Mellon Foundation Grant to Advance East Asian Archaeological Publications Database

July 16, 2009

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a 26-month, $600,000 grant to Boston University to support the development of ARC/Base, an online, multilingual bibliographic database of East Asian archaeology, based in Arts & Sciences’ International Center for East Asian Archaeology and Cultural History (ICEAACH). This is the third award designated by the Mellon Foundation for the project, with total support exceeding $1.5 million.

Under the direction of ARC/Base Project Manager David Cohen, adjunct assistant professor of archaeology, and ICEAACH Database Manager Jeffrey Kao, ARC/Base will provide comprehensive publication records for the archaeology of East and Southeast Asia. Regional collaborators at leading research institutes in these regions play a key role in providing guidance and publication data from Russia, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and many other countries.

“The ARC/Base project is a critical initiative in digital information services for the field of East Asian archaeology,” says ARC/Base Principal Investigator Robert Murowchick, ICEAACH director and assistant professor. “While thousands of new publications are added to the East Asian archaeological literature each year, researchers still lack a comprehensive, computerized database through which to find them. This important grant from the Mellon Foundation will advance the database and allow us to implement a powerful, online tool to help scholars and students in archaeology, art history, and many other disciplines around the globe conduct research efficiently and effectively in a way they never could before.”

In addition to archaeological publications, ARC/Base includes related publications in anthropology, history, art history, paleography, geography, environmental sciences, religion, geology, history of science, and numerous other disciplines. Coverage includes individual journal articles (including papers from smaller-circulation, local-level journals), individual papers in edited volumes, books and monographs, excavation reports, dissertations and theses, selected newspaper articles, and “gray literature” field reports (non-commercial published reports of government-mandated survey and excavation projects).

Murowchick conservatively estimates that there are at least 300,000 past publication records that should be included in ARC/Base, with perhaps 5,000 to 10,000 new records that could be added each year.

“Because the potential number of records is so great, we are focusing our efforts first on materials that tend to be used the most in current research, primarily publications produced over the last 10 years,” he says. “But we also plan to provide coverage of the rich archive of past publications, as these have a long shelf-life in archaeological research.”

The database’s key strengths are its geographic coverage across all of East and Southeast Asia and its full inclusion of East Asian scripts. “ARC/Base is a unique and vital resource because it brings together a vast amount of disparate but interrelated bibliographic information, much of which would not be available digitally, and because it includes records in all native scripts, such as traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Cyrillic,” says Cohen.

Another strength of ARC/Base is its international, collaborative model. “By bringing together leading research institutes from across eastern Asia, ARC/Base can ‘divide and conquer’ the enormous collection of important bibliographic data our field now has,” notes Cohen. “We owe much to our collaborators—with them we are able to accomplish what no individual institute has been able to do before. This is also the first time in our field that archaeologists have come together in research collaboration from across so many political, cultural, and linguistic divides. What we are producing is going to radically change how we all can do our research.”

Boston University has the only stand-alone archaeology department in the United States, offering BA, MA, and PhD degrees through a full range of courses in world archaeology, archaeological heritage management, and archaeological science in a holistic, multidisciplinary setting. The ICEAACH was established at Boston University in 1999 as a hub for collaborative research, scholarly exchange, and public outreach in East Asian archaeology.

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