The Southern Vanuatu Mission Archaeology Project website contains data and media produced from 2011-2015 as part of an archaeological survey of early Presbyterian mission sites on the islands of Tanna and Erromango in southern Vanuatu (TAFEA Province). The project documented mission sites as well as Melanesian features on the landscape. It also involved a program of test excavation, and comprehensive analysis of materials recovered from excavations. These materials tell the story of early Christianity in Vanuatu, during an era of early interactions between Presbyterian missionaries and Melanesian people.

Project Team
  • James Flexner, Director
  • Kelley Shanahan, Design & Workflow Specialist
  • Elena Toffalori, Web Development

Funding for website development was provided from an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DE130101703), which was hosted in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the Australian National University, and from a start-up fund from the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry at the University of Sydney.

The Challenge

The materials from the Southern Vanuatu Mission Archaeological Project needed to be available online for other researchers to fulfill the research award requirements. However, as most archaeologists are aware, when dealing with sacred sites and locations, one needs to take caution with what information is provided and to whom. Locations and identities needed to be kept private, some information would be provided to local researchers, some to international researchers, and some to the public. Parallel to the research community, the Project Director wanted to provide an education portal for grade-school teachers to access and share archaeology-based curricula.

The Solution

Out of the box, we designed the data sets to be shared within specific protocols for each audience the site needed to deliver information to. The data were categorized and keyworded according to type of data. James Flexner worked on the public information available about the project, data structure, and research information. The welcome to the site is written in three languages: English, French, and Bislama: the main written languages of Southern Vanuatu. While the project is still organizing educational materials for the curriculum portal, the front page and data sets allow for continued contribution and interactions within the site.

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