Monticello will lead innovative project to advance the archaeological study of slavery

Archaeology Department receives Mellon grant to further expand access to online database of archaeological findings and comparative data

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - April 4, 2013
Media Contact: Lisa Stites, 434-984-7529

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA—Monticello archaeologists will launch an innovative collaborative project designed to advance the study of slavery in North America and the Caribbean, thanks to a recently announced grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The $450,000 grant provides two years of funding for the new project, “The DAACS Research Consortium,” which will allow faculty, students and scholars from leading graduate programs and museums to contribute data from archaeological collections to Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS)—an internet-accessible digital archive based in the Archaeology Department at Monticello.

“We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation both for its previous support of DAACS and for its commitment to this exciting new opportunity to further scholarly collaboration in archaeology using digital technology,” said Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello.    

The Mellon grant will fund development of new software infrastructure, using open-source tools, in a partnership with the University of Virginia’s Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities and Convoy, Inc., a Charlottesville-based design firm. The software will allow partners to use an ordinary web browser to enter data from their excavations into the DAACS database, to discover meaningful patterns, and to compare patterns across geographically scattered archaeological sites.

“The new research consortium will enable our collaborators to add important new data from archaeological sites of slavery to the DAACS database and share data with one another and the larger scholarly community and the general public via the DAACS website,” said Jillian Galle, the Monticello archaeologist who manages the project.

The grant also funds instruction for consortium members in DAACS database structures and classification and measurement protocols, to insure member’s contributions to the database conform to community-developed standards. The project offers instruction for graduate students in relational database technology and quantitative methods to discover and make sense of hidden patterns of variation in archaeological data.

“A major goal is to facilitate the kind of quantitative, comparative analysis that will help us document and understand variation in the life ways of enslaved people in the early-modern era,” said  Fraser Neiman, director of archaeology at Monticello.

DAACS was founded by Monticello and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to foster scholarly collaboration and data sharing. The program’s new  project brings together faculty from the University of North Carolina (Anna Agbe-Davies), Syracuse University (Douglas Armstrong), Boston University (Mary Beaudry),  Northwestern University (Mark Hauser), The University of Tennessee (Barbara Heath), and The College of William and Mary (Frederick Smith). The consortium also includes archaeologists at the University of South Carolina’s Institute for Archaeology and Anthropology (Charles Cobb),  Mount Vernon  (Esther White and Eleanor Breen) , Drayton Hall  (Sara Stroud and Carter Hudgins), and the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (Dorrick Gray).

DAACS has received major funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, the Reed Foundation

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About Monticello

Thomas Jefferson Foundation was incorporated in 1923 to preserve Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, Virginia. Monticello is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark and a United Nations World Heritage Site. As a private, nonprofit organization, the Foundation receives no regular federal or state budget support for its twofold mission of preservation and education.  About 440,000 people visit Monticello each year. For information, visit www.monticello.org.

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