Tuesday, January 14, 2014

1/14/14 - One Excellent Resource, Legacy, Metal Detecting Argonne Lost Battalion, and More

Written by the TreaureGuide for the exclusive use of treasurebeachesreport.blogspot.com.

South Indian River Drive Washout.
The problem is changing.  There was a time when you could own all of the best books on a subject, or pretty nearly so.  Now that we've moved largely from a hard copy world to a digital world, there is even more at your fingertips, but it can be difficult to find what you want.  The problem is often not that the information is not available, the problem very often is sifting through the tons and tons of available but poorly organized information to find what is relevant to you and your question.

You can easily find information on an individual with a unique name, but try to find information on a particular John Smith.  You'll find tons and tons of information on John Smith, but finding the specific information on a particular John Smith will be difficult because of the vast amount of John Smith information you'll have to sift through to find that one particular John Smith.  It will be a real challenge.

Why am I talking about this?   It is a very practical issue.  I can give any of an endless variety of examples.

A day or two ago I found a couple of bottles I needed to research: a Milkette bottle and a Coca Cola bottle.  You might think that there would be more information on the Coca Cola bottle than the Milkette bottle.   And I think that is probably true, but I found the information I wanted on the Milkette bottle, but not yet the Coca Cola bottle.

When looking up the Coca Cola bottle, I found tons of information on Coca Cola bottles, but haven't managed to sift through the vast amount of information on Coca Cola bottles to find information on the specific Coca Cola bottle that I was interested in.

I hope someone can provide a little information on that Fort Pierce straight-side Coca Cola bottle.

The problem is very much like hunting a public park picnic area where nobody has ever metal detected before.   Too many signals!   It makes it difficult to pick out the few good targets that might actually be of interest.

Too much information can be a problem unless it is well organized and properly coded.

In archaeology today there are actually too many artifacts.  Too many artifacts, not too few?   What kind of craziness is that?   Can there be so many insignificant artifacts that add nothing to the knowledge base that it becomes difficult to maintain and access more significant examples?   Could it be that 99% of the items sitting in basements actually do more harm than good by becoming a wasteful distraction and drain on precious resources?  Is it possible, or practical, to claim and preserve everything that has been left behind over the last million years?  I think the answer to that is obvious.

What is needed in the public trust is not a million more redundant or insignificant objects.  I know there will be questions like how can you know what will become significant in the future?  I could take the time to answer that question, but won't right now.

What is needed are very focused questions and studies and a very clear set of priorities - not an endless collection of anything and everything extending back to the Big Bang.

I ran across a very useful resource produced by the SCIAA, Legacy.   

One article in the lastest issue was On the Importance of Proper Curation of Collections, by Chester B. DePratter.

Some collections are well curated, and some are not so.  The article talks about that.  Many artifacts are stored in boxes in bed rooms and are difficult to locate and many go missing.

It can be difficult to locate the information needed simply because there is so much and it isn't in a coordinated comprehensive database or anything.

It appears to me that archaeology needs to spend more time effort organizing and providing better access to what has been collected and what is already known rather than adding more random stuff that doesn't add anything but rather becomes a deterrent.

WWI Metal Detector Finds
Figure From the Argonne Article in Legacy.
Link below.
Another article in the same issue was about a metal detecting project to learn the who, what and whens of the Lost Battalion in the Argonne during WW I.   You might enjoy reading that article too.  It was written by James Legg and begins on page 13.  They benefited from much that had already been documented and was already available through military records.

Artifacts can now be studied, photographed and stored as 3-D digital images and made accessible to the public.  In my opinion much can be gained from better use of present collections rather than adding an infinite number of insignificant redundancies to our public collections.

I'm not saying there is no need to maintain physical collections, but there is "less" need to accumulate and endless collections of random or redundant physical artifacts.  The need, in my opinion, is to get more existing examples properly coded in a digital form and organized for easy access. That requires judgement and decision making, which is not required by the "collect everything and anything you can lay your hands on" attitude that seems to prevail.

The public picks up the tab and has a right to be able to access artifacts and knowledge derived from the projects that they pay for.  Failing to move more fully into the digital world, piles of unstudied artifacts are being collected but poorly curated.  Not only is the public short changed, but archaeologists are too.

Another Figure From an Article in Legacy.
Source: link to the right.

One "must read" in this issue for the readers of this blog is Recording the Beginnings of South Carolina River Diving by Drew Ruddy, which begins on page 18 of this issue of Legacy.  It talks about the contributions of hobby divers and the need to document that as history.

Here is the link to the 2013 issue of Legacy that I've been talking about.


You might also take a look at older issues of Legacy.


On the Treasure Coast this morning the wind is out of the West.

I'm expecting West and South winds for a few days.

The surf is small.  The low tides will be decent.

Beach detecting conditions remain poor.

Happy hunting,