CONTACT: MARY GERAGHTY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Oct. 9, 2000
State archaeology office wins grant to create mapping Web site
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) has won a
$40,000 grant from the National Park Service's National Center for Preservation
Technology and Training to create a Web-based interface for tracking information
about archaeological sites in the state of Iowa. The new system, called "I-Sites,"
will not only provide information about Iowa's archaeological sites, but will
allow users to create maps of the sites and enter information about new sites.
I-Sites is being developed by OSA in partnership with the state's Information
Technology Department (ITD) and the Center for Agriculture, Resources and
Environment Systems (CARES) at the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Joe Artz, geographic information coordinator with the OSA, is leading the
project along with Stephen C. Lensink, OSA's associate director. Artz said
once the Web site is up and running, anyone in the world with access to the
Web will be able to use sophisticated Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
software to create maps displaying information about archaeological sites
"The most exciting and unique thing about I-Sites is that it will allow
users to record information about newly discovered archaeological sites, and
file that information with OSA for permanent recording," Artz said. An
innovative package of on-screen drawing tools, developed by CARES, will allow
users to draw site locations on topographic maps displayed by their Web browsers,
and then upload these maps to OSA.
"Access to data about archaeological sites is in increasing demand,"
Artz said. Academic researchers, their students, and many private citizens
are interested in Iowa archaeology and frequently request information about
archaeological sites from OSA. Historic preservation laws require federal
agencies to consider the effects of their projects on historic and prehistoric
sites. In recent years, state, county, and local governments have been assuming
an increasingly active role in historic preservation.
"In the past year, we've seen a 50 percent increase in requests for
information about archaeological site locations," said Colleen Eck, who
manages the site records database at OSA. "Most of the new requests are
coming from planners at the local level."
About 20,000 sites are recorded in OSA's master database of known site locations
in Iowa, ranging from ancient Native American villages and burial mounds to
abandoned farmsteads and townsites of the historic era. Artz and GIS technician
Heidi Lack are in the final stages of digitizing these locations from paper
maps into a computerized GIS mapping system.
"In the year and a half we've been digitizing," Lack said, "about
500 newly discovered sites have been added to OSA's database." Artz said
I-Sites offers a solution for keeping OSA's database current. "Databases
and GIS's are often created without sufficient thought about how those systems
will be maintained in the long term, and that often leads to a backlog of
unentered data," he said. "By using the CARES drawing tools with
our existing database and GIS, those who most urgently need the data will
also be given an active role in keeping those data current."
Agencies whose planners and archaeological consultants will benefit from
the new system include tribal governments, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Iowa Department of Transportation, county
engineers, county conservation boards, regional planning commissions, and
certified local governments. Researchers, teachers, students, and the general
public are also expected to use the system.
Development of I-Sites is funded through a Preservation Technology and Training
grant from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. The
grants are awarded to public and private organizations and institutions for
projects that advance the art, craft, and science of historic preservation.
Among the projects given special consideration in this year's grant program
were those that applied computer technology in innovative ways to develop
and implement databases related to historic preservation. I-Sites fit into
that category as an example of a system that Artz hopes will be emulated elsewhere
in the nation.
In addition to Artz, Lensink, Lack, and Eck at OSA, the project team includes
Michelle Lantermans, the GIS Clearinghouse Specialist with ITD, and Chris
Fulcher, assistant director of CARES.
The Office of the State Archaeologist is a research unit of the University
of Iowa. Its mission is to discover, disseminate, and preserve knowledge of
Iowa's human pre-history and history. The Board of Regents, State of Iowa
appoints a State Archaeologist, who is a member of the UI Department of Anthropology.
The State Archaeologist directs a program of statewide archaeological research,
service, and education. More information is available at http://www.uiowa.edu/~osa/