Ongoing Digitization Efforts at the Tennessee Division of Archaeology

30 Days of Tennessee Archaeology 2016, Day 10

Paige Silcox and Aaron Deter-Wolf
Tennessee Division of Archaeology

The Tennessee Division of Archaeology (TDOA) has undertaken a number of projects as part of a statewide move to convert to digital storage of information and expand accessibility. These efforts include creating and maintaining a digital archive, participating in the Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA), and hosting a variety of digital archaeological information on our website.

Digital Archive

In 1998, the TDOA offices (then on Edmonson Pike in Nashville) were hit by a flash flood resulting in water damage not only to the building, but to the extensive archive of archaeological records it contained. While most of those documents were salvaged thanks to the hard work of the staff both during the flood and in the weeks following, some were damaged beyond repair.  Historically, we’ve made efforts to duplicate key paper archives in multiple physical locations to prevent loss from natural or other disasters; however, this is not comprehensive or fail-proof. Fortunately, new technology opens the door for us to create and maintain a digital archive as well. TDOA staff are currently involved in various aspects of digitizing site forms, survey reports, excavation records, maps, photos, and myriad additional documents that make up the written archaeological record of Tennessee. The Tennessee State Library and Archives provided guidance in this effort to help ensure this archive will remain secure and functional well into the future.


Sevenmile Creek claims the TDOA office on Edmondson Pike in 1998. Thankfully, we’ve since moved to higher ground.

Participation in DINAA

This year, thanks in large part to our site file curator’s tireless work on the state’s archaeological site database, Tennessee was able to contribute our site information to the Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA). Funded with grants from the NSF and IMLS, this innovative open-source database compiles site file data across North America from an increasing number of states, museums, and government agencies to host online for public use through the Alexandria Archive Institute’s Open Context. Data regarding site type, cultural affiliation, time period, physiography and a number of other factors are available for map-based browsing at a locational accuracy of 20 kilometers. This data can be used in a variety of ways, including regional spatial analysis, which David Anderson discussed in more detail on Day 2 of this blog series. As the 16th state to join this worthy project, we are more than happy to help fill out the DINAA map with data from our state.

Online Publications

Another ongoing project has been facilitating online access to the “gray literature” of TDOA publications. These efforts include completing reports of older TDOA surveys and excavations, as well as producing digital editions of works from both the Division’s Research Series and Reports of Investigations. As a result of this initiative, PDFs of nearly all TDOA reports since 2001 are now available for free download via the Archaeology Publications section of our web page.

The most recent result of this effort has been a new edition of the report on investigations at the Rutherford-Kizer site in Sumner County. The TDOA conducted salvage excavations and monitored removal of burials by a private consultant at this Mississippian mound and village between 1993 and 1995. The original edition of the site report was published in 2001 as TDOA Research Series No. 13, edited by Mike Moore and Kevin Smith. The new digital edition of the Rutherford-Kizer report includes updated information, illustrations, and citations, and was added to the website earlier this summer.


TDOA excavations at the Rutherford-Kizer site, October 1993

In addition to hosting digital reports, the TDOA website is now also home to a growing array of online information on Tennessee archaeology. Thanks to the efforts of Sarah Levithol Eckhardt, the website now includes a portal for accessing all past issues of the Tennessee Archaeology e-journal, as well as abstracts and programs for the annual Current Research in Tennessee Archaeology meeting going back to 1995.

While the past year has seen major strides in digitization of archaeological data at the TDOA, it’s just the beginning!  The corpus of digital data on Tennessee archaeology hosted and made accessible by the Division of Archaeology and other institutions and projects is going to to continue to grow as existing initiatives are expanded and new efforts are launched. Stay tuned!