Where is the library, or is it an archive? Assessing the impact and implications of archaeological information collections

Monday, June 16, 2014 (All day) to Friday, June 20, 2014 (All day)

Presentation at the Libraries in the Digital Age LIDA 2014 conference in Zadar, Croatia. 

Introduction: While nations have made considerable investments in creating technologies, infrastructures and standards for digitisation, preservation and dissemination of archaeological heritage, there is relatively little indepth research on the impact and implications of the efforts. 

Literature review: We know a lot about technical and practical challenges in the different phases of producing and using archaeological information, but significantly less on how the practices, technical, theoretical and administrative, decisions affect and influence consequtive use and reuse of information. Swedish Fornsök (www.fornsok.se) database has information on over 1,7 million entities, Dutch archaeology data service has over 17000 datasets and reports and Italian ministry of culture has been estimated to have about 2 million records in their digital archaeological archive. 

Theoretical framework: The theoretical framework of the study is based on the ecological approach to information work studies (Huvila, 2008) and Pickering's theorising on the relation of material entities and human practices.

Research questions: The aim of the presentation is to discuss preliminrary results from an interview study of Swedish professionals working with the management of archaeological information. The main question discussed in the presentation is assess how the conceptualisations and practices of managing analogue and digital collections of archaeological information, and those of the nature of the archaeological information itself, influence their outcomes. What difference does it make if a professional is working with a 'digital archive' of geographic information, 'library' of grey literature, or a 'collection' of physical information (i.e. artefacts). How it might change the provided information service, and the work and activity of its users.

Methods: Content analysis of interview transcripts.

Analysis: The study discusses how the interviewees conceptualise their work and its constituents, and how the various corpora of archaeological information they are working with relate to the notions, purported functionalities and definitions of digital libraries, archives, museums and information infrastructures. 

Results: The analysis shows that the ways how informants conceptualised and practiced their work and its constituents relate to how they see its potential impact and context of relevance.

Conclusions: The practical conceptualisations of information and information systems are related to their usability and usefulness in different contexts. 

Literature: Kintigh, K. The Promise and Challenge of Archaeological Data Integration. American Antiquity, 2006, 71 (3), 567-578. Kansa, E. C.; Kansa, S. W. & Watrall, E. (ed.) Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UC Los Angeles, 2011. Huvila, I. Steps towards a participatory digital library and data archive for archaeological information. Proceedings of the 10th Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA) 2009 Conference. Dubrovnik and Zadar, Croatia, 2009, 149-159. Huvila, I. To whom it may concern? The users and uses of digital archaeological information. Posluschny, A.; Lambers, K. & Herzog, I. (ed.) CAA 2007. Computer Applications and Quantitative methods in Archaeology, Dr. Rudolph Habelt Gmbh, 2008.

Keywords: digital libraries, digital archives, concepts, impact, archaeology

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