IATH joins Monticello in a Consortium to Advance the Archaeological Study of Slave Societies

March 19, 2013

IATH is partnering with Monticello on an innovative collaborative project designed to advance the archaeological study of slavery in North America and the Caribbean, thanks to a recently announced grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The new project, “The DAACS Research Consortium,” will allow participating faculty and students from leading graduate programs, as well as museum-based scholars, to contribute data from archaeological collections they curate to an internet-accessible digital archive, the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS). The grant from Mellon provides two years of funding totaling $450,000.

The DAACS Research Consortium brings together faculty from the University of North Carolina (Anna Agbe-Davies), Boston University (Mary Beaudry), The College of William and Mary (Frederick Smith), The University of Tennessee (Barbara Heath), Northwestern University (Mark Hauser), Syrcuse University (Douglas Armstrong) and the University of South Carolina’s Institute for Archaeology and Anthropology (Charlie Cobb). The consortium also includes archaeologists at Mount Vernon, Drayton Hall, and the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.

IATH will be helping to develop a new software infrastructure that will allow geographically dispersed collaborators to digitize, analyze, and share their data with one another and eventually with the wider archaeological community via the DAACS website. Consortium partners will use an ordinary web browser to enter data from their excavations into the DAACS database and to look for and compare patterns across geographically scattered sites dug by different archaeologists.

The grant also funds training for consortium members in DAACS data structures and classification and measurement protocols that will ensure their contributions to the database conform to the community-developed standards on which the analytical potential of DAACS data depends. The project provides training, especially for graduate students, in relational database technology and quantitative methods to discover and make sense of hidden patterns of variation in archaeological data. The collaborators will complete a case study using the new database application to digitize and analyze artifacts and context records from an excavation project and make those data publicly available on the DAACS website.

DAACS is based in the Archaeology Department at Monticello, with major funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, the Reed Foundation, and Monticello.