Samuel M. PALEY
(The University at Buffalo, SUNY, USA)
For the on-line publication of the Polish Centre of Archaeology’s unpublished 1973-75 excavations at Nimrud (Kalhu), the author of this paper worked with Learning Sites Inc. to create a digital database for Assyrian sculpture. The author has now been working with the database for almost three years, but has had a difficult time inputting the data and uploading it onto the web. It became so labor-intensive (often three or four hours of work per item) and, physically taxing—studying the pictures, moving his head to the screen, clicking the appropriate box in the appropriate field, checking the entry, discovering additional possibilities to add to the fields—that he finally downloaded the form on hard copy, duplicated it and began to expand the fields and fill in individual pages manually. He now is about to start again inputting on line from the printed forms.
The process made him rethink the whole matter of databases and whether they are useful in an art historical context which requires many fields. Assyrian bas-relief can depict complex scenes, often with dozens of iconographic details, most of which are useful to one or another scholar who studies this art form. A database should reflect the character of the material organized and be user-friendly. But what is the psychology here … why should anyone go through the trouble? Are there other methods of registering database fields in a digital world which would make the process more user-friendly?
Keywords: On-line databases, printed database forms, Assyrian bas-relief sculpture