A Look into Our Past

Posted in: Archaeology, Archives Month, ASOR, Digital Archaeology
Tags: American Schools of Oriental Research, Archaeology, Archives, ASOR, Old
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October is a busy month for the world of Archaeology. There’s the International Archaeology Day (IAD) on October 19th, Archaeological Institute of America’s (AIA) Archaeology Day Fair at the Museum of Science in Boston, and over 300 archaeology events throughout the month in various parts of the world. October also kicks off Archives Month here on the ASOR Blog.

c005Qumran28ASOR was founded in 1900, so our archives span over 100 years. (Read more about our history here.) We have a trove of photos dating back to the late 1800’s before ASOR was formed, audio interviews with people who were essential to the organization over the last century, and newsletters and publications dating back to the beginning. As we delved into the past in preparation for this month, it was the perfect time to reflect on how the organization as grown and changed throughout the years.

Now, we found a lot of things in the archives. Don’t worry, you’ll hear all about it during this month. We’ll put together photo galleries and share with you the experiences of fellowship recipients, who typed and mailed their reports instead of emailing and posting to the blog. You’ll even get the chance to read first hand accounts of the 1967 Six-Day War. All of these things and more are to come. In this digital age, what better way to start off Archives Month than taking a look at how times have changed here at ASOR from a technology standpoint?

This idea came from the 1986 January ASOR Newsletter. The newsletter highlighted the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Thomas R. Pickering’s visit to ASOR’s Albright Institute in Jerusalem, the ASOR Administrative Director position opening up, the call for papers for the Annual Meeting in Atlanta, the announcement of fellowship recipients and usual ASOR business. What really caught our eye, was the front page story.

The headline read, “Hewlett-Packard Donates Computer to the Albright Institute.” The Hewlett-Packard Company donated equipment and service support to help make operational the first computer center dedicated to archaeological research.

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The goal of the computer center was to significantly shorten the amount of time it took to analyze and publish excavation data, shortening the time from years to mere weeks. By using these computers closer to the excavation sites, researchers were able to prepare field reports and data faster than ever before. The computer was also used for office work - word processing, cost accounting and keeping library records.

[Click Here to read about the difficulties of physically bringing the computer from Minnesota to Jerusalem. ]

Members of the 2013 ASOR staff recreate the 1986 photo of staff welcoming the new computer system.

Members of the 2013 ASOR staff recreate the 1986 photo of staff welcoming the new computer system.

With the invention of digital cameras, cell phones, laptops and tablets, it’s become easier to document excavations and share research findings. Discoveries can be easily photographed and uploaded to databases. Data can be sorted, reports written and submitted all from the field.

It’s easy to forget that less than 30 years ago this was all new. This newsletter reminded us how far technology has come in just a few decades.

Interested in archaeology in the digital age? Check out posts from Digital Archaeology month. Want to dive into the past through the eyes of archaeologists in the field? Take a look through the digitized collections from the ASOR Archives. Still want more? Plan to attend sessions on archaeology and technology at the upcoming ASOR Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

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