Arizona's Cultural Resource Inventory: AZSITE


The AZSITE Consortium is a partnership formed between the Arizona State Museum, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Museum of Northern Arizona and Arizona State University. The consortium was created to facilitate the integration and shared management of cultural resources information for the entire state through AZSITE, an electronic cultural resources inventory.

The Consortium was created through a Memorandum of Agreement in 1995. Subsequent agreements have maintained the cooperative efforts among the Consortium members and other cooperating government entities. In 2006, a Governor's Executive Order recognized the AZSITE as Arizona's electronic Cultural Resources Inventory, established the Consortium Board and the AZSITE Advisory Committee.

Following the Executive Order and the terms of the cooperative agreements, the Consortium partners collaborate to manage, maintain, develop and control access to the AZSITE database system and to secure funding for these activities through external grant efforts and through data use fees.

The AZSITE Cultural Resources Inventory is a consolidated information network of recorded archaeological sites, historic properties, districts and inventory surveys within Arizona. It is designed to reduce the amount of research time for preservation professionals and academic researchers conducting regulatory reviews, research, and historic preservation planning. Access to the AZSITE system is governed by an Access Policy, which is based on federal and state laws and regulations regarding access to certain types of cultural resource information.

To learn more about AZSITE or to access the database visit the official site. A FAQ that can answer many questions is posted below.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: What is the AZSITE Database?
A: The AZSITE Database is a consolidated informational network of recorded archaeological sites, historic properties, districts, and inventory surveys within the state of Arizona. It is designed to reduce the amount of research time required for class 1 surveys and to provide a database for research projects.

Q: Who is in the AZSITE consortium?
A: The AZSITE consortium presently consists of the Arizona State Museum (UA), the Archaeological Research Institute (ASU), the Museum of Northern Arizona, the State Historic Preservation Office and the Arizona State Land Department. The AZSITE database was designed by and will be maintained by the consortium.

Q: Who will own the database?
A: Intellectual rights over the data themselves will be neither claimed nor determined by the consortium; however, participating institutions that have contributed data to AZSITE may retain claims to intellectual rights to that information. The consortium may restrict access to data according to the policies set by those responsible for the information where such restrictions are in the best interests of the archaeological resources.

Q: Who can use AZSITE?
A: The database will be available only to authorized users. Just as all agencies that keep paper records of site data control the access to those files, the AZSITE Database will control access to the computerized records. This will be accomplished through a system of assigning login accounts and passwords to authorized users.

Q: How many records are in AZSITE now?
A: The pilot database currently holds 60,000 record on sites and historic properties, and ca. 4000 records of surveys. They represent records from ASM (which includes state, county, municipal and BLM records), ASU, SHPO, MNA and National Forest databases. Most of the site and several hundred survey records are georeferenced in a GIS system.

Q: How will I benefit from this system?
A: Currently, survey and site searches are conducted by researching paper copies of survey reports, maps and site cards by hand and querying the limited databases at several geographically distant recording agencies. With the AZSITE Database, you will be able to query the database and research a geographical area from a computer terminal. The database will have as complete a list as possible of all the archaeological sites & surveys within the state of Arizona. This saves time as well as providing more accurate and complete research of your project area. Initially, computer terminals will be available at four points around the state: ASM, SHPO, ASU and MNA. Internet web access is under development. With the establishment of a wide area network, it will be possible to do "remote" logins. All of these methods can be controlled to prevent unauthorized use.

Q: What kind of information can I get from the AZSITE Database?
A: The database will provide location information on surveys conducted and archaeological sites recorded in an area you specify within the state of Arizona. It will provide you with survey and site numbers, the archaeological data recorded on each site, and report references related to each survey number, but will not allow you to view each report in its entirety. It will tell you what surveys have been done in your project area and whether any recorded archaeological sites will be affected by the proposed surface alteration.

Q: How will access to AZSITE be controlled?
A: Access policies for the AZSITE database will be established by a security committee within the consortium. Users will apply to this committee for a license to use access. Specific criteria for access have not been set, but will include demonstration of need for access, qualifications, and complete contact information.The license aggreement will specify the rules for appropriate use. The security committee will handle all disciplinary action and arbitrate appeals in circumstances of misuse or abuse of a license.

Once a license had been obtained, the AZSITE data administrator will assign a computer account (login, password) for each individual covered under that license. All access to the database will be through this account.

Q: How do I submit my data and to which agency?
A: You will continue to submit reports to the agencies you currently submit to. Site and survey descriptions will be submitted in electronic form in AZSITE format. A standalone version of the AZSITE database has been created and is available free of charge for the creation of AZSITE datasets. This database will be reviewed by the appropriate land managing agency and then forwarded to AZSITE for insertion into the main database. The insertions are logged and the final AZSITE numbers assigned to your sites are written back to the standalone copy for your records.

Q: Can I get reports on line?
A: Not through AZSITE, although AZSITE maintains a full bibliography of reseach reports keyed by project number or by site number. Participating agencies may make reports available electronically but there are no current plans to integrate these into AZSITE.

Q: What type of equipment am I going to need?
A: This depends on how and from where you will be accessing the database. Currently three forms of connectivity are supported:

  1. WWW interface. Any computer with an internet connection and a web browser will be able to use the WWW interface to the database. There are no specific hardware requirements.
  2. SDE GIS server connection. SDE requires a Windows 95/NT or Unix platform and ArcView, ArcInfo or a custom MapObjects application. Recommended hardware will be a Pentium or RISC workstation with 32 megabytes of memory and a TCP/IP connection. Tests indicated that even a 33.6 modem connection will perform well.
  3. ODBC database connection.

To prepare GIS data for submission to AZSITE, you will need the AZSITE standalone which requires Windows 95/NT or higher and ArcView GIS software. You will also need a digitizer or GPS device, or you may digitize site locations from georeferenced and rectified raster maps.

Q: Will there be training available on the operation of the database?
A: Plans are being developed to provide training for use of the AZSITE database. The extent of training that can be developed is a function of funds available. We will be looking for grant monies to implement the system and this will include training support. Ongoing training and support for a system once it is implemented will be included in user fees. As with all new computer applications, there will be on-line help. Anyone generally familiar with relational database applications such as ACCESS or Paradox will find the database interface very familiar.

Q: What's it going to cost me?
A: Fee structure and long term maintenance costs are still to be determined. The only thing we know for certain right now is that no one agency will be able to fund the system or its maintenance. However, the AZSITE database is a value-added product; it will take work to get it running and keep the data clean and up-to-date. If users find it a valuable service, it will be worth it to them to support it. Some sort of annual or per-use fee may be necessary, although per-use fees incur administrative over-head costs and would be the least desirable approach.

Q: Which agency's site numbers will the database use?
A: The database assigns consecutive numbers to each record for its own records management purposes. Agencies that currently assign site numbers (the Forest Service, e.g.) may continue to assign their own numbers and the database will maintain a concordance of numbers for each site. You will be able to access a site record by any number in the concordance.

Q: Will this replace my agency's database?
A: Not necessarily. AZSITE was designed to integrate with existing databases by providing a content core that is consisted accross all agencies . Some agencies such as ASM, SHPO and ASU have elected to use AZSITE to manage all of their site inventory needs; others will maintain independent databases based on the AZSITE structure.

Q: What about "hot-links" to photos and field maps?
A: These have been identified as desirable features but have not yet been implemented. Once the database is online and up to date, efforts will be made to add these features to the system.

Q: What component/age system are you using?
A: The pilot adopted the component/age classifications used on the current ASM site card. This system provides age horizons that are divorced from cultural and spatial contexts and are thus applicable state-wide. We are currently expanding this list to accomodate local phase names. This is being done in a manner that allows local phase names to be referenced to the broader time horizons. A procedure for submitting additions will be set up and a committee of concerned archaeologists will be elected to review the current system and recommend changes.

Q: How will bibliographic references be handled?
A: The pilot has incorporated the bibliographic reference numbers currently in use by ASM and SHPO (in both cases, these are sequential numbers assigned when the report record is entered into a computer file). A new format has been adopted for bibliographic data that is similar to the NADB biblographic format. Future integration is anticipated with the Consortium of Arizona Museum Archives and Libraries, made up of ASM, MNA, Pueblo Grande Museum and the Heard Museum, is developing a project to index Arizona "gray literature" (among many other documents) in a standard MARC (machine readable code) format. This would allow the assignment of Library of Congress catalog numbers and these numbers would be added to the database. The reports would then be searchable by author or subject.

Q: How will the data be protected?
A: AZSITE is primarily an accessibility tool - it should not be regarded as an archival system. The ultimate protection for the data will be the diligent management of records by the agencies responsible for the various portions of the database. There will be 3 or 4 replicated servers, each with a full set of data, and each with a regular tape backup regime. While a transaction log is kept as a record of updates, inserts and deletions to the database, it is unlikely that AZSITE will have the resources to keep a paper inventory of site forms and correction logs. This will remain the responsibility of the managing agencies to keep a record of all submissions and changes they have authorized.

Q: What is being done about the quality of old "legacy" data?
A: Limited technical resources and, in some cases, failure to maintain rigorous standards, have resulted in many site records with no, or poor quality, information regarding provenience and basic descriptive attributes. For site locations, GIS points were generated from coordinates recorded "as is" from the site forms. After displaying the database, the most obvious errors resulting from reversed northings and eastings , missing decimal places or mixed UTM zones were corrected. We intend to seek funding for a separate project to re-digitize site locations as polygon areas from the paper records; in the meantime, we are counting on the users of the system to assist by bringing errors to our attention as they discover them in the course of their specific research activities.

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