A new site for conducting research into human history has a small name but big ambitions.
MicroPasts, a joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology, has several goals. First, project organizers have posted photographs of hundreds of Bronze Age (2500 BC–800 BC) metal objects and thousands of paper records of other artefacts from British prehistory. They want your help in modelling and transcribing the material at the new website: http://crowdsourced.micropasts.org/.
Current projects include transcribing records (e.g., British Museum Bronze Age card index transcription for drawer B8) and photo masking of British Museum Bronze Age objects. The latter project will help researchers create 3D models of artefacts for study and display. More projects will be posted soon.
Second, the team behind the site hopes that it will become a central location for full-time academics, volunteer societies, and members of the public to collaborate on research about archaeology, history, and heritage.
“It is a place where enthusiasts of any background can not only create high-quality research data together, but also collaboratively design and fund entirely new research projects,” says Chiara Bonacchi of the UCL Institute of Archaeology. “In particular, we want to improve how people traditionally distinguished as ‘academics,’ ‘professionals,’ and ‘volunteers’ cooperate with one another, as well as with other people out there who as yet have no more than a passing interest … By joining in, you can help research, fund and/or design as many projects as you like, with as much or as little personal commitment as you wish.”
The site also aims to provide public access to quality open-licensed data and provide a crowdfunding platform to enable donations for projects. There’s also a small but growing community forum.
MicroPasts is supported by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and is built on the Pybossa open source platform for crowdsourcing.
Chandra Clarke is a Webby Honoree-winning blogger, a successful entrepreneur, and an author. Her book Be the Change: Saving the World with Citizen Science is available at Amazon. You can reach her at chandraclarke [at] gmail dot com.