Vol. XXVII, No. 1 — April, 2014


Articles in Vol. XXVII, No. 1

Reading on the Web
New systems bring simpler approaches.
-- Andrea Vianello

Digital Data — Ur of the Chaldees: Making a Virtual Vision Possible
Making old information fit the modern world.
-- William B. Hafford

Website Review: National Register of Cultural Monuments (of Estonia)
An exemplar for a national cultural database.
-- Andrea Vianello

Preserving Photographs
The ADS is already doing this.
-- Harrison Eiteljorg, II

The Time Has Come: CSA Newsletter Ceases Publication
All good things must come to an end.
-- Harrison Eiteljorg, II

The CSA Newsletter Over the Years
Topics, authors, and approaches have varied.
-- Harrison Eiteljorg, II

The Future of Digital Technology in Archaeology
What is in store for us in the future?
-- Harrison Eiteljorg, II

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The CSA Newsletter Over the Years

Harrison Eiteljorg, II

(See email contacts page for the author's email address.)

Since this is the last issue of the CSA Newsletter, it seems a good time to look back at the history of the newslettter.

The first issue of the CSA Newsletter — both pages of it — appeared in May of 1988. This is the first (and last) issue of volume 27, making it the 88th issue. (Publication was quarterly for the first 9 years and thrice-per-year thereafter.) The first issue followed a workshop held at the annual meeting of the AIA in New York. Many of those who attended the workshop had added their names to a piece of paper circulated there, and that list provided the first mailing list for the newsletter (a mailing list that, if memory serves, grew to about 1,500 recipients by the time the newsletter moved exclusively to the web). It seems fitting that we revisit the first issue — and the history of the newsletter over the years — because, as noted elsewhere, this is the final issue of the newsletter.

Early issues of the newsletter were concerned with computer hardware and software, often very basic matters involving operating systems and new hardware that promised better performance. There were also multiple articles about CAD systems. The combination of basic information and information about CAD software reflected two things. First, the general matters were important for any and all users of the then-new personal computers, whether PCs or MACs. Second, I was using CAD software to assist my own archaeological work in new and valuable ways and wanted to share what I was learning. Early issues also focused on survey processes, because they were so intimately tied to the use of CAD software. (Indeed, those early issues included news of booklets produced by CSA to assist those using CAD and/or doing survey work intended for ultimate use in digital settings.)

During the early years there were also many items concerning other kinds of software. Photogrammetry, database design, and various approaches to making pottery profiles appeared in the early issues, as did information of general interest to those just beginning to enter the digital world. In addition, I began a regular series of workshops at the AIA meeting about matters digital, and discussions from those meetings worked their way into the newsletter.

By the time of the third year, issues as diverse as the use of virtual reality software, connecting databases to CAD models, and naming layers in CAD models were being discussed. The following volume contained news of work in various locations, news of new hardware in use at CSA, comments on new digital work at the AIA, and information about various software applications. It was also during that period that CSA announced in the newsletter the opening of the AIA List, a moderated listserv for archaeologists.

By 1992, the digital world was gaining real momentum, and news of conferences and new digital aids became fairly regular. Articles by outside authors began to expand the newsletter as well. Indeed, from that time forward outside authors became more and more important, and CSA's indebtedness to them cannot be overstated.

The issue for November of 1994 saw the first review of a presentation of information in a digital format, in this instance information on a CD-ROM about ancient architecture. The following volume saw the first of many items about electronic publication as well as an item about archiving of computer models. (General archiving issues had already been prominent in the newsletter.) By this time, more and more of the content was authored by scholars unrelated to CSA. In addition, by 1995 reviews of material on CDs (not yet reviews of material on the web) had become more common and regular. The last issue of Volume 8, in February of 1996, was also the issue that announced the opening of the CSA website, though the Newsletter itself did not move exclusively to the web for some time (not until the thirteenth volume in the year 2000).

As time went on, there were more and more articles about specific projects (the Pompeii Forum Project and the CSA Propylaea Project especially), archiving archaeological data, electronic publishing, and reviews of software or CDs (and websites eventually).

As the newsletter and archaeological information became more centered on the web, one of the topics that was regularly discussed was the importance of meeting scholarly needs with materials placed on the web. As early as 1997 newsletter articles began to emphasize the need for scholars to be explicit in web resources about matters of peer review, publication dates, archival preservation, and so on. Indeed, it is a matter of both pride and disappointment that these issues were recognized rather early here but that the comments were then and still are too often ignored by scholars who post material on the web.

During the late 1990s there were more articles about databases — constructing them, documenting them, and preserving them. These, of course, remain matters of considerable importance in the discipline.

At the end of the 1990s reviews of websites were stopped and passed off to the Bryn Mawr Classical Review in a kind of sub-publication of BMCR called the Bryn Mawr Electronic Resources Review. That, as regular readers will recognize, was not particularly successful, and website reviews were brought back to the newsletter in 2005.

During the 1990s considerable attention was paid to scanning and digital images of all kinds, and slide-scanning processes were often discussed.

During the first decade of this century there were a good many articles about arcane but important issues surrounding data formats. It had become obvious that the widespread use of digital data required that all of us have a better understanding of those technical issues that impact the ways data may be retrieved, which meant we all needed to worry about the ways data were stored in the first place. Thus, standards such as ASCII and Unicode were discussed, as were issues about proprietary file formats. Further, there were discussions about moving data from format to format so that the errors introduced by re-entering the information could be avoided. Even the arcane subject of XML was covered.

During this period there were also new digital tools tested and discussed, from the operating system level (Linux) to the such specific issues as the use of software for 3D modeling from photographs.

Once website reviews re-entered the newsletter, they became more common and more useful, often showing both the warts and the beauty of specific design and presentation methods. Indeed, website reviews have been an important part of the newsletter right up to and including this issue. At the same time, surprisingly basic issues were found still to be important, for instance the need for color charts in digital photographs was discussed. Scales had been common for generations, but color charts had been unnecessary when virtually all publications permitted only black-and-white photographs. Putting color photographs on the web changed that, but the use of color charts had not arisen naturally.

It was not until 2006 that a readers' comments feature was belatedly added to the newsletter. Though not often used, this did permit readers to add to the information provided in articles. The newsletter even dallied in quasi-political matters, offering items about network neutrality and data safety while traveling (and perhaps anticipating some of the recent furor over the activities of the NSA).

This issue, with a website review, an article about the digitizing of data from Ur, and another about preservation of old photographs reflects accurately the newsletter of today. The articles are diverse, the subjects tend to be on-going, and the emphases are on the value of technology to archaeologists.

-- Harrison Eiteljorg, II



About this document:

All articles in the CSA Newsletter are reviewed by the staff. All are published with no intention of future change(s) and are maintained at the CSA website. Changes (other than corrections of typos or similar errors) will rarely be made after publication. If any such change is made, it will be made so as to permit both the original text and the change to be determined.

Comments concerning articles are welcome, and comments, questions, concerns, and author responses will be published in separate commentary pages, as noted on the Newsletter home page.