The Utah Division of State History (UDSH), a division of the Department of Heritage & Arts, holds the most comprehensive set of archaeological site data in Utah. Three years ago, more than 110,000 archaeological site forms (including more than 1 million total pages) were housed at the UDSH office in Salt Lake City. For government and private consultants, the location of the records often forced hours of travel to access the physical records required by law for cultural resource compliance. In 2013, the USDH antiquities section saw an opportunity to greatly enhance record access through digitization. By providing digital access in the field, consultants working on transportation, oil and gas, and other development and land management projects greatly improved their ability to move projects forward. Through digitization and by using tools associated with the SUCCESS Framework, consultants’ access to digital records increased from 19.1% to 97.14% by project end in 2015.
Provide online access to 110,000-plus archaeological site forms to reduce operational costs and private consultant and government dependency on physical records.
Identify the Critical System Constraints and Form Partnerships to Achieve the Goal
- It was apparent early in the process that creating a team of highly skilled digital archivists in-house would not be a long-term need. UDSH partnered with the University of Utah Marriott Library to create the IMACS Scanning Project.
- Allowing the Marriott Library staff to focus on scanning, collecting metadata, and digitally hosting the archaeological site forms (IMACS) allowed the UDSH team to focus on project management.
Perform a Triage of Records to Identify the Documents Most Used
- The quality measure for the project was the percent of records accessed online over the number of records accessed in person. To move quality in the right direction as quickly as possible, staff prioritized IMACS documents from most in demand to least in demand.
- The throughput target was the approximately 2,000 records being processed monthly which mapped to a four-year completion window.
Operational expense equaled the staff time to prepare/manage workflow and the Marriott Library’s cost for scanning services. Near project completion, operational expenses decreased significantly and scanning costs were reduced to include only new documents.
- The project exceeded the stated goal and online records have been established as the primary method of access.
- Quality was defined as the percent of records accessed online over the number of records accessed in person. The baseline quality score averaged at 19%. Over the course of the project, quality has increased to over 90%.
- Throughput was defined as the number of documents scanned per month. By the end of the project, scanned records increased steadily and nearly doubled to 4,000 monthly. The result was a completion date nearly one year early.
- The baseline site form usage averaged at 523 forms. At project completion, 3,667 records were accessed in October and 4,454 in November. The results signal that site data access has improved and more records are being efficiently accessed.
- Operational expenses have reduced to minimal levels.
By focusing on complete solutions, UDSH policy now requires all new archaeological site forms to be created or added digitally. The system will continually be reviewed to ensure it meets the needs of users and that usage remains high. UDSH’s next steps include making all archaeological records available digitally to support efficient planning and development in Utah.
Future projects include the digitization of archaeological reports that contain data other than the site forms and that span back to the 1940s. Other records include archaeological finds ranging from 10,000-year-old Paleoindian sites to the rusting relics of Utah’s uranium boom of the 1960s.
Pictured left to right: Kristen Jensen, Arie Leeflang, Jim Grover
Editor’s Note: While technology can be a useful tool at the end of a process improvement effort, automation in and of itself is not the answer. The Heritage and Arts digitization project included a comprehensive review and application of the SUCCESS Framework tools and processes prior to automation. Too often systems are automated with poor outcomes based on a lack of sufficient baseline measures, goals, and a thorough system review. If the “how and when” to use technology is not sufficiently addressed upfront, automation efforts can be extremely costly with little or no impact to throughput and quality for the customer.