Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New and Improved!

What’s new and improved, you ask? Why our database/s. Why the ‘/s’ at the end of database, you say? Why not either database or databases? Well…because it’s all being renovated! Currently, the City Archaeology Office uses two databases to help manage cultural resources in Phoenix: our Site File Database, which is an Access database with some GIS components, and our GIS database. The Site File Database contains the plots of sites and the records associated with each site. We use it for doing research on projects to see if any archaeology has already been conducted within a project area and for site file searches when people from archaeology firms come in to see what sites are located in and near a project they are working on. The GIS database is supplied to us courtesy of the Streets Department (long story) and contains information in the form of ‘layers’ from Streets, from the Site File Database, and there are even a few layers I created myself. We use this database when we are processing archaeology assessment requests because it is very accurate and can show definitively whether a project is or is not within 250 feet of an archaeological site or 50 feet of a prehistoric canal.
Database Symbol

In addition to the databases, our office also uses a number of Excel spreadsheets. There is a Project spreadsheet that contains a list of all the archaeology reports that we have in our files along with other information, such as location and the results of the project. There is also an Archaeology Project Tracking spreadsheet that we use to keep track of when project reports are submitted and when they are reviewed and accepted. The Collections staff also uses this spreadsheet to keep track of when archaeology collections for each project are submitted. There are also a few other spreadsheets: the Hohokam Burials spreadsheet and the Prehistoric Canal Project spreadsheet.

We are currently planning to combine the two databases into a single GIS database and the spreadsheets into an Access database. Or incorporate them into a SQL database along with information from the Site File Database… Or put everything all together in one awesome database… Or…

Due to the sensitive nature of some of the site data,
we are not able to show a screen shot of the database...
but here is our lovely associate archaeologist, April Carroll, hard at work.
As you can see, things are very much in flux, but changing for the better. Combining our databases and spreadsheets means improvements in efficiency and speed because data will be stored in only a few places instead of many. If our Site File Database can be fully integrated with the GIS database, we would be able to upload shapefiles instead of digitizing them manually, which is much faster (not to mention more accurate). Someday, we even hope to be able to have project areas digitized in GIS, which will significantly cut the time it takes to do site file searches. If our spreadsheets are combined into a database, we can quickly and easily run queries and get answers to such questions as: How many reports did we review in 2009? How many projects have been conducted within T1N R3E Section 4? We can also answer these questions without having to rely on searching through paper documents or sorting in Excel, which can get tricky given the types of data we have and how they are currently arranged in the spreadsheets. And these are just a few examples! Things that are new and improved are more than welcome in an office that serves Phoenix but only has two people in it!

Posted by April Carroll, Contract Associate Archaeologist

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