Vol. XII, No. 1

Spring, 1999

Database Design for the Uninitiated - More Recommendations

Harrison Eiteljorg, II

At the most recent meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Chicago there were sessions about computing technology, including one co-chaired by CSA Director Harrison Eiteljorg, II, and Mary Carroll of the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. At one of the other computer-related sessions there were two papers about database design.

One of the papers on databases was presented by a man who described himself as a database designer with no formal archaeological training. He had considerable database experience that he was able to bring to bear on his work for a contract archaeology firm. The other speaker did not characterize his background but seemed to have been an archaeologist who had also learned a good deal about database design.

The contrast between the two talks was telling and provided more information for those who must try to find help with creating project databases. Specifically, they offered some guidance for the process of finding database specialists to work on projects.

The database designer spoke in clear English, used good archaeological examples, and made a good case for his ideas. He avoided jargon and made himself very clear.

The other speaker, though far more conversant with archaeological issues, reveled in computer-speak, trotted out much of the database specialistsí favorite jargon, and generally left mystified those members of the audience who could stay awake through the presentation.

The moral of the story: If you cannot understand database specialists, that does not mean they are good; it only means they can use (sling?) the jargon. When you need database help, find someone

-- Harrison Eiteljorg, II

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For other Newsletter articles concerning the use of electronic media or databases in the humanities, consult the Subject index.

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