I am so grateful to have experienced MSUDAI. What an amazing group of dedicated individuals! I am now back to the daily rush and hoping I can hang onto all that I’ve learned and absorbed over the last year. I’m not going to lie; I wish I was able to accomplish so much more, but after the final week of the institute, I feel much better than I did in the weeks prior.

I left the institute in 2015 with so much hope that I could master digital skill and build websites for various applications. The reality of my day to day work and the overwhelming frustration I faced just trying to create a personal website using WordPress really depressed me. I didn’t have anyone to turn to for help around my home institution, so I more or less gave up. I am sure I could have spent hours in WordPress forums trying to figure out what I wanted to do; I just didn’t have the patience or time and a personal webpage was definitely not a priority. When I finally conceded to the fact that my accomplishments might be much smaller than my original ambitions, I was able to embark on a worthwhile journey of learning how to work on crowdsourcing applications. I feel good to have developed and implemented something useful that didn’t feel like a waste of time and effort. Maybe one day I will venture back into the world of WordPress and/or building websites; this time way more humble and prepared to put in a lot of work, but for now I am satisfied that I have something to show for the year’s work at MSUDAI.

I set out to develop my first crowdsourcing project with Dan Pett’s help on MicroPasts.org around the archaeological site of Magic Mountain and the collections from this site housed at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS). The major challenges I faced were digesting the all the steps of the workflow and learning to read and edit html and JavaScript. This all became much clearer when I returned to Michigan State for the second installment of the Digital Archaeology Institute and had time to sit down and go over the steps with Dan. I won’t go into detail here about the project since I blogged about it before. However, I will share some final results:

The Magic Mountain crowdsourcing project was created between February 24th and March 1st 2016. It was completed by the first week in May. The entire project was completed without any advertising of its existence to the DMNS community. I can only imagine what kind of a response we might have if people in the Denver region learn they can participate in helping the museum with certain projects. This case study proved to be very successful and we are motivated to develop more projects like this in the future. The project, although complete, can be explored here: http://crowdsourced.micropasts.org/project/magicMountain/task/59239

The Magic Mountain crowdsourcing project was created with a great deal of assistance from Dan and I was a bit confused on all the steps. When I returned to the DAI in 2016, my goals were to create more crowdsourcing projects and to really learn how to build a project on my own.  The projects I chose to work on were not associated with Magic Mountain, but rather with other DMNS Anthropology needs. The first project I created was one using a photo-masking application. This past year I have been creating 3D models of the Egyptian mummies housed at DMNS as part of a larger project to update the science in the Egyptian gallery at the museum. When I came to the institute I already had photos and created models using Agisoft Photoscan. The problem was that my models required more editing to remove some of the background noise and masking each individual photo (roughly 150 per object) is very time consuming. Dan introduced me to the MicroPasts photo-masking application that addresses this exact problem. For this application, photos of the desired object are uploaded to MicroPasts and the general public digitally draws a polygon around the object to “mask” it from the background.

Photo-masking projects in MicroPasts are straightforward and I was comfortable using the existing code almost immediately. Since it was so straightforward and I already had the photos, I was able to launch two projects: one for the lid of a sarcophagus (http://crowdsourced.micropasts.org/project/MummyMes/) and one for the base (http://crowdsourced.micropasts.org/project/MummyMesBase/) while I was attending the institute in 2016. Definitely a confidence booster 🙂

The final project I created while at the institute in 2016 was similar to the Magic Mountain project. Prior to the institute I scanned ten old catalog cards from the DMNS Anthropology Department. These cards contain information on objects in the collection that has not been entered into the digital database (we currently use Emu).  We have roughly 12,000 of these cards. While at the institute I learned how to edit and write code to create the digital forms to compile the information from these cards.  This project was launched and completed in less than a week (http://crowdsourced.micropasts.org/project/DenverAnthro/). In the upcoming months we will be adding more catalog cards to this application, since the return on investment proved to be so worthwhile.

Overall, the Digital Archaeology Institute has taught me many valuable skills. I would still like to branch out in the future and create other digital projects. However, for now I plan to hone my crowdsourcing skills and make full use of the MicroPasts platform by continuing to develop and launch projects. In the immediate future, we plan to continue scanning the catalog cards and uploading them to the template I created. This will keep a number of volunteers busy over the next year and we are very much looking forward to the results.  Thank you to all the participants and instructors at MSUDAI (especially Dan for all your patience with me!) for the amazing yearlong endeavor! I am humbled, motivated, and I have tremendous of respect for anyone working in the land of digital archaeology!