Thursday, November 29, 2012

PAS Harnesses the Power of the Public

The Art Newspaper has written favorably about the PAS and its efforts to record evidence of the past in Britain and Wales.  Of course, the PAS records coins and other artifacts, but this effort has fostered academic research as well.  As the article explains:

The information provided by members of the public over the last 15 years is available for all to see on the PAS database. This now contains around 810,000 items and spans objects dating from the Stone Age to Anglo-Saxon, Roman, medieval, and post-medieval times. Every entry includes archaeological information on the object in question, details of where it was discovered and often incorporates notes of scholarly interest. The database provides a historical snapshot of human settlement in England and Wales and is an awesome example of what can be achieved by harnessing the power of the public.

“It’s now a major academic resource,” says Bland. “There are 66 people using it for their PhDs and 140 other post-graduate students or undergraduates using it for their dissertations as well as around 12 major funded research projects [working on it], one of them with £150,000 from the Leverhulme Trust to allow us to analyse the factors underlying the data.”

Given these successes, it's hard to understand the hostility still shown it in parts of the archaeological blogosphere and the unwillingness to consider whether it can be adapted in some fashion in countries like Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, and Italy. 

The amounts spent on PAS would seem to give far more "bang for the buck" (or perhaps pound in this case) than many archaeological programs.  Perhaps the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and USAID should consider funding a pilot program in a source country like Bulgaria. The costs could be minimal compared to the amounts spent on archaeology in places like Iraq and Egypt.

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