Thursday 18 March 2010

New US Artefact Database

Alfredo De La Fe has just announced the imminent launch of a new database which has been in active development for over a year and is currently in "beta". It has interesting possibilities:
1) a collaborative effort of 35+ dealers, collectors and scholars, some of which are among the greatest numismatic minds of our day.
2) it is non-commercial (will be funded by donations and banner ads)
3) it has a board of advisors comprised of collectors, scholars and dealers to ensure that access will always be free and unrestricted
4) it is moderated by specialists and collectors and where literally hundreds can volunteer to help manage an area in which they share an interest
5) anyone can contribute coins from their collection or inventory for consideration to be included in the database
6) It has tens of thousands, with the potential for millions of coins listed with all of the data broken out and fully searchable.
7) Coin legends are actually in the alphabet used (For now Latin and Greek, but electronic java based keyboards in Hebrew, Phoenician, Arabic and other alphabets are planned) and can be searched in those languages
8) Errors can be reported directly to the numismatic experts moderating the category
9) Anyone can easily create their own personal web-page to share their collection with others and where anyone can have their own personal numismatic blog
10) Contain full information on provenance of each coin listed to enable that information to be used to investiate patterns of coin loss and retrieval in the past and also by presenting the collecting history to follow the passage of legally-held ancient artefacts through ephemeral private collections.

De La Fe reports that there are 19,150 records which have been approved and are "live" for study (he is not giving the URL just yet as testing is still in progress) and which can be accessed via the search engine, plus another 150,000+ records pending, which will be uploaded for editing, approval and verification. So that is 170 000 coins in private hands recorded already. He now asks for volunteers to submit more coins from their collections and/or inventory for inclusion into the database to help "test" the site.

I could not help associating this with an announcement made a while back on the Britarch discussion list by Gary Brun one of the organizers of the United Kingdom Detector finds Database which was reported on this blog. Brun claimed in August last year that a few American collectors were planning to use the UKDFD data model as the basis for one of their own, and certainly what De La Fe describes is almost exactly a copy of the manner in which the UKDFD is organized.

It is good news that portable artefact collectors on the other side of the Atlantic are learning from the PAS model which artefact collectors over there strenuously promote as a model to be followed everywere. It is good to see that they are starting at home and are at last beginning to see the need and find the means to record the provenance of items in their collections and make the information available to researchers as has been advocated for a long time.

By the way, the last point (10) in the list of features of the new recording scheme does not occur in De La Fe's post, but that must have been an oversight in his excitement to break the news. I really cannot see why these historically vital data would be omitted by numismatists involved in serious study of archaeological material and broadening our knowledge of the past through the study of a single artefact type.

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