How Can I Use Open Context?

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Open Context publishes data you can analyse, media you can reuse, and field notes you can explore. All content published by Open Context carries Creative Commons copyright licenses, which means you have explicit legal permission to reuse and adapt this content in your own works, as long as you provide appropriate citations to Open Context contributors. Below we illustrate some of the ways you can use Open Context published content for your own work.

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Find and Cite Comparanda

Open Context offers a variety of search options ranging from simple fulltext searchs to more sophisticated faceted browse tools. Fulltext searches work like conventional search engines, simply matching characters you typed in your query. Faceted browse provides more precise ways to query data (and metadata) through a point-and-click interface to select different search filters. Common search facets include context, project, descriptive attributes specific to a given project, and descriptive attributes common to many projects (we add links to such common standards as part of our editorial workflow). You can browse through objects by typology, materials, and other attributes defined by data contributors. You can combine fulltext search with faceted browse also.

These search tools make it easy to find and examine individual records published by Open Context. The records may describe objects or contexts relevant to your research interests. You may use and cite them in comparative analyses or other applications.

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Find and Reuse Images

Contributing researchers often provide images (drawings and photographs) to further document datasets. You can find relevant images using the search and faceted browse tools discussed above. The images published by Open Context carry Creative Commons copyright licenses. These licenses give explicit permission to reuse content, including the images, provided you properly cite creators. So you can use images published by Open Context in your own websites, presentations, or in your own publications, provided you cite the image creator with the information provided in the "Suggested Citation" box associated with each image.

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Download Data Tables

Structured data — meaning data meant for quantification and analysis — represents a large fraction of the content published by Open Context. While Open Context offers powerful APIs (Application Program Interfaces), many users will prefer to simply download structured data in CSV format for use with Excel or other software. You can find tables available for download for a given project listed on the project description page (see example).

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Search and Read Field Notes

In addition to structured data for quantitative analysis, Open Context often publishes textual field notes. You can search field note documents with through the text-search boxes. In addition, because field notes typically link to objects and contexts, you can browse field notes with the faceted search interface according to context and other metadata attributes.

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Reference Place URIs

Open Context, as a partner of the Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA) project publishes archaeological site file records aggregated from US state government and similar sources. Each site file record has its own unique Web URI (Uniform Resource Identifier). You can reference these Web URIs to explicitly relate your data with DINAA and an increasing array of data and collections associated with DINAA.

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Reference Descriptive Attribute and Type URIs

When researchers publish data with Open Context, they also publish their recording attributes and types (see this well-described example). Sharing recording systems, typological systems, and controlled vocabularies is important because many areas of research lack common recording standards. Each descriptive attribute and type published by Open Context can be referenced with a stable URI. It is good practice to reference these URIs to relate new datasets with relevant datasets published by colleagues. Even if one does not agree with every typological category or descriptive attribute, explicitly noting related concepts can be a key to long term interoperability.

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Programmatic Applications

While Open Context has a variety of search and browse interfaces, there are many, many more valuable ways to visualize and explore Open Context published data. Open Context offers a a variety of APIs (Application Program Interfaces) that can enable programmers to develop new interfaces, visualizations, and analysis tools. Stay tuned for examples of programs and analyses using Open Context APIs.

Icon Credits
Information icon by J├╝rgen Bauer via the
Gears icon by Jeremy Minnick via the