Western Cultural Blog

Technology and Archaeology: From Gadgets to Practical Innovations.

Over the past few months, our office has been going through a technological metamorphosis.  Sadly, I cannot report that we have purchased a new super computer, ground penetrating radar machine, or the latest GPS.  No, this technological revolution has involved many of the more mundane aspects of the digital age.  This blog is one of the more exciting of those technological innovations short of the great, geeky, gadget euphoria that follows the purchase of new gear.

We have been implementing changes on a number of technological fronts in order to make our company a leaner, meaner, more organized, and more engaged entity.  One of our first tasks has been the organization and standardization of our digital data into uniform and redundant storage.  Years worth of progress reports, digital photographs, PowerPoint presentations, research resources, and, last but not least, final reports were complied and sorted from their disparate locations on various hard drives and data discs into one central repository, which was backed up to another hard drive and burned to optical discs. 

The centralization of this data, while enabling the very practical purpose of being easy to back up, also allows us easy access to our past digital efforts, especially digital photographs and collected research materials.  This allows us an opportunity to share projects that we have been involved in with readers of this blog and those who follow us on Facebook, increasing public engagement with their cultural resources.  The centralization of our data also allows us quick access to digital research materials, eliminating the need to re-locate resources, increasing our efficiency.

The organization of our data also provides a blueprint for storing data moving forward.  Every user and employee has a unique method of organizing their work at their station while completing projects.  Some are “lumpers”, that is users that organize data into large folders under simple file hierarchies, while others are “splitters”, that is users that form complex file hierarchies to organize their data.  One of the goals of our data centralization project was to find a happy medium between lumpers and splitters that presents a uniform workspace for data storage for all users.  This means that each employee only has to learn one form of file hierarchy in order to access data. 

Some concerns had to be addressed in order to make a central data system feasible.  Chief among these concerns was security.  No personal or sensitive company information is shared in the central system.  The purpose of the system is to increase access to shared company resources, not to divulge company information to every employee or leave us vulnerable to an outside threat.  Secondly, a universal naming system for files and folders had to be established in order to keep the system organized and easy to back up.  This included careful attention to details such as not nesting too many folders, a problem that leads to long file location names and difficulties in copying the resources to other company computers or storage media.  Lastly, a maintenance schedule needed to be established in order to trim the fat from the file system and keep it backed up.  If your hard drive hasn’t failed yet, you are lucky, but it is always important to remember the possibility is a constant threat.  Optical discs, such as cds, dvds, and blu-rays, also have a limitedshelf life for data, and are susceptible to environmental strain or misuse.      

We have just completed our first project using the central data system and it has been a resounding success.  Now all employees know where to access data and how to keep up with project inertia. 

What sorts of inter-office data sharing problems have you encountered and how have you addressed those issues?

Read more: Technology and Archaeology: From Gadgets to Practical Innovations.

2013 Preserve Historic Missoula Night

Preserve Historic Missoula Night was last week and the people who showed up were treated to an incredible presentation on the historic barns of Montana.  Chere Juisto, Christine Brown, and Tom Ferris gave an excellent and often humorous presentation on their recent book "Hand-Raised: Historic Barns of Montana".  A couple of pictures really stood out during the presentation, and there were dozens and dozens of great photographs.  These two images showed a barn, and I dont recall where it was, in the condition that the authors found it.  The second photograph showed the same barn after it had received quite a bit of TLC from its owners.  The ranch owners were so excited that someone was actually interested in their old barn that they fixed it up and slapped a fresh coat of paint on it.

PHM also provided a recap of their activities for the past year and it was a good year for PHM and the historic preservation community.  PHM awarded two $500.00 paint grants, one to a historic home owner in Missoula and the other to the Nine Mile Community Center.  PHM also purchased and donated $500.00 worth of books for the Missoula Public Library.  The books are all on the topic of historic preservation and at the request of PHM, the books are in the general collection for circulation instead of being housed in the non-circulating reference section.  PHM continues to fund the Missoula Historic Preservation Commission's street banner program.  During the month of May, which is Historic Preservation Month, the HPC hangs a series of banners on Missoula's downtown streets.  PHM also continues to fund the historic signs program, whereby PHM pays for National Register of Historic Places signs for historic homes in Missoula's historic districts.

There were a number of historic preservation groups in attendance as well.  PHM provides table space for these groups so that they can show case their efforts at preserving a local historic place or even a museum.  I had the chance to visit with the members of the Garnet Preservation Association about their participation and they said they were thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of the evening and that it gave them a chance to keep the public informed about their historic preservation efforts at Garnet.

PHM and members of the audience were also treated to an exceptional performance by Ellie Nuno and her band.  The music served to underscore the historic preservation theme of the evening.  Her gracious presence and support for PHM was appreciated by the audience.

Unfortunately the evening was not very well attended by members of the historic preservation community.  Past events hosted by PHM, at the same location in Heritage Hall at Fort Missoula, have seen packed houses with people turning away from the door because the Hall was too full.  Two years ago, for example, nearly 160 people packed into the historic Heritage Hall for PHM Night.  Its worth noting that the evening serves to acknowledge what other people and groups are doing in our community as well as raising money for PHM's projects.  Unfortunately, the Missoulian did not run a story on PHM Night this year.  In years past the Missoulian would run a lengthy story on PHM Night, show casing the various speakers that were going to present or even writing about the various people that were being recognized through the awards being handed out.  This year, however, the Missoulian did not run a story on the evening and the huge decline in attendance was really disturbing.  

I don't believe for a moment that the Missoula community does not support historic preservation and the efforts of PHM.  But the fact there were only a dozen people in attendance is troubling.  I wonder if some of the decreased attendance was due to a misguided sense of complacency, the people of Missoula think that there is no need to show support since everyone knows and supports the efforts of PHM.  There were no real scheduling conflicts that night, we have gone head to head against other non profit organizations in years past but not this year.    It was disappointing to see that not a single recipient of any of the paint grants were in attendance.  PHM has awarded thousands of dollars in paint grants over the years and yet none of the folks showed up to say thanks.  PHM has donated money to other non profit groups over the years through donations or memberships and none of these groups were in attendance this year.   

But I think that probably the most difficult part of the evening was the realization that the lack of coverage by the Missoulian really played a large role in the drop in attendance.  PHM has worked with the press over the years to cultivate a solid professional working relationship.  The response by the editor and the local reporter to my phone calls and emails was disappointing.  I had the opportunity to speak with other preservation people that night and they expressed the same concerns about the press not showing any interest in their efforts or activities.  I think that this is a serious problem that the historic preservation community in Missoula must address in the very near future.  Of course, that will be a continuing part of the blogging here.   Thanks and I hope to see at the 2014 Preserve Historic Missoula Night.    Dan

Read more: 2013 Preserve Historic Missoula Night

We've Moved

We have completed the move to blogger.  Stay tuned for more musings on Montana historic preservation, cultural resource management, and archaeology. 

Read more: We've Moved

Local historic preservation group spotlight

The Bonner Milltown History Center news letter just arrived and as usual it is a good read.  The feature article "The Red Rubber Tire" is a look back at the old red rubber Armstrong tires.  Supporting this group through donations or even just attending the events they host is a worthwhile use of your time and money.  The group has offices, museum and collections in the Bonner Post Office Building, a historic structure that is a contributing resource to the Bonner Historic District.  Coffee and cookies are served every Tuesday morning 9:30 to 11:30 and you can be sure that good conversation and tales about Bonner history will also be served.
The BMHC was established in 2009 and they are a volunteer organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the Bonner Milltown area's lengthy and colorful history.  Their collections and interpretation efforts include the forest industry, the Bonner Millsite, the Milltown dam, local railroad history, and the ethnic, commercial, and social institutions that defined this early and significant community.
Judy Matson and Minie Smith, two of the driving forces behind the BMHC are past recipients of the Missoula City Historic Preservation Commission's prestigious Dorothy Ogg Award for Excellence in the Area of Individual Contribution to Historic Preservation.  It has been suggested publicly that if we could distill the essence that drives these two and sprinkle it around other historic preservation groups there would be a lot more success in the historic preservation world.
The History Roundtable for January 27, 2013 program will be "A Salute to Our Veterans" at 2:00 pm at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Bonner.  The roundtable discussions are always interesting and always well attended.  Mark the date on your calendar.  The February roundtable will feature local railroads and the topic for March is being developed.
You can contact the BMHC through their website, email or on Facebook and even by regular old mail.  Their website is www.tworivershistory.net and their mailing address is PO Box 726, Bonner, MT 59823.  We encourage you to show support for the excellent work that the BMHC accomplishes through donations of your time and money.

The Hotel Margaret, the grand dame of Bonner as she appeared in 1910, photograph from the Bonner National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form.

Read more: Local historic preservation group spotlight

Hopefully this blog will educate, entertain and inform the reader about historic preservation and archaeology events, organizations and general useless stuff from across Montana.  From time to time we will be writing about various local historic preservation groups and the challenges they face and what needs they have.  We will also be writing about issues, events, and various ephemera about archaeology from across Montana.

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