Tech Report 7/4/14: Getting Started

In a year of both continuity and new beginnings for the Walhain St. Paul Project, Adam and I are here to investigate the ways GIS, 3D modeling, and other digital tools may be best used for both analysis and presentation of the Chateau and its environs. The information we gather this trip will contribute to the funding push for the next season. If successful, the increased funding will allow us to make this project even more interdisciplinary and innovative by expanding into the fields of rural studies, digital humanities, and historical preservation and museum studies while continuing to offer a unique excavation experience for undergrads. One of our first tasks as the tech team is to check out the site’s archive – 16 years’ worth of photographs, site drawings, artifacts, field notes, etc. – to see what we’ve got and how we can use it. The good news is that the Centre de recherches d’archeologie national (CRAN) WSP archive is full of wonderful material meticulously collected over the past 16 years. Come to think of it, there really isn’t any bad news, except that Ross’s luggage still hasn’t arrived. If it doesn’t come tomorrow, we’re planning a rescue mission for Sunday (which probably guarantees it will be on its way here as we ride the train to Brussels to retrieve it). Anyway, most of the site drawings have been digitized, which is great. Many of the photographs since 2005 or 2006 are also in digital form, saving someone (probably me) the task of scanning hard copy photos. The first 8 years of excavation were documented using a film camera, but in more good news, we discovered that there is a high-volume scanner in the room right next door to the archive! Our very own special find!

I’m excited to start putting together a comprehensive map of the site. It’s going to be a complex and time consuming project, but in the end we hope to be able to bring together 16 years (and counting) of excavation and make it searchable by a whole bunch of attributes, including estimated year of construction, year of excavation, artifact type, feature, field type, etc., etc., etc. At this point we’re still brainstorming ideas of how best to organize the material – we want to get it at least close to right the first time around so we don’t have to go back in later and reenter data. It occurs to me as I type this that I should probably post a basic intro to GIS for historical projects. I will do that in the next couple of days – stay tuned!

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