The Archaelogical Resourcing Catalog System


The Archaeological Resource Cataloging System (ARCS)is an open source, web-based digital platform that allows any archaeological project to store, annotate, organize, display, collaborate on, and share digitized legacy materials such as photographs, field journals, and excavation records in a way that reflects its unique identity and organizational structure.

Many archaeological projects with histories that extend into the pre-digital era are struggling to find ways to transform their collections of paper-based legacy records into a digital format that is more accessible and cosducive to modern collaboration, analysis, and publication. Unfortunately, because many of these types of collections contain a combination of handwritten notes and documents, slides and photographs, and hand drawn sketches and maps, automated converstion to machine readable formats is incredibly difficult. As a result, the critical information contained within, often representing the only record of decades of excavation and research, runs the risk of being lost to future study and analysis. In addition, these challenges are taking place in the context of limited budgets, resources, and technical expertise.

ARCS seeks to address many of these challenges. As an open access, web based collaborative platform, ARCS enables archaeological projects with legacy materials and documents to provide scholars and the public alike with access to digitized copies of records according to their own abilities and needs. Most importantly, ARCS works to augment but not replace paper-based archaeological records, which often must be viewed in their original format in order to be truly understood.

History of the ARCS Project

The ARCS project grew out of an effort to digitize the archives of the Ohio State University Excavations at Isthmia in Greece. In 2010, educational technology specialists at the Michigan State University College of Arts and Letters were invited to create an web-based digital archival solution that could provide open and easy access to the legacy documentation in the Isthmia archives. In its first iteration, a “proof of concept” of ARCS was built using the Resource Space Open Source Digital Asset Management System. However, it quickly became clear that the unique needs of archaeological archives required a more carefully crafted solution than could be offered through “off the shelf” products already in existence. Thus, with the assistance of a NEH Digital Humanities Start-up Grant, awarded in 2011 (HD 51378, Digging Digitally: Creating a More Dynamic Archaeological Field Journal Archive), the ARCS team began to design and build its own open source solution. The version of ARCS that resulted was put to use at the OSU Isthmia Excavations and in the classroom at Ohio State University and Michigan State University. Preliminary evaluations clearly demonstrated the value of the ARCS system both as a research and pedagogical tool. At the same time, it was clear that improvements were needed in order for ARCS to become a more universally adaptable utility. Therefore, the redesign of the current version of ARCS was enabled through a NEH Digital Humanities Implementation Grant (HK-50173-14, ARCS: Archaeological Resource Cataloging System), awarded in 2014, and carried out in collaboration with MATRIX: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences. Among the most significant work in this phase of the project involved the implementation of the KORA digital repository platform as the backbone for ARCS, the development and implementation of the ARCSCore metadata scheme, the development of a suite of tools to better provide granular user access, and a redesigned user interface and user exeprience. This version of ARCS is freely availabel under a GNU GPL 2.0 open source software license.

ARCSCore Metadata Scheme

Developed specifically for ARCS, the ARCSCore metadata schema is designed for archaeological documents and records such as field journals, excavation forms, plans and profile maps, and excavation photography. Learn more about ARCSCore metadata fields and controlled vocabularies on GitHub.

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Development Team
(MATRIX: Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at Michigan State University)

Josh Christ

Charlie Deneau

Catherine Foley

Noah Girard

Seila Gonzalez

Sarah Leffler

Nicholas Mikelsavage

Justin Newman

Austin Rix

Rohit Sen

Austin Truchan

Ethan Watrall

Hansheng Zhao

Development Team
(College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State University)

Brian Adams

Josh Compton

Jon Frey

Nick Reynolds

Scott Schopieray

Itishree Swain

Consultants / Project Collaborators

William Caraher (University of North Dakota)

Timothy Gregory (The Ohio State University)

Brad Hafford (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology)

Sebastian Heath (New York University)

Eric Kansa (Alexandria Archive Institute/Open Context)

Adam Rabinowitz (University of Texas at Austin)

Kim Shelton (University of California, Berkeley)

Lucie Stylianopoulos (University of Virginia)

Isthmia Digitization Teams

Jamie Henry

Hannah Tache

Emily Walz

Jamie Henry

Hannah Tache

Emily Walz

Emily Walz


Alec Wells

Luke Miller

Christina Olton

Meghan Parrot

Michelle Teets

Emily Trexler


Sara Bayer

Whitney Cornwell

Andrew Crocker

Deanna Obhaus

Jasmine Robertson


Brittany Lopez

Robert Paquette

Christine Scales

Tyler Smart

Katherine Soard


Sean Davis

Rhiana Fleisher

Rachel Gibbard

Paige Moore

Lauren Newhouse

Anna Turnbull

Marissa Zoratti


Nathan Baird

Emily Barber

Sharonda Chaney

Natalie Orcutt

Samantha Spolarich

Lucy Steele


Makaila Marshall

Darrion Reeves

Khadijah Russell

Rebecca Scherr

Lia Umlauf

Stephanie Vetesse


Ryan Cornilie

Alicia Noffke

James Roney

Madeline Saucedo

Gabriel Seck

Chrystyna Strumbos


Alyse Arnold

John Henneman

Daniel Kashy

Lilianna Mikitiuk

Sienna Sertl

Michael Witte