Guest Post for Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative at MSU

Posted by on Nov 11, 2010 in Dirt, Research and Engagement | No Comments

I was asked by Professor of Anthropology and the Assistant Director of MATRIX Ethan Watrall (@Captain_Primate) to write a blog post for his new program at MSU, the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative. Professor Watrall, an archaeologist by training, is a recent addition to the Department of Anthropology, and has been able to develop this program which examines the field of cultural heritage informatics, or the “the creative application of information and computing technologies to the domain of cultural heritage.” Since I have been (somewhat unknowingly) contributing to this field through our use of digital social media as means to engage with the public about our work at the Campus Archaeology Program, he asked me to contribute to the blog. I have the honor of being the first post on the blog, which will showcase a number of cultural heritage informatics-type research projects. You can read my post here.

From a graduate student perspective, one of the most important parts of this program is the offering of multiple fellowships for students interested in this field. What I like most about these fellowships is that they are project and creation driven: fellows will work on developing a thing, be it a mobile application, website, database, or publication, that will showcase cultural heritage content. I would encourage students to apply for this, particularly anthropologists. We are all engaged in research that impacts cultural groups, and there is no reason that we shouldn’t be using digital or technological tools to make sure the communities we work with are able to see, engage with, and learn from the research we produce. This initiative, and these fellowships, supply us with the opportunity to receive the training about how to do this.

What I really like about the initiative, however, is the incredible fit it has within the Department of Anthropology, as well as within the University. In addition to providing, for the most part, a four-field anthropological education, MSU’s anthropology department also emphasizes “Applied Anthropology”, meaning the real-world application of our research to problems facing the world. Public Archaeology is a wonderful example of this emphasis. As far as MSU is concerned, this is a University that emphasizes community engagement heavily, and has since its inception in 1856. Part of the Land Grant mission, working with communities is a pivotal part of the teaching and research that happens at MSU. The CHI Initiative is a perfect example of this, as the whole idea is taking cultural heritage, a topic inherently related to the engagement of the community in research. Additionally, CHI’s emphasis on “Building as Knowing” is a testament to the hands-on, practically oriented education that MSU has been offering for over 150 years. In all, the CHI Initiative’s focus is a perfect fit for MSU, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute.

Visit their website:

Follow them on Twitter: @CHI_Initiative

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