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.

SuALT took part in the HELDIG Summit 2018

The HELDIG Summit 2018 was held on the 23rd of October. This year the Summit presented diverse topics about ongoing projects surrounding the Finnish Digital Humanities Infrastructure landscape with the theme “Infrastructures for Digital Humanities”.

During the day we heard about what services are available at the moment and what is still being developed. The day started with an excellent keynote lecture by professor Charles van den Heuvel from Huygens Institute and University of Amsterdam. In his talk “Infrastructures and Interfaces for Digital Humanities Research: Dutch Experiences and Expectations” professor van der Heuvel stressed the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration and data management skills. Digital Humanities is not only interface design, it’s also important to ask the right questions of the data through research.

After this followed 22 presentations, including a short presentation by Ville Rohiola, Anna Wessman and Mikko Koho from SuALT. In the paper we presented the project and its aims shortly.

Anna Wessman, Mikko Koho and Ville Rohiola presented the SuALT project. Photo: Eero Hyvönen.

The outcome of the day hopefully underlined to everyone that digital humanities is a rapidly growing field, and an increasing number of projects are already applying digital methods to their studies. During the Summit it also became clear that there is an enormous potential offered by digitalisation. All the new available methods, techniques and software tools offer advantages that we could not even dream about 10 years ago and the development is rapid. Furthermore, we learned that there is a need for closer collaboration between scholars in the field of Humanities and Computer Science. These new digital projects need deep knowledge of both the source materials and applicable computational methods in order to succeed. That is why it is important that the different disciplines work hard to understand each other.

DIME has launched!

SuALT’s cousin project in Denmark, DIME (Digitale Metaldetektorfund/Digital Metal Finds), is since September 20th available online. During its launch day DIME had 6.700 visitors, 289 new users and 760 finds submitted, which tells that this is a true success story from the beginning.

 

DIME is a database where amateur archaeologists including metal detectorists can register their finds. There are among 4000 metal detectorists in Denmark. The detectorist community can from now on self-record their finds into a digital platform with the help of their mobile phones. DIME is also a tool for researchers and the public. Through DIME people can now see different kind of artefacts and follow where in Denmark they have been found.

DIME is one of the biggest crowd-sourcing and citizen-science projects ever in Danish archaeology. It is a research project between three museums (Moesgaard Museum, Odense City Museums, the Historical Museum of Northern Jutland) and the University of Aarhus in collaboration with the KROGAGERFONDEN Foundation. The project leader Dr Andres Dobat from Aarhus University is also project partner for SuALT.

SuALT visits British Museum and ARIADNE

Jouni Tuominen and Eero Hyvönen from the Linked Data team of the SuALT project, Aalto University and HELDIG – Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities, visited our colleagues in United Kingdom for a 10-day trip in June–July 2018. The main goal of the trip was to gather and evaluate the experiences of our British collaborator, Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) for implementing the forth-coming SuALT system in Finland, and to investigate possibilities of reusing and linking the data in British databases. The trip also included a visit to York university and the ARIADNE EU infrastructure project on archeological data.

Our trip started at the British Museum by visiting the head of PAS, Michael Lewis, and Ian Richardson, treasure registrar, who introduced us to the Treasury department and PAS and the national processes for dealing with finds. The PAS finds database was started in 1998 and it contains now some 1,361,000 objects within 870,000 records, being the largest of its kind in the world. The work covers England and Wales and is systematically funded and organized: the work is coordinated by the British Museum PAS office, and includes some 40 Field Liaison Officers (FLO) collaborating with the metal detectorists locally in different counties and collecting the find reports.

The impressive inner court of the British Museum

In UK, a find is considered a “treasure” if it is a metallic object with at least 10 percent gold or silver, and if it is at least 300 years old. The Treasure Act, passed in 1996, states that such a treasure has to be reported to the local Coroner within 14 days for evaluation. The state has the right to purchase the find, if it is considered worth it, and the value of the find is evaluated based on its market price by a national committee. In some case the price can be substantial. For example, the price for famous Staffordshire hoard now on display at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery was deemed worth over 2 million pounds. Typically, the price money is divided between the landowner and the finder. In PAS some 12,000 treasures have been reported thus far of which 3,800 were acquired by over 200 museums. Most common finds include medieval and post-medieval jewelleries, dress accessories, and belt buckles.

Anglo-Saxon England objects of the Staffordshire Hoard at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from the 7th century

We were kindly invited to the semiannual PAS general meeting, which hosted most of the FLOs of PAS. We also had a chance to visit the FLO of the London area, Stuart Wyatt, at the Museum of London, and discuss the matter with Robert Webley, a former FLO. The meetings were a nice opportunity to get to know the experts who are the point of contact for the metal detectorists, learn how they work and record the finds, and advise the finders of best practices. Support like this would be needed in SuALT, too. As FLOs are at work as they are inputting data into PAS, they try to make the data compatible with Historic Environment Records (HER) held by County Councils, District Councils or Unitary Authorities. PAS and HER are two completely different systems, and the the data is exported from PAS into HER. As in Finland, find databases, museum collection databases, and heritage site databases are maintained in their own data silos although these resources are related content wise, which is not an optimal solution. This matter was discussed in a separate PAS/HER working group meeting in Birmingham. A goal of SuALT is mitigate this problem by data linking.

PAS Field Liaison Officers’ semiannual meeting at the British Museum

There was also a possibility to meet the technical developers maintaining the PAS system, i.e., Stephen Moon and Maxwell Keeble from the Information Systems department of the British Museum. We also got a welcome opportunity to meet and have a discussion with Michael Johnson of the London-based L&P Archaeology, a company that is developing DIME, the Danish metal detected find database.

An important use case to the SuALT system will be to use the data for research purposes. PAS data is already been researched in many ways, and we were pleased to have a meeting with Eljas Oksanen, who showed new research results and analyses he and Michael Lewis were working on.

During our stay we also visited Julian Richards and his colleagues at the University of York to discuss Archaeology Data Service (ADS) and the ARIADNE EU infrastructure project. In the same vein as SuALT, ARIADNE is based on Semantic Web technologies. SuALT, via University of Helsinki and HELDIG, is a member in a consortium that has received funding for developing the current ARIADNE infrastructure further (ARIADNEplus).

Meeting prof. Julian Richards (right), Katie Green, and Holly Wright at the University of York working on ARIADNE and ADS infrastructures for archeology

Thanks for staying tuned!