Of Ontologies

By Sisko Pajari

As a research assistant to SuALT-project I’m currently working with ontologies. Ontologies are a way to categorize things in the world. It all goes way back to philosophy in Antiquity. In the museum field the general aim is to categorize things in order to keep collections manageable and to be able to search information from databases. SuALT’s aim with its database tool and internet portal “Löytösampo” is both to share and collect knowledge from the users. There is obviously hope that people can both see its information and use it worldwide for research and other interests.

But how to link concepts from different cultural or linguistic areas, which today is demanded from data? Do people actually conceptualize things in the world the same way? This is where mapping terms to each other, comes in hand. In Finland at museum field we have conceptual structures called MAO/TAO (Ontology for Museum Domain and Applied Arts) but also ESI (Esihistorian asiasanasto) is under development by ontology team of archaeology experts. In Britain, the museum field uses Getty (Art & Architecture Thesaurus Online) for cataloging.

So, my work is to link by mapping Getty to thesauruses used in Finland. For users of Löytösampo all the conceptual structures are not seen, but the most important ones are – those concerning object sub categories, types and object names. The SuALT-team needs to think how meticulously they wish users to inform about their finds. Does information need to get to the level of typologies (for example type A, type B etc.), or is types, sub-types, object names level of information sufficient. Of course for some users it probably is interesting to learn more about typologies – say for example of brooches that already have good typologies in Finland.

It has been very interesting for me to work with this project. Everyone I have met has shared from their knowledge and expertise, especially Ville Rohiola and Mikko Koho. Looking forward to see how things proceed and how metal detector hobbyists, researchers, students, and museum professionals come to turn Löytösampo into account.

Sisko Pajari and book research

Sisko Pajari and some of the books she is using for the ontology research

Tutkimusavustajana SuALT- projektissa teen työtä ontologioiden parissa. Ontologiat ovat tapa luokitella ja järjestää tietoa maailmasta. Tämä kaikki palautuu antiikin ajan filosofiaan asti. Museoissa luokittelua tehdään sen vuoksi, että näin pystytään pitämään paitsi kokoelmat järjestettyinä ja myös siksi, että tietokantoihin voidaan synnyttää järjestelmällistä tietoa. Suomen arkeologisten löytöjen linkitetty tietokanta ja sen kehittämä ”Löytösampo” portaali toimii netissä, missä myös käyttäjät voivat jakaa tietoa. Ilmeinen tarkoitus on, että käyttäjät ympäri maailman voivat hyödyntää Löytösammon tietoja tutkimukseen ja muutoinkin.

 Mutta kuinka linkittää yhteen käsitteitä erilaisilta kieli- ja kulttuurialueilta, mikä on vaatimuksena nykypäivän tiedolle? Entä käsitteellistävätkö ihmiset asioita samalla tavalla? Tähän ongelmaan ratkaisuksi on haettu niin sanottua “mäppäystä”, joka tarkoittaa termien keskenään linkittämistä. Suomessa museokentällä asioiden luokitteluun käytetään Museoalan asiasanastoa (MAO), Taiteen asiasanastoa (TAO) sekä myös juuri kehitteillä olevaa Esihistorian asiasanastoa (ESI). Puolestaan Iso-Britanniassa museoiden käyttämä asiasanasto on Getty (Art & Architecture Thesaurus Online).

Joten, tehtäväkseni on tullut linkittää Gettyn asiasanastoa Suomessa käytettyihin. Löytösammon tuleville käyttäjille kaikki luokittelukategoriat eivät näy, vain ne tärkeimmät, eli ne, joiden avulla voidaan luokitella esineitä lajeihin, alalajeihin sekä nimeltä. SuALT-työryhmän tehtäväksi tulee miettiä, kuin tarkkaan he haluavat Löytösammon käyttäjien luokitella ilmoittamiaan löytöjä. Tarvitseeko ilmoittajan valita tietokannasta tietoa typologioiden tasolle asti (esineryhmän sisäistä luokittelua, esimerkiksi tyyppi A, tyyppi B jne.) vai onko laji, alalaji, esineen nimi riittävä tiedon taso. Toki joillain käyttäjillä on kiinnostusta esineiden typologisointiin esimerkiksi sellaisten löytöryhmien kohdalla, jotka ovat jo hyvin tyypitelty Suomessa, tästä hyvänä esimerkkinä soljet.

Työskentely tässä projektissa on ollut todella kiinnostavaa. Kaikki ovat jakaneet omasta osaamisestaan ja tiedostaan avuliaasti, varsinkin Ville Rohiola ja Mikko Koho. Odotan innolla nähdäkseni, millainen tulevaisuus Löytösammolla tulee olemaan metallinilmaisin harrastajien, tutkijoiden, opiskelijoiden ja museoammattilaisten käsissä ja käytössä.

Löytösampo/Fyndsampo/FindSampo

Löytösampo

Design: Pejam Hassanzadeh/SuALT project

SuALT-projektin kehittämällä tietokannalla on nyt nimi, Löytösampo. Työn alla oleva nettiportaali mahdollistaa uudella tavalla kansalaisten osallistumisen yhteisen kulttuuriperinnön tutkimiseen. Tulevaisuudessa se toimii kansalaisten tekemien löytöjen, kuten esimerkiksi metallinetsinlöytöjen ilmoittamiskanavana. Tavoitteena on, että jatkossa löytöjen ilmoittaminen, esimerkiksi mobiililaitteella olisi mahdollisimman vaivatonta. Löytösammossa kaikkien – kansalaisten ja tutkijoiden – on mahdollista seurata löytöjen karttumista ympäri Suomea. Löytöjä ja niitä koskevia tietoja on mahdollista tarkastella hakutyökalun avulla. Kokonaisuutena niitä on helppo tarkastella karttanäkymästä.

Löytösammon ensimmäistä versiota on tarkoitus testata alkusyksystä. Tietokannan kehittämistä jatketaan testaamisen jälkeen. Helsingin yliopiston, Aalto-yliopiston ja Museoviraston kehittämä Löytösampo siirtyy Museoviraston käyttöön projektin päätyttyä syksyllä 2021. Nyt kansalaisten tekemät löydöt pyydetään ilmoittamaan edelleen Museoviraston ilmoituspalvelu Ilppariin.

 

Fyndsampo

Design: Pejam Hassanzadeh/SuALT project

Databasen som utvecklats av SuALT-projektet har nu ett namn, FyndSampo. Den nya webbportalen som projektet utvecklar ger allmänheten en möjlighet att delta på ett aktivt och nytt sätt i vårt gemensamma kulturarv. I framtiden kommer den att fungera som en kanal för att rapportera in nya arkeologiska fynd som gjorts av allmänheten, till exempel av hobby metalldetektorister. Ett av målen med Fyndsampo är att det ska vara så enkelt som möjligt att rapportera i ett fynd via sin mobiltelefon. I FyndSampo har alla en möjlighet, både allmänheten och forskare, att titta på arkeologiska fynd som hittats i Finland. Dessutom ä det möjligt att använda ett sökverktyg för att studera fynd. Sammantaget kommer fynden att vara lätta att se på en kartvy.
Den första versionen av FyndSampo kommer att testas i praktiken första gången i början av hösten. Utvecklingen av databasen fortsätter ännu efter den första testfasen. I slutet av projektet år 2021 kommer databasen, som utvecklats i samarbete av Helsingfors universitet, Aalto-universitetet och Museiverket, att upprätthållas och drivas av Museiverket. Nu uppmanas fynden från allmänheten fortfarande att rapporteras in till Museiverket via tjänsten Ilppari.

 

 

FindSampo

Design: Pejam Hassanzadeh/SuALT project

The database developed by the SuALT project now has a name, FindSampo. The new online portal that the project is developing will enable the public to participate with cultural heritage in a new way. In the future, it will serve as a channel to collect information of archaeological finds made by the public, especially by hobbyist metal detectorists. One of the goals is that reporting a find on a mobile device should be as easy as possible. In the FindSampo, it is possible for all, public and researchers, to observe archaeological finds discovered in Finland. It is also possible to use a search tool to make different find studies. Overall, the finds are easy to see from the map view.
The first version of FindSampo is to be tested initially in practice in the beginning of autumn. The development of the database will still continue after the first test phase. In the end of the project in 2021, the database developed by the University of Helsinki, Aalto University and the Finnish Heritage Agency (FHA), will be undertaken by FHA to maintain and run it. Now the finds made by the public are requested to inform to FHA’s reporting service Ilppari.

Suunnittelupäivä Hvitträskissä / Away Day at Hvitträsk

Photo: Suzie Thomas

Kesän kynnyksellä kokoonnuimme SuALT-projektilaisten kanssa päiväksi idylliseen Hvitträskiin luotaamaan hanketta. Päivän tarkoituksena oli tarkastella projektin etenemistä, kerrata tavoitteita ja aikatauluja sekä varata aikaa yksityiskohtaisemmalle keskustelulle projektiin liittyvistä (ajankohtaisista) teemoista.

Päivän ohjelma alkoi muistuttelemalla mieliin projektisuunnitelma, projektin tavoitteet ja aikataulu. Vertailemalla näitä projektin nykyhetkeen pystyimme kartoittamaan projektin etenemistä, sitä mistä lähdettiin liikkeelle ja missä mennään nyt. Päivän aikana ehdimme puhua monista hankkeen osa-alueista mm. ontologiatyöstä, julkaisuista, konferensseista, tietokannan linkittymisestä sekä suunnitella tulevaa. Vietimme hengähdystauon SuALTista Kauklahdessa lounaalla, jota sitten sulattelimme Hvitträskin opastetulla kierroksella paikan mielenkiintoisiin tarinoihin ja historiaan tutustuen. Ehdottomasti tutustumisen arvoinen paikka.

Photo: Helinä Parviainen

Päivän anti oli hyvä. Tässä vaiheessa projekti on edennyt hyvin ja pysynyt melko lailla tavoitteissaan. Päivän aikana pystyimme pohtimaan ja keskustelemaan rauhassa projektin eri vaiheista ja osa-alueista, joihin kuukausittaisissa SuALT-projektikokouksissa ei useinkaan ehditä yhdessä niin syvällisesti paneutua. Tästä on hyvä jatkaa.

Photo: Suzie Thomas

Just before a kick-off to the summer, our SuALT project team gathered in idyllic Hvitträsk for a day. The aim of the day was to review the progress of the project, to evaluate project goals and timetables, and to discuss some of the themes of the project more closely.

The day’s programme started by reviewing our journey so far. We revised our research plan for the project, the goals and the timetables to see what milestones did we promised and what we have achieved. During the day, we were able to talk about many topics and aspects of the project including ontology work, publications, conferences, platform data, also, making action plans for the future. We spent a lunch break in Kauklahti, after which we digested the lunch at Hvitträsk museum’s guided tour with interesting stories and history. The place is absolutely worth a visit.

Photo: Helinä Parviainen

The day was productive. At this stage, the project has progressed well and reached its objectives according to the research timetable that we had planned. During the day, we were able to reflect on and discuss the different phases and sub-areas of the project, which in our monthly SuALT project meetings are often lacking in depth due to time. This is a good point to continue.

A Research Mobility Visit to the SuALT Project

by Eljas Oksanen

In the last week of March I had the pleasure to visit the SuALT project on a research mobility programme. Born and (mostly) raised in Helsinki, though now having spent the larger part of my life abroad, the city has a special place in my heart and it is always a pleasure to go back there. Special thanks are owed to Anna Wessman, Suzie Thomas and the University of Helsinki for inviting me and for arranging all the details of the trip so brilliantly.

I am a medieval historian with a keen interest in digital humanities and archaeology, and in the recent years I have worked on a GIS-led research project with the Portable Antiquities Scheme based at the British Museum in London. As PAS, SuALT and other bourgeoning small finds recording schemes in Europe have demonstrated, there is a tremendous amount of potential in digital humanities analysis of metal-detected finds for reappraising our understanding of historical material cultures. With new data beginning to be made available to researchers and members of the public by the new continental schemes, there is also increasingly a demand for its foundational statistical and GIS analysis.

The purpose of my visit was to participate in the conversation on DH research on Finnish metal-detected finds. The week seemed to fly past extraordinarily fast. Suzie and Anna introduced me to the department and we discussed the current work conducted by SuALT. Ville Rohiola at the Finnish Heritage Agency gave me a very generous amount of his time for discussing the various cultural heritage databases and projects that the FHA supports. Professor Eero Hyvönen and his team invited me over to the Semantic Computing Group, Aalto University, and showed me their work on linked-data databases and on the prototype online portal for self-reporting finds. On Wednesday I gave a paper on my own research and experiences with the PAS, which sparked interesting conversations on how various archaeological databases that seemingly serve similar purposes nevertheless enable different research directions. As was noted, databases are themselves cultural artefacts, the character and capacities of which are shaped by design, development and data input priorities particular to their institutional environments.

Photo: Suzie Thomas

Having worked within a British metal-detectorist context it was interesting to see how the histories and cultures of the respective detectorist communities differ, and how this encourages different solutions in heritage management. Finnish metal-detectorists appear to be particularly ready to embrace new recording technologies!

Between meetings and informative conversations I had some time for examining a download of the luettelointitietokanta, which contains records of the metal-detected finds sent to the FHA and taken into their archaeological collection. While this dataset is only a portion of the material recovered over the last half a decade, it was nevertheless possible to start working out broad trends in the finds data. Like in the UK coins are the most numerous object type, followed by copper/copper-alloy dress accessories. On a very large scale the spatial distribution of finds might be interpreted as reflecting demographic patterns (e.g. the weight of the finds lies in the south) but are likely to correlate more directly with active regional detectorist communities (see map).

Map: Eljas Oksanen

A comparison with trends in the PAS data helps to tease out local biases. In relative terms iron objects are very rare in England and Wales (< 1 percent of all finds) but form a substantial minority population of the Finnish finds (16 percent). In the UK the vast majority of metal-detecting takes place on fields where a great deal of scrap iron may be encountered, and detectorists are even known to set their detectors to ignore iron signals. In Finland many finds are made in forests where scrap metal ‘background noise’ may not be such an issue. Perhaps there are therefore differences in detectorist habits that directly influence the composition of recorded material? Conversely there were few reported lead objects among this sample of Finnish finds – a real difference in material culture or another result of different recovery/recording biases? Many more questions remain to be asked.

The week was densely packed with activity and has given me a great deal of food for thought. SuALT is working to established an enhanced context for managing metal-detected finds that incorporates archaeological perspectives, IT solutions and cultural heritage management concerns. From my particular perspective as a digital humanities researcher it is clear that SuALT will empower new ways of examining and understanding the past.

Workshop on Co-design in York 1-2 April


The workshop took place at Kings Manor, University of York

The European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) is a funding organisation that creates new research networks, so called COST Actions. These networks offer an open space for collaboration among scientists across Europe. Archaeological knowledge production is explored through one such COST Action, called ARKWORK, and through these working groups members are able to meet in a variety of networking, such as conferences, workshops, training schools etc.

Anna Wessman took part in one of these workshops this week: Co-design of digitally -mediated experiences in archaeology, in York, UK. Participatory Design, Co-design or User Experence Design is an approach where one attempts to involve all stakeholders in the creation process to help ensure that the final product meets the needs of the end-users. During the past decade UX research has developed fast and therefore it’s important to learn new techniques. Two intense days later it’s time to sum up what we learned:

Group 4: Designing online interfaces

The 20 participants that took part in this workshop were divided into four groups, each with one specific case study and with a facilitator who was leading the discussions. Anna was in a group led by Eleonora Gandolfini and our task was to design an online interface for the Southampton Library Special Collections and Archives.

These special collections are large and very diverse. They have been digitized but are not accessible to the large public because it is difficult to navigate between the different websites. Our task was thus to come up with a solution to this dilemma and to structure the interface so that it would entice the audience to engage with the collections in a new way.

In the beginning we were throwing ideas on post-its

This was not an easy task. We discussed the metadata a lot and about how we could make these collections relevant to the community. We also came up with two imagined end-users of this interface, so called personas, by using User Experience Design Cards developed by the University of York.

Despite the difficulties we were able to come up with a mock-up platform, we designed search tools, built bridges between the collections’ through narratives and even came up with some new content. It was challenging but fun and I think we all learned a lot through this process.

The Eye of York got new designing ideas with the help of Legos

The other three groups worked on different assignments. One group designed a prototype for a digital archaeogame, another group designed engagements to the Eye of York  while a third group co-designed an interface for a larger audience with an interest in the past, something that was named ‘Pastlandia’ by the participants.

 

Towards the new SuALT application

By Pejam Hassanzadeh

Hi all!

It is nice to be here and tell the good news about the SuALT application. Firstly, I want to mention that I am happy to be a part of this project which is also related to my masters thesis at Aalto University. When I heard about the SuALT project for the first time, I became very interested and wanted to be a part of it. Many thanks to all who helped me to take part in this project.

Technology is growing at a rapid rate and changing our lives continuously. Nowadays, most of the services are digitalised, and these digitalised services have great importance in our daily lives. Digitalisation improves efficiency and productivity, and at the same time, it boosts all other processes. SuALT aims to produce a digital platform for reporting and studying archaeological finds. Furthermore, it intends to enable the end users to contribute directly to collections.

We have started designing the prototype of the SuALT application. In this prototype, we have used user-centred design which means that we have focused on the users and their needs. We aim to create a highly usable service for the end users. We have tried to take into account the most critical user needs and created mockups based on them. In this stage, we have followed the following design principles:

  • Mobile first
  • Clean and fresh
  • Communication

We will focus on providing a responsive and mobile friendly service which should work without any problems on all mobile devices.  In this service, we would like to have a clean and fresh design. Clarity and simplicity help to create a better user experience. In addition to these, communicating efficiently the end users is essential for us. We would like to have a balance between readability, legibility, colour and texture.

The SuALT application will have an intelligent form which will help the users to report their finds. In addition to reporting, it educates them by providing continuous feedback and learning materials so that the SuALT application can work as a teaching tool. The main idea here is to teach during the form filling process.

In this form we have followed the following design principles:

  • Make it simple
  • Reduce cognitive and physical load
  • Use conditional logic
  • Break into steps
  • Provide help and autocomplete
  • Teach by filling in

We want to keep the intelligent form as simple as possible. To achieve this we strive to minimise the total number of free text fields which will reduce the interaction cost so that the end user will accomplish more with less effort. Furthermore, the form will provide autocomplete functionality and use ontologies for the core form fields. For example, it will be able to retrieve location coordinates and the current date automatically.

The intelligent form will make it possible to use a device camera so that users can take pictures of the find and surroundings. Guidelines for taking more professional and consistent photographs will be provided. Also, the form will use conditional logic to configure fields to display or hide based on the user’s response to other fields. In addition to these, it will consist of multiple steps and a possibility to save it as a draft during these steps.

We are going to publish the first test version of the SuALT application this year. Stay with us!

 

On the road again: experiences from SuALT roadshows/Tien päällä taas: kokemuksia SuALTin esittelykiertomatkoilta

During the autumn 2018 and winter 2019 the sub-project 1 (User Needs and Public Cultural Heritage Interactions) has been travelling around Finland talking to different stakeholders and future end-users of SuALT. With the help of user experience research (or shortly UX), we investigate the needs and requirements of SuALT’s future users. This has been done through interviews, public talks and meetings conducted by Anna Wessman. The database will be developed by the outcome of this feedback.

Kuva/Photo: Anna Wessman

By engaging the users in a democratic way we are giving the public the opportunity to make a true impact on the end product. The project is keen on developing a database that is truly co-designed according to the needs of our future users. Through this research we will be able to ensure that the database is accessible and easy to use but also offers a great experience to its end users.

So far, we have conducted both qualitative research (interviews, focus group meetings) and quantitative research (an online survey) among the three major user groups of SuALT (metal detectorists, archeologists and cultural heritage managers). At the time of writing, over 40 people have been interviewed on several different locations all around the country, often in connection to public talks or University lectures. The roadshow has taken us to northern Lapland, through Oulu, Tampere, Mouhijärvi, Hämeenlinna and Turku to Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa. Because the interview process is still ongoing we have not been able to analyze all the data yet.

SuALT is a citizen science project in its core. Citizens are encouraged to help out with the development and design phase of the database but they will also be the end users of the database, which means that they will produce the majority of its content.

Once SuALT comes into the stage of testing the actual prototype, we will be able to study in detail also user behaviours, through different kind of observation techniques and other feedback methodologies. This will enable us to correct mistakes and to make further developments and necessary improvements on the database.

If we want to be truly inclusive, we should also plan to continue this research after the project has launched the database by asking our participants about their views and experiences of the projects’ processes and the outcomes of it. This would clearly show that we are not only grateful for their input but in addition caring for our users also after the product is finished. This work would need further funding, which we are naturally going to seek.

In February 2019 SuALT had a UX workshop at the Finnish Heritage Agency
Helmikuussa 2019 SuALT järjesti työpajan Museovirastolla, jossa käytiin läpi tietokannan tulevia sisältöjä. Photo/Kuva: Helinä Parviainen.

Tien päällä: kokemuksia SuALTin esittelykiertomatkoilta

Syksyn 2018 ja talven 2019 aikana projektin työpaketti 1 (Käyttäjien tarpeet ja kansalaistiede) on kiertänyt maata puhumassa eri sidosryhmien ja tietokannan tulevien loppukäyttäjien kanssa. Käyttäjäkokemustutkimuksen (tai palvelumuotoilun) avulla tutkimme SuALTin tulevia käyttäjiä sekä heidän tarpeitaan ja vaatimuksiaan. Tämä on toteutettu Anna Wessmanin tekemien haastattelujen, yleisöesitelmien ja sidosryhmätapaamisten avulla. Tietokantaa kehitetään näiden tutkimustulosten mukaan.

Ottamalla käyttäjät mukaan kehittämistyöhön annamme yleisölle demokraattisen mahdollisuuden vaikuttaa lopputuotteeseen. Siksi hanke on kiinnostunut kehittämään tietokantaa, joka on todella suunniteltu yhdessä käyttäjien kanssa. Palvelumuotoilun kautta pystymme varmistamaan, että tietokanta on helppokäyttöinen, mutta tarjoaa samalla myös erinomaisen käyttäjäkokemuksen.

Photo/Kuva: Helinä Parviainen.

Tähän mennessä olemme tehneet sekä kvalitatiivista (haastattelut, kohderyhmätapaamiset) että kvantitatiivista tutkimusta (sähköinen kyselytutkimus) kolmen suurimman SuALT-käyttäjäryhmän parissa, joita ovat metallinetsinharrastajat, arkeologit ja viranomaiset kulttuuriperintöorganisaatioissa.

Yli 40 henkilöä on haastateltu ympäri maata useassa eri paikassa, usein yleisöesitelmien, keskustelujen tai yliopistoissa tehtyjen luentojen yhteydessä. SuALT-kiertomatka on vienyt meidät Lappiin, Ouluun, Tampereelle, Mouhijärvelle, Hämeenlinnaan, Maskuun ja Turun kautta Helsinkiin, Espooseen ja Vantaalle. Koska haastattelututkimus on edelleen kesken, emme ole vielä pystyneet analysoimaan keräämäämme tietoa.

SuALT on ytimeltään kansalaistiedehanke. Kansalaisia kannustetaan auttamaan tietokannan kehittämis- ja suunnitteluvaiheessa, mutta on hyvä muistaa, että kansalaiset ovat myös tietokannan loppukäyttäjiä. Se tarkoittaa sitä, että he myös tuottavat suurimman osan sen sisällöstä. Siinä vaiheessa kun SuALTin prototyyppi tulee testausvaiheeseen, pystymme tutkimaan tarkemmin myös käyttäjäryhmien käyttäytymistä erilaisilla palaute- ja havainnointimenetelmillä. Näiden avulla pystymme korjaamaan virheitä sekä tehdä tietokantaan parannuksia..

Jotta olisimme todellakin osallistavia, meidän olisi myös jatkettava tutkimusta sen jälkeen, kun hanke on loppunut ja tietokanta on avautunut. On tärkeätä kysyä hankkeeseen osallistuneilta kansalaisilta mitkä heidän näkemyksensä ja kokemuksensa olivat sekä oliko hanke ja sen tulokset heidän mielestään onnistuneet. Tämä osoittaisi, että olemme paitsi kiitollisia avusta myös vilpittömästi kiinnostuneita kuulemaan käyttäjien mielipiteitä myös sen jälkeen, kun tietokanta on valmistunut.Tämä luonnollisesti tarkoittaa samalla, että tulemme hakemaan aktiivisesti lisärahoitusta projektille.

Paluu projektiin/Rejoining the Project

 

Uusi vuosi on alkanut ja olen palannut työpöydän ääreen. Vuoden tauon jälkeen olen jälleen mukana SuALT-projektissa Helsingin yliopiston humanistisen tiedekunnan rahoittamana tutkimusavustajana. On innostavaa olla taas mukana kiinnostavassa projektissa.

SuALT-projektin toinen vuosi on pyörähtänyt käyntiin. On vuosi siitä kun viimeksi olin mukana. Näiden muutamien viikkojen työssäoloni aikana huomaan, että projekti on saanut vauhtia. Asiat ovat liikahtaneet paljonkin eteenpäin. Projektin eri palasia kehitellään tahoillaan, mutta langat pysyvät yhdessä kommunikoimalla.

Työni alku on sujunut tiiviisti tietokoneen ääressä. Ensimmäisenä työtehtävänäni olen osallistunut tutkimushaastattelujen käsittelyyn. Haastattelujen äänitykset kirjoitetaan tekstimuotoon tarkempaa analysointia varten. Ympäri Suomea tehdyillä haastatteluilla on kartoitettu tulevien SuALT-tietokannan käyttäjien kokemuksia ja toiveita siitä mitä tietokannalta odotetaan.

Projekti etenee. Tästä tulee varmasti mielenkiintoinen vuosi.

The new year has started, and I am back at the desk. I have rejoined to SuALT Project as a research assistant for this year. My position is funded by the Faculty of Arts. It feels good to be back in the team of this interesting project.

During these few weeks of working, I find that the project has gained pace during the year. Things are evolving. The pieces of puzzle are being developed in each subproject, but the threads stay together by communicating.

The beginning of my employment I have stayed close by the desk. As my first task, I am transcribing research interviews for more detailed analysis. The aim of interviews conducted around Finland is to identify the experiences and aspirations of future users of the SuALT database. The project is progressing.

This will certainly be an interesting year.

SuALT visits Denmark and DIME

By Ville Rohiola
In the end of November, Ville Rohiola from the Finnish Heritage Agency visited Denmark as a part of research mobility plan of the SuALT project. During the visit, Rohiola met colleagues in Aarhus, Odense and Copenhagen. The mobility was part of the co-operation with other public finds database recording projects, in this case, with the recently launched DIME, a digital portal for metal detecting finds in Denmark. At the time of the visit, DIME had been in use for two months and it showed that the new digital tool sparks enthusiasm among metal detectorists.

The Manor House of Moesgaard, Aarhus (Photo: Ville Rohiola).

The main goals of the trip was (a) to get an overview of the metal detecting archaeology in Denmark, and (b) to see how the DIME portal has been developed and built up to its form, and (c) become familiar with how different users, local museums and the National Museum of Denmark, use the database in their workflow.

Dr. Andres Dobat’s lecture in Kulturhuset Skanderborg (Photo: Ville Rohiola).

The statistics of the first two months show that almost 800 users have already registered to the platform and almost half of them have made a notification of a find to the database. The number of finds after two months was about 7 000 which is a great amount. At this point, most of the local museums working with metal detecting finds are initiating to use DIME in their workflow. The platform seems well received by its users and the feedback has been positive.

The travel of one and a half week included meetings with people from different institutions working with DIME. In Aarhus, most of the time was spent in and the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies of Aarhus University. After visiting Museum Skanderborg, the day continued in Kulturhuset Skanderborg with lecture by Associate Professor Andres S. Dobat, the DIME project leader from Aarhus University and SuALT’s international partner. In his public lecture, Dobat presented DIME and showed new possibilities to work with metal detecting finds. The lecture audience, mainly local metal detectorists, followed the lecture intensely and the room’s atmosphere was filled with co-operation.

Moesgaard Museum (Photo: Ville Rohiola).

After Aarhus, the mobility continued in Odense where Rohiola visited Odense By Museer. In the local museum, it was possible to observe how the museum archaeologists as public officers deal with metal detecting finds. The last stop of the travel was Copenhagen where Rohiola visited the National Museum of Denmark and met people working with Danefae finds, a declared treasure trove find in Danish. The conversations about metal detecting process and tour in different units of the National Museum were very interesting.

The National Museum of Denmark (Photo: Ville Rohiola).

The research mobility in Denmark indicated clearly the reasons why Danish metal detecting archaeology is internationally renowned. One of the main reasons is that Danish archaeology has had a close and long-standing cooperation with metal detectorists. It is the result of a liberal model of metal detecting where focus is on cooperation and inclusion. DIME is a good example and continuity to that – a new way to put even more effort to the cooperation among people working together with collectively shared cultural heritage.

Observations from Oklahoma: Responsible and Responsive Stewards

By Suzie Thomas

During my research mobility period to the University of Oklahoma, I have been able to learn much about how the archaeologists and anthropologists here work to engage with the wider public. One key area of great interest to my colleagues at OU – especially SuALT Expert Advisory Panel member Prof Bonnie Pitblado – is the impact of artefact hunting and collecting in the region. Through talking to members of the Oklahoma Public Archaeology Network (OKPAN) and through accompanying Prof Pitblado and others on visits to collectors’ homes, I have learned that collecting is a long tradition for many current enthusiasts – who in some cases are perhaps the second or even third generation within their family to collect artefacts.

In the context of Oklahoma, the majority of collected artefacts tend to be lithics, often from Palaeo-Indian cultures such as the Dalton and Clovis typologies. The collectors I have met tend to take very good care of the items in their stewardship, and they have detailed notes and documentation, as well as sometimes engaging anecdotes about their own stories of acquisition, which add to the individual object’s biographies. The scale, and long history of collecting, means that to ignore or discount these private individuals that have amassed material but also knowledge (both of the artefacts and of the landscapes in which they were found), would be a disservice to archaeological research, as is the case with many documented metal-detected finds in Europe. It is also unfair and oftentimes inaccurate to assume that the existence of these collections automatically means a fascination only with the objects’ intrinsic (monetary) value, or that the collectors and searchers of this material are automatically deliberate law-breakers. For this reason, Prof Pitblado and others talk about the notion of Responsible and Responsive stewards.

Responsible stewards are those individuals who are – quite literally – taking on a stewardship role, taking care of cultural material and ensuring that it stays together. One collector that I have come to know has even gone to the lengths of spending his own money to buy collections of older artefact hunters (sometimes active way back in the early 20th century) in order to ensure that their field notes and collections stay together for future researchers to access. This has been in contrast with the alternative outcome, which would have been that the objects and papers dissipate onto the market through relatives who are less interested in the collection and look simply to sell or otherwise dispose of their inheritances. An active non-professional researcher himself with several published archaeological articles to his name and a history of working alongside professional archaeologists, and with a long term plan to bequest his collections to the Sam Noble Museum in the city of Norman, this person is most certainly a responsible steward of the objects for which he cares.

Some of the lithic artefacts on display at the Sam Noble Museum, Norman, Oklahoma.

Responsive stewards, by contrast, may not yet be at the stage of fully documenting and allowing access to their collections in a way that maximizes their research value, and may even be engaging in irresponsible practices such as removing objects from the ground without due care and find spot recording. However, as Prof Pitblado and others have noted already elsewhere, many if not most people are prepared to change their practices with regard to artefact hunting and collection, once the importance of doing this – such as the greater richness of archaeological knowledge to be gained – is pointed out to them. Another collector that I have met possibly falls into this category. It became apparent that, unfortunately, some objects in their collection were found on land for which permission to remove material would not have been forthcoming (although it is not clear whether this was explained to the collector during their many decades of active searching). Yet at the same time, the collector has kept their finds together, in a situation where many others were also searching on the same land, and likely taking objects away for sale or other forms of dispersal. In addition, this person has for a long time allowed access to their collection to local archaeologists and museum curators, and in recent discussions appears open to digitizing some of their objects so as to allow worldwide access via the web. These people, responding to outreach, communication and education efforts, are hence responsive in their outlook.

Another vitally important aspect of cultural heritage in the USA is that, like Finland, the country is home to indigenous peoples. With some 39 officially recognized Native American Tribes, Oklahoma has one of the largest and most diverse representations of indigenous culture in the USA, with only the states of Alaska and California having more Tribes within their territories. These are essential communities with whom archaeologists and anthropologists must engage, especially as much of the archaeological material discovered in Oklahoma has a direct connection to indigenous cultures represented in the state today. In this regard, Oklahoma has a fascinating and also troubling history, in that – additional to the groups who already lived in the land that now makes up the state of Oklahoma – many more Tribes were displaced to here after white European settlers seized their original habitats. It is not my intention to go into a detailed history in this short blog post, but needless to say that the legacy of this difficult past continues to play out today, and thus involvement with and control over cultural heritage is a particularly important issue for many of the Tribes in the present.

Section of the Chickasaw Cultural Center exhibition in Sulphur, Oklahoma, depicting the difficult migration of the Chickasaw people to Oklahoma from Mississippi in the nineteenth century, along the so-called “Trail of Tears”.

I have had a truly instructive and enriching experience thus far, simply observing and learning about the patient and inclusive approaches that Prof Pitblado, Dr Amy Clark, Dr Debra Green and many others at OU are taking with the communities around them. We are similarly aiming to be inclusive and collaborative in our development of SuALT in Finland, and I have really appreciated seeing how the work is going in Oklahoma. Similarly, in early October I had the opportunity to be a guest speaker for the Oklahoma City Chapter of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society – a state-wide society for interested avocationals – at which I was able to present my research on working with non-professionals in the UK and Finland, and to introduce SuALT. I was happy to receive positive feedback from Society members, who seemed very interested in the work we are doing in Finland.

Although a finds-recording scheme such as SuALT does not currently exist in Oklahoma, and the logistics, resourcing issues and legal complications of rolling out such a scheme across the whole of the USA make it virtually impossible and more than a little bit unlikely, discussions here have nonetheless turned to digital possibilities. There are plans afoot within OKPAN, for example, also working with enthusiastic avocationals with an interest in photogrammetry, in making 3D images and even 3D prints of some cultural objects in the future. Placing large archaeological finds databases online – as we have seen already with such as the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and anticipate seeing with SuALT – can open up new research avenues, and allow access to scholars situated far away from the physical collections. There is also a new group in formation – the Gang of Oklahoman First American Researchers (GOFAR) is in early stages of formation, but is collecting ‘gang’ members from academia, from Native American groups, and from the avocational community.

Although I only am at the end of my research mobility in Oklahoma, I have found this an enriching and rewarding experience. My enthusiasm is renewed and I am keen to look even more closely into meaningful ways of increasing community engagement with SuALT – across increasingly diverse community groups – and I feel certain that I have deepened links and possibilities for collaborative partnership between what is happening in Oklahoma, and what I and the excellent SuALT team are trying to do in Finland.