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Comparable projects

by on July 21, 2011

Investigating currently available online archaeological databases has yielded some interesting finds, and I have some observations about the various different methods of data acquisition used by existing systems.

Opencontext.org currently provides 25 integrated tables with a granular, faceted filtering system and over 200,000 artefact image records. It has a fairly accessible interface and can also send data over ATOM/RSS via a RESTful interface.

The data offered by opencontext.org appears to be pre-normalized which is something that may present us with a problem: pre-existing datasets need to be altered to conform with the OpenContext schema. While this is certainly possible sometimes (and in some cases automation is an option), at other times the data cannot be made to match easily, fields in the original dataset are more or less granular than those required by the OpenContext schema, meaning is ambiguous or the researcher used a coding system without hard limitations, making it hard to match and verify their data with a controlled vocabulary. Also, the copyright owners would likely have to give written permission to allow integration to begin with, and that presents some potential legal issues.

tDAR.org currently contains over 300,000 documents and over 300 datasets. It is superficially similar in concept to Opencontext, but places a lot more emphasis on dataset flexibility and seems to require a much greater involvement by the researcher or uploader at the point of data ingest. The reason for this requirement is simple but important to understanding the intended purpose of the application: tDAR allows researchers to upload datasets without the need for pre-normalization, map their columns to common ontologies and integrate their own datasets with those of other researchers. This is, of course, in addition to storing the datasets and related metadata for review by interested parties.

While it’s not terribly relevant when reviewing their functionality, it’s worth noting that neither of these services presently have very much Australian archaeological data available.

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