Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bag Catalogs and the Field Laboratory

Yesterday we started our field laboratory portion of the course.  Students will cycle through the field lab to gain basic skills in organizing, cleaning, and error-checking the collections and archival materials. When we were designing the digital forms we made the conscious decision to only maintain a bag catalog tied to the level and feature forms and to not have a separate bag catalog for artifact bags collected from each unit.  While this removes an aspect of redundancy which is designed to avoid errors, it was thought that the digital forms would facilitate the creation of a bag catalog in the field laboratory to assist in error checking, and building a site-wide artifact catalog.  On Monday, while the Field School rested, I explored how to go from the adobe forms to excel to create a usable bag catalog. The pdf forms can be extracted to an excel spreadsheet with ease and it is simple to extract the data from each level form as a row (single line on a relational database) tied to individual units.  To then use these data to create an inventory of bags collected, I wrote a short macro using Visual Basic which primarily uses a For Next routine to collect the six variables collected for each bag, including its bag number, type of artifact (e.g., beads, transferprint ceramic, etc.), the field count of artifacts in the bag, and if it was point-provenienced, the northing, easting, and elevation of that object.  The routine simply copies these data for each level form listed on the excel worksheet as a line to a new bag catalog worksheet.  At this point there is still a bit of cleanup necessary to sort the bags to remove blank spaces between levels and I had to add a "level" field that we are adding by hand in the lab during error checking.  When I get a free moment I will work on the macro to attempt to further streamline these processes.  We are starting to use these "bag catalogs" in the field lab to create lot and specimen numbers to track the collections through the cleaning, analysis, and cataloging process.  Stay tuned for how it will work out!

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