I had no idea when I outlined my project last summer that my University of Minnesota partner Professor Kathryn Hayes would create so many great resources I could use for it. Over the winter, Kathryn Hayes’ students have completed the digitization of all of the historic and excavation maps for Fort Snelling. They were also able to geo-reference (almost) all of them. Their work will enable me to get good location data for most of the provenience units in the Short Barracks collections data set.

I also had no plans last summer to connect the Fort Snelling collections data with anything like virtual reality, but the University of Minnesota tech team shared the 360 degree imaging they did on the Short Barracks building. Their 360 files will potentially allow me to use a great resource that already exists – the reconstructed historic Fort Snelling buildings. In exploring the possibilities offered by the 360 images, I found a virtual tour online for the American Museum of Natural History that uses embedded links to more information. I think this kind of virtual tour could work really well for the collections data I want to highlight. I set up a meeting in June with the UMn staff to discuss ways we could collaborate on an AMNH-like demo of the Short Barracks.

Matt Cassady, the interpretive specialist for Fort Snelling, is particularly interested in the possibility of a 360 virtual tour. One of his goals is to provide access to the site online for anyone who can’t tour the site in person and to give school groups who go on real world tours ways to explore the site further. I would like to see insights from the archaeological research woven into the interpretation at the site rather than the way it is now where it is treated as a separate aspect.

I am still focusing my interpretative efforts on the musical instrument keys recovered from the bottom of the Short Barracks excavations. Matt told me about a reference that says army musicians were housed in the basement of the Short Barracks in the late 1820s. The archaeology data confirms this chronology and can even show exactly what part of the basement they were in. I think this data could segue to more information about the role of music in the military – do the keys come from band instruments, a fife, or a keyed bugle? Bugles were used primarily for communication not entertainment. This could also link to a new volunteer fife and drum corps initiative at the fort for students who would like to learn more about military music.

I need to have open, reusable data to realize the interpretive parts of my project and I reached a key project milestone in the last month – draft publication of my data in Open Context. Preparing my data for publication gave me a chance to realize a long term goal. Eric Kansa walked me through queries to the Getty’s Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) SPARQL endpoint to retrieve resource identifiers (URIs) for the AAT terms in my data set. Now I don’t just have descriptive data that is semantically clear, I have data that can play a part in linked open data discovery and research!