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Building a Zooarchaeology Network and the value of linked open data

  Posted by Carla Cicero , 12 December 2016 · 438 views

Many years ago, when we created the first vertebrate data portal, we quickly became aware that there are many differences across museum collections.  Some subtle, some glaring.  Each discipline, not just vertebrates, utilizes its own social and technical practices to record and preserve data.  And even within very similar types of collections, institutions add their own particular spin to how they report and manage their data.

Zooarchaeological collections are a great example of a very different sort of collection from what everyone might consider to be typical museum collections and often contain a wide range of biological specimens, both vertebrate and non-vertebrate.  One major distinction between these specimens and those with which we usually work, is that they were uncovered during the excavation of cultural heritage sites and are associated with information not usually connected to other specimens including content describing their location within sites (i.e. its provenience), human use, and other interesting information.

Despite these differences, or maybe because of them, we’ve created a new project called ZooArchNet.  ZooArchNet is a joint effort between the VertNet team and the University of Florida, in collaboration with Open Context.  The goal is to mobilize zooarchaeological specimen data in a way that is Darwin Core compliant, but still includes crucial cultural context information necessary for these data to be as useful as possible for interdisciplinary research.

We’re super excited about this project and with what we’ve been able to accomplish so far, especially the approach we’ve developed with our friends at Open Context to leverage a linked open data implementation.  We will populate site identifiers in the dwc:locationID field that is shared with the same identifiers used by Open Context, so when you get zooarchaeological data from VertNet, you can easily discover (and view) the data describing site context by following the hyperlink to Open Context.  

So far we have published just one dataset in this way, with more on the way (See the Parnell Site, Feature 1 Zooarchaeological Data dataset in the VertNet data portal).  Although we’re announcing our efforts to share zooarchaeological data now, VertNet has included these data for a long time.  Those datasets, however, lack the crucial contextual information that we’re trying to expose.

The creation of ZooArchNet is just beginning. If you are already making zooarchaeological specimens available via VertNet, and want to enhance their value further, or if you have data you’d like us to help you to publish, give us a holler!  We’d love to make those data available for research, education, and more!


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