored everyone senseless.
We also covered the upcoming Day of Archaeology project that has been generated by Matthew Law, Lorna Richardson, Jess Ogden, Andy Dufton, Stu Eve, Tom Goskar and myself. We also had a very brief presentation by Kathryn Piquette covering the use of RTI for the analysis of archaeological objects, I’m sorry we had to rush that.
We hope that after the workshop, people will consider joining in with this project and document the day of archaeology and what you do in your working life. Special mention to Pat Hadley for coming down from York as he saw the hashtags and got on the train.
Thank you to Chiara for organising the day.
Twitter wise, there was a reasonable backchannel, 60+ people attended and some brief analysis of tweets can be made using various social media tools and looking at all tweets that utilised the hashtag #acrncaspar. I haven’t really done this, but here’s some basics:
Twittersentiment showed 78% of people were positive in their tweets about the day
One of the projects that I’m working on, alongside some other digital archaeologists (Lorna Richardson, Matthew Law, Jess Ogden, Stu Eve, Andrew Dufton and Tom Goskar) is the “The Day of Archaeology 2011”, a social media based project that will allow archaeologists working all over the world to document what they do on one day, July 29th 2011. I’m providing server space via the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s underused backup box and also configured the wordpress install and open source twapperkeeper for storing the social buzz.
This date coincides with the “Festival of British Archaeology“, which runs from 16th – 31st July 2011 and is one of the hundreds of events being held to celebrate archaeology in the UK and beyond.
So how does it work? Well, archaeologists taking part in the project will document their day through photography, video, facebook activity, twitter commentary and written blog posts. These will then be collated in realtime on the project’s dedicated website – www.dayofarchaeology.com, which will then provide a glimpse into a day in the life of people working in archaeology, from archaeological excavations to laboratories, universities, community archaeology groups, education services, museums and offices. This project is open to everyone working or volunteering in any aspect of archaeology from anywhere in the world – and even those who have defected! Currently, over 150 people and organisations have signed up. You could be next, so give archaeology a voice!
This innovative idea, follows on from the very successful “Day of Digital Humanities” and was dreamt up by Matthew Law and Lorna Richardson and was then built upon following a twitter conversation and subs
If you would like to get involved, email the project team at email@example.com and you will receive further details and account details for the website nearer the date. If you have no experience of using blog software, there’s information on how to use the systems provided on the site. If you have experience in graphic design, perhaps you could consider entering the design a logo competition, rules and more information can be found on the project’s website.
The project is supported by:
The Portable Antiquities Scheme (providing server space for free)
The Portable Antiquities Scheme website, which I rebuilt over a period of around 10 months from 2009 – March 2010 has just won an award at the international ‘Museums and the Web’ conference held in Philadelphia. I originally entered the Scheme’s website just to try and get it a bit more exposure in the international museum sector and it came first in the ‘Research/online collection’ category against some quite stiff opposition (last year’s section was won by the V&A!) Surprisingly for me, it also gathered votes in the people’s choice award, which makes me feel very humble. I actually found out that the site had won, via twitter whilst checking in on foursquare to the Ghazala beach bar in Sharm el Sheikh. Power to the web!
Other entrants included:
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
New York Botanical Gardens
J. Paul Getty Trust
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
National Museum of American History
Museum of the City of New York
Windsor Historical Society
the STERNA consortium
Steve in Action Project Team
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Strong (National Museum of Play, Toy Hall of Fame, ICHEG, National Toy Hall of Fame)
The site was created using Zend Framework (started around version 0.7 and now runs on version 1.11.3 – needs upgrading) and uses Ubuntu, Solr, MySQL and extensive use of YQL to power the various features that you’ll find. I’m really pleased that the site was recognised at such a prestigious conference and it is testament to all the people who contribute towards the Scheme’s success.
Over the last few days, I have been adding a selection of the Palestine Exploration Fund‘s extensive image collection to a Flickr profile. The aim of this, was to try and make more people aware of some of the gems that the Fund has within the collection in Hinde Mews. This small slice of the photographic collection contains some amazing images of places and landscapes around Palestine. If you like them, please do consider joining the Fund to help with our charitable activities.
You can see more of these amazing images on flickr.