National Guide to Anthropological Records

The Council for the Preservation of Anthropological Records (CoPAR) was incorporated in February 1995 to identify, encourage the preservation, and foster the use of the records of anthropological research. Anthropology is concerned with the study, documentation, and understanding of human biological, cultural and linguistic diversity. Anthropological records contain primary data about, and provide the basis for, continuing research on human diversity, as well as the history of the discipline. Anthropological records thus present a unique and irreplaceable segment of human knowledge. CoPAR has as its objective the initiation of programs to: foster awareness and the importance of records preservation; provide information on records location and access; help provide support for existing repositories; provide consulting and technical services; and conduct special projects as needed. This objective is outlined in the following statement of principles:

Anthropological records contain irreplaceable information about human and cultural diversity and commonalties. Those records are at risk.
Producers, collectors, and holders of those records are stewards of them and the information they contain.

Stewardship implies certain responsibilities; among them:
To assure that the records are properly preserved and passed on to future generations;
To be aware that information contained in the records has complex meanings for the subjects, producers, collectors, holders, and managers of them;
To be aware that there are often conflicting ethical and legal issues relating to those records and the uses that may be made of them;
To collaborate with subjects, producers, collectors, holders and managers of records to insure the proper preservation of, and access to, those records. and access to, those records.
CoPAR is sponsored by the major anthropological organizations in the United States in cooperation with other relevant professional organizations, such as the Society for American Archivists and the American Library Association, and government agencies, such as the National Park Service.

This page will be periodically updated with information on the progress of the National Guide to Anthropological Records database and finding guide. This project was initiated by CoPAR as a first step toward preserving the anthropological record by documenting the location, content and preservation status of existing collections. The database will be made available through CoPAR to anthropologists, archivists, students, and other interested persons. It will provide a search tool for scholars to become aware of and learn the locations of collections of anthropological data that are of relevance to their work and interests. This project does not attempt to publish the actual information contained in the collections it documents; rather, users are simply directed to the appropriate contacts to arrange access to the information itself. As database access over Internet becomes more prevalent, it is expected that a seamless transfer will be possible through the use of Uniform Resource Locators (URL) as pointers to electronically available collection information. Development of the National Guide to Anthropological Records is designed to accommodate future directions in connectivity among archives, museums and repositories..

Work on the project is scheduled to begin in Fall 1995, pending funding. Institutions collaborating on this project include: Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University; The Center for Advanced Spatial Technology, University of Arkansas; Department of Anthropology, University of Nevada, Reno; Arizona State Museum; The National Park Service

Structure of the Database
The following is a general outline of the planned structure for the database.

Database Design
Each record will describe a single collection and will contain descriptive information about its content, provenance, access, and preservation needs. The information content is based on a standard for anthropological metadata that was outlined at the 3 rd CoPAR workshop in 1987 and recently formalized at the Wenner-Grenn conference in Taos, New Mexico. Several subtables containing searchable keyword lists are provided. The structure of this database will follow MARC compatible format and will be housed on a WindowsNT-based system in a relational database. The database was modelled using ER/Studio; the Entity/Relationship diagram and a data dictionary may be viewed online.

Database Server
In a Client/server architecture the server software that parses query requests and actually retrieves the data from the database is separated from the client software with which the user interacts. Microsoft SQL Server is currently used to store the database and provide the search capabilities. SQL Server is scalable beyond the needs of this database, can be replicated, and can export data via standard SQL statements to any other platform.

Client Interface
This is a set of computer screens through which users will actually type in their query requests and receive the results. Two protocols will be used. World Wide Web (WWW) is a hypertext protocol accessed with Mosaic, Netscape, etc. Telnet is character-based (like CARL) and can be used from non-graphic “dumb” terminals. Both protocols are implemented in NADB.
In the WWW interface, the user will fill out an on-line Structured Query Language (SQL) request form. A sample query form is shown here. The contents of the form will be processed by software running on the web server which in turn invokes the SQL Server search engine to retrieve the data. Microsoft Active Server Pages, a VisualBasic scripting application is used to develop the parsing software for this project. The results of the query will be formatted as an HTML document which can then be then viewed by the user through his/her WWW browser, or upon request be returned as a downloadable ASCII file. If any of the queried collections are accessible via an Internet service using standard protocols (Gopher, Telnet, WWW), the output will include an electronic pointer that will transfer the user directly to that server. The graphic capabilities of the hypertext protocol will also permit adoption of existing WWW-based search tools such as Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center’s Map Viewer allow users to interactively point to geographic areas of interest as part of the query process. Touch sensitive maps to handle user queries are currently in use in the USGS Data archive, the Global Land Information System (X-windows only), and the National Archaeological Data Base.
Text-based access will be via a client that can be run via Telnet. The interface for this would look and feel similar to that of the CARL library database system. Although limited in flexibility, it will run on virtually any computer terminal, thus maximizing access.

Data Entry system
The amount of data per record entry will vary, but is expected to be around 2000 characters on average. A database of 50,000 records would thus require 100-150 megabytes of storage space, allowing for indexes and headers. Additional disk space will be required as temporary storage to hold queries generated by users for a limited period of time. Several options will by available for entering data into the system depending on the amount of data and the capabilities of the providing institution:
Uploading from existing computerized databases via MARC compatible exchange files. File formats and transfers will be coordinated by CoPAR and repository personnel for substantial collections that are already in suitable computer inventories. This will be the case for most of the first set of collections archives incorporated into CoPAR. Data will be transferred by removable media or, preferably, Internet transfer.
On-line entry over Internet via a WWW based data entry form. Certain institutions maintain permanent data management staff that can be trained to use CoPAR’s on-line data entry system. A sample entry screen may be found here. These data will be entered into a temporary database which is then proofed by CoPAR staff and appended to the main database.
Manual entry of paper data forms by CoPAR assistant. This is expected to be necessary to include collection data from smaller institutions and private collections with little or no data management staff.