MicroPasts is a web platform that brings together full-time academic researchers, volunteer archaeological and historical societies and other interested members of the public to collaborate on new kinds of research about archaeology, history and heritage. It is a place where enthusiasts (of any background) can not only create high-quality research data together, but also collaboratively design and fund entirely new research projects. In particular, we want to improve how people traditionally distinguished as ‘academics’, ‘professionals’ and ‘volunteers’ cooperate with one another (as well as with other people out there who as yet have no more than a passing interest).
Through MicroPasts, we will develop and support a range of online crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding projects about our human history. By joining in, you can help research, fund and/or design as many projects as you like, with as much or as little personal commitment as you wish. Some existing projects are about creating 3D models of archaeological artefacts, enriching old photographic archives, or transcribing old archaeological or historical records, to name just a few that we have come up with so far. Other new projects will need your help with financing before they can begin, whilst yet others might be collaborative research topics that you might want to propose yourself (as an individual, as part of an organised society or in tandem with other interested people that you meet online). We cannot yet say which projects will prove popular and which ones will not, and we hope that many as yet unanticipated agendas will be dreamt up collectively. In any case, we are keen for your ideas and your contributions wherever we can get them.
In a more technical sense, MicroPasts supports (a) modular applications for massive online data collection about archaeology, history and heritage, as well as (b) a micro-funding model for supporting new (not-for-profit) research projects where collaboration between academic institutions and volunteers is a key feature. The software used to build the platform is entirely free and open source, and the data we create is also required to be open-licensed and publicly available.
The initial stages of this effort have kindly been supported by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, and involve a collaboration between the UCL Institute of Archaeology and the British Museum. There is a large group of skilled helpers and advisors behind our work, as well as many other people who are developing particular crowd-funding or crowd-sourcing projects, but four of us who are perhaps most heavily involved at present are:
Chiara Bonacchi, UCL Institute of Archaeology
Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, UCL Institute of Archaeology
Andrew Bevan, UCL Institute of Archaeology
Daniel Pett, The British Museum