Digital Editions of Objects and Classes: The Conspectus as an online system of relations and references
Katja Rösler is a project team member at RGK Frankfurt concerned with research data management. She has studied Pre- and Protohistory at the Universities of Regensburg and Frankfurt and graduated with a PhD at the University of Freiburg with a specialisation on theories and methods of classification and the history of concepts in Archaeology. Her current research interest is the history of computer use and databases in archaeological research.
Frederic Auth has studied Software Engineering at University of Applied Sciences Wiesbaden and Provincial Roman Archaeology at Goethe-University Frankfurt/Main. For the last ten years he has been involved in software projects in- and outside of archaeology. Currently he works as a research assistant in a research data management project at RGK Frankfurt. His research interests are digitalisation in archaeology in general, databases of ‚things‘, open source in archaeology and gis-related analysis methods.
Wenke Domscheit works at the RGK in Frankfurt as a research assistant for the research data management project at RGK Frankfurt. She graduated 2018 at the University of Hamburg in prehistoric archaeology. Her special field of research are cemeteries of Bronze and Iron Age in Northern Germany. During her studies she worked for different database projects e.g. the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
Kerstin P. Hofmann
Kerstin P. Hofmann is Deputy Director of the RGK. She directs the research area “Crossing Frontiers in Iron Age and Roman Europe (CrossFIRE)” and the research project “Ding-Editionen” of the RGK. She studied Prehistoric Archaeology with a minor in informatics at Kiel and Cologne. One of her current research interests is the analysis of knowledge production and its transformation due to digitalisation.
Editions of objects are a specific form of publication in archaeological science and play a central role in comparative and classifying research. They comprise lists, tables, catalogues, atlases and corpora (Hofmann et. al. 2019: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0048-dai-edai-f.2019-2-2236). As part of a research data management project of the Zentralen Wissenschaftlichen Dienste (central scientific services) of the DAI (www.dainst.org), at the RGK Frankfurt we are currently transferring editions of objects to the semantic web and utilising the possibilities virtuality offers. The selection of editions follows three criteria: most importantly the edition has to be widely accepted and continuously used in the scientific community. Hereby substantial metadata can be extracted and there will most likely be a longstanding requirement for the data. Furthermore, the editions should be published in the DAI or its departments so that copyrights and publication rights are ensured. Finally, the data of the edition should be set out in a form that enables them to be transferred to a database (DB), and data related illustrations should be available.
The Conspectus Formarum Terrae Sigillatae Italico Modo Confectae (https://zenon.dainst.org/Record/000255878; in the following just Conspectus) is an edition of objects, i. e. of plain Terra Sigillata (TS) (also known as Samian Ware), that meets the criteria mentioned above. But other than being an edition of objects it is a revision of prior classes and a synthesis of prior classifications: It is an edition of classes.
It was compiled in the years between 1986 and 1990 by leading specialists for TS, all of them members of the learned society Rei Cretariae Romanae Fautores (https://www.fautores.org/). Their aim was to overcome the usual geographically bounded classification that is based on the analysis of production sites, contexts or chronology. Instead they »have tried to systematize that knowledge in such a way that future researchers will find it helpful as a framework within which to arrange their own perceptions and on which to hang future accretions of knowledge« [Conspectus, p. 2] An open and future-oriented framework is a defining component of DBs (Burkhardt 2015: https://doi.org/10.14361/9783839430286-007) – but the data were not recorded in a DB, although the technical possibilities were already at hand in the discipline (Rösler 2016: https://www.academia.edu/38924456/) .
Thus, the current transferral of the Conspectus’ data into a relational DB is facilitated by their conceptual framework and their system of categories. And beyond the mere reproduction of the conspectus, and by detachment from paper, the data can now be worked with: it can be corrected, updated, added, externally linked, and represented in numerous contexts.
In our contribution to the conference we would like to refer to the following topics:
- The data of the Conspectus should be presented in a relational DB. As the metadata can and will be represented in other digital environments such as the iDAI.world (https://idai.world/), the classification and classes can themselves be represented in a relational DB. It is the classification system that reflects relations examined by the scientific community, and in our view this knowledge should be displayed as well.
- The framework of virtuality allows us to play with the representation of data. We would like to introduce a representational tool for the combination of rim-, wall- and base-forms of vessels that is based on open-source software.
- Open Data should not only mean data for free use, but it should also ensure the provision of access to the origin of the context the data was or is represented in, if possible. In the case of the Conspectus we are working on a historical and epistemological analysis of its development, and we would like to present some results and discuss their contribution to the provision of high quality data.