A detectorist and Archaeologist working side by side at Montpelier
Finding an acceptable approach to recording provenance is very difficult in a rally environment, but I do have ideas, some of which will become more realistic as technology improves. Rallies are about the fast-paced thrill of finding items on historic land among your friends.
As a certified geek, I have high hopes that in the forthcoming years, field devices such as 2cm smartphone GPS or directional bluetooth integrated into cell-phone based site forms will facilitate better, more effortless amateur data collection when a professional is not available. I am constantly testing new ideas like this – even voice data entry! But even after employing my best ideas, I still spend 30-50% of my time in the field working on data collection, organization and publishing, while my metal detector sits idle. One detectorist called it “burning daylight for data nobody will ever look at.” Doing this work takes a real commitment from the detectorists and willingness to enjoy their hobby differently – to find their thrill in contributing to a bigger dataset beyond what’s in their finds bag.
One impulsive thought would be to pair each metal detectorist with someone in charge of recording provenance, sort of like our metal detecting sessions at Montpelier. I’m afraid this would be considered intolerable at a rally. Participants have paid fees, scraped together precious vacation days and driven miles for this much anticipated event, so asking them to spend 30-50% of their time filling in forms or waiting for analysis is probably not what they had in mind. Pace matters at DIV since an impressive display of artifacts is a great source of personal pride at the end-of-event exhibits.
Some of my data gathering (solo hunting) BadElf +/- 1m GPS capture + Geotagged Images + ImageSetter results from Civil War Camp. I spend over 1/3 of my time documenting everything, which is then published and curated into public-ownership archives for loan
I do have an idea that could work at Rallies where professional collaboration isn’t possible. – something like the HandyGPS smartphone app allows simple geo-tagged photos to be automatically saved in a special folder that can easily be grabbed later. When the participants connected to the phone network, the app could synchronize data from all participants into a gallery with geotagging. A software like GeoSetter could process the images, extracting and using their location information to add them to a map, where an exportable file (KML?) could be shared with scholars.
Before the Event: