Principles of Data Management

OCHRE Data Is Your Data

Each participating project manages its own data and controls the way that it is entered, organized, and viewed. OCHRE does not force projects to use a predetermined vocabulary and it does not impose a rigid mode of organizing information. Nor does OCHRE present itself as a single, anonymous authority. Individual projects and researchers are identified by name and are given credit for the data and interpretations they have entered.

All Data Is Created Equal

OCHRE's item-based, "semistructured" data model is organized around individual units of observation and particular conceptual distinctions, no matter how small or idiosyncratic. No object of study is too insignificant or too grand to be represented; no detail is too small to be included in a project's dataset. Description and analysis can be performed at either the macro or the micro level depending on research needs. Individual items are situated in time and space by being embedded in recursive hierarchies, allowing researchers to drill down to levels of greater detail or to navigate across historical periods.

OCHRE implements a normalized database structure, breaking down data into granular components, each with a universally unique identifier (UUID) that serves as a key field. This allows for effective management of individual items as they are described by properties, connected by links, illustrated by images, explained by notes, and tracked by events within OCHRE.

A Place for Everything, and Everything in Its Place

OCHRE's main strength is its ability to integrate data, both within a single project and among different projects. All project data can find its place within the OCHRE data model. Integration within a project is accomplished by linking different kinds of data; for example, by interconnecting the many hundreds or thousands of plans, photographs, and artifact descriptions produced by an archaeological project so that a researcher can easily move among related pieces of information; or by cross-referencing texts, dictionary entries, and grammatical descriptions in a philological project. Once they have been linked, related items can be easily retrieved and displayed together, facilitating further research.

Plays Well with Others

Core OCHRE data is represented in the underlying database in the nonproprietary, plain-text XML format, which is easily transformed into other common data formats. OCHRE is designed to interact easily with other data sources; for example, it can import textual content from word-processing documents, it can export data to spreadsheet tables, and it can fetch live feeds from Zotero online bibliographies.

The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

The highly granular, richly described, and thoroughly integrated project data entered in OCHRE can be re-composed and organized in any number of different views, depending on the target audience and the goal of a specific presentation of data. In this way, we exploit the virtues of a well-structured database on the back end while masking the complexity of the data on the front end. Finding a balance between power and simplicity, between depth and clarity, is a challenge jointly shared by the OCHRE system and the scholar.