Projects

The basic unit of organization in OCHRE is the "project." OCHRE can support an unlimited number of research projects, enabling each project team to organize and share information while preserving its own terminology and restricting access to its data. A project team may be of any size, ranging from a single scholar pur­suing individual research to a large group of collaborating scholars and students. Projects and their individual members are identified by name and are given credit for their data and interpretations.

OCHRE is an online service available to anyone who wishes to use it for a legitimate academic purpose. Although it is a centralized database, OCHRE does not present itself as a single, anonymous authority. All data are organized according to "projects" conducted by one or more researchers. Any number of projects can join OCHRE and add their data to the database.

Although OCHRE is an online system that makes use of a central database, control of the data is not centralized. Each project's data remains completely under the control of the project leader, who determines who can see and modify the data. A project's data is invisible to OCHRE users who have not been authorized to see it. The project leader also determines who among the project's staff can modify particular kinds of data. Thus, OCHRE can be used as an internal data management system for a research team but it can also be used to share and publish data more widely, at the discretion of the project leader, who can make some or all of the project's data public for all to see.

Adding Your Project to OCHRE

The University of Chicago's OCHRE database is accessible on the Web at http://ochre.uchicago.edu. Users can click a link there to download software, free of charge, which lets them view and search information in the Chicago database that has been made public by participating projects. OCHRE databases at other institutions will provide access in a similar way.

However, to add or modify data in an OCHRE database, a research team (which may consist of a single scholar) will need its own OCHRE project. The team leader will be given a "project administrator" password to control user accounts and data entry for the project. A project administrator can create usernames and pass­words for any number of project members, specifying the level of access each person possesses to view or modify the project's data.

OCHRE users who do not have a user account assigned by a project's administrator cannot log into that project to view or change its data. However, such users may view and query any data that the project administrator has made publicly available to "anonymous" users. Many projects will choose to keep their data invisible to anony­mous users until they are ready to publish it.

Contact us at the University of Chicago to set up your project in OCHRE and obtain a project administrator account.

Managing Your Project's Data

Even though the information is stored in a central database where it can be efficiently indexed and searched, each project retains control of its own data at all times. The project administrator (e.g., the project's director or principal investigator) determines which OCHRE users can see the project's data and what level of access they possess to modify it. The project administrator can import data tables into OCHRE and can export data from the central database at any time for storage elsewhere or for use with other software.

Importing Data

Most projects have data already in digital form that they will want to import automatically into OCHRE. This is normally quite straightforward, although technical support may be required to do this, depending on the complexity and internal consistency of the existing data files. The data to be imported must normally be in the form of two-dimensional tables consisting of rows and columns (e.g., in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, or converted to that format in order to be imported into OCHRE). Hierarchical relationships are often embedded in such tables, especially in archaeological tables, in which the first few columns normally contain locational information at successively smaller scales of measurement (e.g., site, area, trench, layer). This information is used to construct spatial hierarchies automatically within OCHRE. Likewise, the property values (attributes) stored in table columns are used to create item properties in OCHRE.

In the case of philological projects that deal with ancient texts written in complex scripts (e.g., cuneiform or hieroglyphic texts from the ancient Near East), text files containing transliterations of the original texts can be imported automatically into OCHRE. Line breaks, white space, hyphens, capitalization, font size, and other features of the text file are used to parse the text, exposing the analytical distinctions embedded in the transliteration. OCHRE will automatically construct detailed epigraphic hierarchies and discourse hierarchies to represent the text and to capture the existing analysis of it.

The main challenge in importing existing data is to clean up hidden errors and inconsistencies, which often become painfully apparent when data files are converted to the OCHRE format. After the automated import process is completed, some manual editing within OCHRE may be required. Of course, all data can be entered and edited manually if a project chooses to do so.

Exporting Data

At any time, a project administrator can export his or her project's data from the OCHRE database to local files in order to make a back-up copy of the data. Data can be exported as XML text files or as data tables in the Microsoft Excel file format, which can then be used in other software. The central OCHRE database is automatically backed up on a regular basis, so creating a back-up copy of your project's data is not strictly necessary; but it is advisable to make such copies from time to time as an extra precaution.

External Resources

OCHRE distinguishes between "core data" stored in XML format in the central database and "external resources" such as image files, PDF files, 2D and 3D spatial data files, and audio or video files. Each project provides its own HTTP Web server to store its resource files. They are not stored on the central database server but are simply catalogued there, with URL Web links to the server on which they are stored. If a project does not have its own Web server, an arrangement can usually be made to host its external resource files on the OCHRE server, depending on the size of the files.

Longevity of Data

All of the core data stored in XML format in the central OCHRE database is professionally backed up and preserved indefinitely. For details concerning the institutional arrangements that have been made to ensure the longevity and accessibility of the data, please contact us at the University of Chicago.