Lichliter Project - Introduction

"The Lichliter Project: A Model for Revealing Hidden Archaeological Collections"

The contents of this webpage and associated documents are the result of a two-year project undertaken by the Dayton Society of Natural History (DSNH), a non-profit organization in Dayton, Ohio.  The project was generously funded by a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) in 2014 under an initiative titled "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives: Building a New Research Environment."  The purpose of this initiative was to fund proposals that would result in the cataloging of hidden museum collections of national significance using innovative methods that would have a broad impact on the scholarly community.  We extend our deepest gratitude to CLIR and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous funding of our proposal and we are especially grateful to the CLIR staff for their support throughout the project.

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The project goal was to catalog an archaeological research collection from the prehistoric Lichliter site, one of the most significant (yet poorly reported) archaeological sites in the Ohio River Valley.  The Lichliter site was the subject of an extensive excavation by DSNH from 1962 to 1970, but the collection (including artifacts, maps, notes, and photographs) had remained in the possession of the original investigator until its return to DSNH in 2012.  During this half-century, many scholars expressed interest in the collection to DSNH, but its physical absence made it impossible to analyze, report, or even summarize what had been found.  Thanks to the original investigator Virginia Gerald and the dedicated efforts of her family, the collection was safely returned to DSNH where it could be catalogued and made available to the scholarly community.

The Lichliter collection represented an unprecedented opportunity for DSNH to apply a new tool: the software package ArcheoLINK, created as an all-in-one solution for managing archaeological collections and data.  Although ArcheoLINK had been used widely in Europe for many years by this time, only a handful of American clients had used the software and it had not yet been envisioned as a potential museum curation tool.  After a demonstration of the software's capabilities, DSNH staff realized that ArcheoLINK was not only a strong solution for processing the Lichliter collection, but that the underlying concepts upon which the software is based represent a new paradigm in organizing archaeological collections and data.

The proposed project was conceived to have two important outcomes: 1) access to archaeological data pertaining to a cultural period of national significance, and 2) the application of the ArcheoLINK model to a North American dataset illustrating an efficient approach for cataloging archaeological research collections and associated data.  Those results are presented here in the following sections along with finding aids and data about the site collection.  In addition to the significance of the collection for furthering our knowledge of this important cultural period, the Lichliter site is an excellent case study to illustrate a new paradigm for the curation of archaeological collections.  The ramifications of this approach have significant implications for excavation methodology and the analysis of archaeological collections.

More information about the project, staff, and Lichliter site can be found here.

Description of Contents

Section I: A New Curation Model for Archaeological Collections

ArcheoLINK is a flexible tool that allows specimens, metadata, maps, and other data to be cross-referenced in an integrated relational database.  In addition to dissolving barriers between these different forms of information, ArcheoLINK has a hierarchical data structure that represents a compatible, but new solution for organizing information that is well suited to the unique requirements of archaeological collections.  This section explains the limitations of existing approaches and how ArcheoLINK represents a new paradigm for curating archaeological research questions.  Related subtopics on eight additional pages are linked within this section.

Section II: Project Summary, Manuals, Terminology

In this section, we provide the details of the project, including: the project training guide; a summary of DSNH's findings; a summary of project specimen processing steps; a summary of project specimen storage; a description of the hardware and storage mediums used in the project; an evaluation of how well ArcheoLINK performed in the context of this project; and the resulting database and finding aids.

Note: Readers unfamiliar with archaeological terms should refer to this glossary.  Students and readers new to the subject are advised to read Curating Archaeological Collections: From the Field to the Repository, by Lynne P. Sullivan and Terry S. Childs (AltaMira Press, 2003), which is an excellent companion piece to this project.  This project is very much in agreement with the ideas of Sullivan and Childs, but is intended to take the discussion further, advocate for the adoption of more specific conventions, and reflects a more contemporary assessment.  Although Sullivan and Child's relatively recent (2003) work continues to accurately reflect the current state of curation in American archaeology, it was written prior to the rapidly evolving digital landscape of recent years.  The rapid advance of new technology in the recent decade alone has introduced new problems and potential solutions, which are the focus of the Lichliter project.

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