Digital Archaeology and the Curation Crisis: 3D Modeling as an Answer to the Problems of Collections Access and Use
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The archaeological curation crisis has plagued repositories and archaeologists alike with a multitude of problems for several decades, most notably inaccessibility to collections. Archaeological artifacts continue to be curated in repositories with little prospect of ever being used by researchers to uncover new information about the past, rendering them essentially useless and removing much of the moral justification of archaeology itself. However, in creating digital 3D models of artifacts and site excavations, archaeologists and repositories can make archaeological data and research widely available to people around the world through the Internet while protecting artifacts from transfer, travel, and potential harm through handling. Alongside 3D models, digital repositories like tDAR are helping to alleviate the problem by providing a digital environment for curation and instant access. An analysis of 3D model creation and digital repository curation, along with a discussion of how to alleviate copyright and access control concerns that arise from sharing digital information, show that while there are still some problems that exist, the benefits of digitizing archaeological collections for research far outweigh the costs.