With a week of reflection after departing MSUDAI 2.0, I have come to realize that what I was able to create in the CopperMINeS Digital Atlas is nowhere near a finished product (not a surprise) but is actually a fantastic starting point from which I can build what I envisioned during the inaugural MSUDAI in 2015. Originally I had intended a very dynamic site, with search and filter functions that could group and display sites and artifacts by any number of different attributes. In short, I wanted to be able to query the website to show me Thule fish hooks from Coronation Gulf, Caribou Inuit spear points from the Barrenlands, or Dorset decorative objects from the Foxe Basin, and the website would produce a list of images and their associated sites, with contextual information for both and a geo-spatial display of the distribution of objects and sites. All of this would have been linked to a database that could be updated as new sites and objects were added, and would automatically update the the accessible information on the website as well.
Perhaps the greatest takeaway from MSUDAI over the past year, and during the second session in particular, is gaining an understanding of the correct questions to ask. Creating a digital product that is ‘linked’, ‘dynamic’, and ‘updates automatically’ are complex tasks that require significant amounts of time and effort (and failing, either in public or private). This does not put these features out of reach, but it does create a much better understanding of the digital infrastructure needed to accomplish these tasks, and the workload and workflow to get there. The CopperMINeS Digital Atlas will continue to grow, sometimes in ways that I intend and likely sometimes in ways that I may not have intended but are necessary nonetheless.
The state of the CopperMINeS Digital Atlas at the current moment provides users with the ability to explore the distribution of archaeological sites that have evidence of copper technologies. Interaction with the sites themselves is limited to generating a popup that has the site name and the number of copper artifacts that have been found at the site. A select few link out to an artifacts page that contains thumbnail and high-resolution images of a selection of artifacts from that site. The main page also contains tabs to link to contextual information about indigenous copper technologies from around the world, the geological formation of native (pure) geological copper, experimental archaeological reconstructions of production methods, and a linked bibliography of further resources for those interest in northern indigenous metallurgy.
As of the time of this writing, there are a few inevitable kinks that are being ironed out after the site officially launched at the end of MSUDAI 2.0. Currently the archaeological sites and images of artifacts have been removed from the website, although the archaeological sites will be put back up soon and I am confident that the images will be back up soon as well. In the spirit of publicly failing, I will briefly discuss the issues that I have run into. I left it until later than I should have to iron out copyright and use agreements with all of the various institutions that I have worked with for the past few years. It should be no surprise that individual institutions will have different requirements for different types of information, but I recently ran into an instance where I had explicitly conflicting requirements from two different institutions. Essentially, it boiled down to what information is deemed confidential (and therefore restricted from the site) and what information is deemed necessary to include for copyright (and therefore essential to include on the site). In some cases, a single type of information was determined to be both confidential and necessary by different institutions, resulting in my need to remove that data until specific guidelines could be established. Ultimately, I am very grateful to everyone involved who are working with me to find a way forward and facilitate this project. They could have just as easily resisted it, and I am happy they also see the value.
So stay tuned. More will be coming, and the CopperMINeS Digital Atlas will continue to grow and adapt, as all research does. I am looking forward to seeing where it takes me.
Check it out if you’re interested – http://wanderer33third.github.io/MINeS/index.html