July 18, 2018

Smith and Burtis Publish on Tools for Preservation

In January, Andréa Livi Smith and Martha Burtis had their article, “A Practical Cultural Resource Survey Tool for Preservation,” published in a special issue of the Association for Preservation Technology Bulletin. The piece shares a project Smith and Burtis have collaborated on since fall 2013 when they decided to develop an online tool to facilitate student collection of data during culture-resource surveys around Fredericksburg.

Prior to the project, data was collected in paper form, transcribed by students to numerous Excel spreadsheets, and then merged together by Smith. The process involved numerous opportunities for introducing errors and was laborious and time-consuming.

Using WordPress as a platform for building a database application, the two developed a new approach resulting in the Historic Environment Resource Assessment tool found at survey.andrealivismith.com. While conducting surveys in the field, students can login to the site on their mobile devices, and add their own data, including uploading photos of the sites they’re surveying. Later, they can return to entries to edit and refine their own or to comment upon their classmates’. At the end of the semester, Smith can easily export all the data in a standard CSV file, which can be imported into SPSS for further analysis by the class.

In addition to making it easier and smoother for students to collect data, the tool also makes is straightforward for Smith to update and tailor the collection form each fall semester, as students tackle new neighborhoods.

On the whole, the project is a fine example of what can be accomplished when faculty and instructional technologists collaborate to create new kinds of online experiences for UMW students using free and low-cost technology.