Loading a tablet for archaeology fieldwork


As you might know from my presence on Twitter and moderating Facebook presences for the SAA Public Archaeology Interest Group, World Archaeological Congress Student Committee, Community Archaeology Program, and Binghamton University Archaeological Field School, I am no stranger to using mobile devices to promote archaeology. My phone has been my best friend in online public archaeology and has suffered a bit for it.

What I have yet to do is use new mobile technology for data collection and research. (Besides a decade-old total station and a Trimble GPS unit with ArcPad, which I am pretty sure doesn’t count.)

I have an old android tablet lying around that I’ve recently decided to turn into a fieldwork tool (in no small part because of the Mobilizing the Past NEH seminar’s digital archaeology presentations). Although I am not able to use it for official data collection purposes, I will be able to teach students how to use some digital tools this way. I also plan to take notes on site management and teaching this way. With any luck the camera will prove adequate for some photos, even!

Here’s are the data collection apps I will load up and try:

Mostly fieldwork-related

  • Memento Database – a mobile database application for which I’ve already created a reproduction of the paper context forms we use
  • ArcGIS Mobile – since all our stuff is already in ArcGIS format
  • QField for QGIS – an Android version of QGIS which is a closed alpha test, and I have signed up for it in hopes that I can use it
  • Mobile Data Collection – offline GIS data collection including attributes and customizable forms
  • Open Data Kit ‘Collect’ – a rich data collection kit which allows multimedia and text input into forms as well as aggregation of the submitted data onto a free server
  • CyberTracker – I could create an app that would work on Trimble units as well as my tablet which uses graphical rather than textual prompts
  • Mukurtu – for collecting and assigning differential access to cultural information, designed for indigenous knowledge and interviews
  • Soil Color Chart 2 – quick and dirty (haha) version of the Munsell chart
  • SoilWeb – USDA soil data
  • A copy of this common poisonous plants PDF from Cornell – gotta have a photo of all these for maximum bathroom-going safety
  • Merlin Bird ID – Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s bird identification app
  • Evernote – for taking notes and saving articles for my lessons, syncs to all devices (for example, if I need to refresh during lunch before a lecture in the field!)
  • Quickoffice/Officesuite – my favorite for reading and editing Office documents and PDFs offline
  • Dumpster – important for all my devices, a mobile device’s version of the recycle bin, in case things get deleted inadvertently

Mostly teaching-related (and all require connectivity)

  • Google Drive – access to files that I co-edit with others dynamically, including especially the commenting feature and shared folders, easiest for those with less tech sensibilities
  • Dropbox – where I keep a copy of all my course materials
  • Slideshare – to access presentations by experts on topics such as digital archaeology, for teaching and answering questions that come up *requires connectivity
  • Blackboard – to access the course materials online and post more *requires connectivity

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