about me

I’m an archaeologist who works with data and digital things. I like questions, collaboration, databases, maps, charts, graphs, patterns, jokes, context, equity, dignity.

Here’s a professional bio, if you need it.
Jolene Smith, M.A.A. is the Director of Survey & Information Management and an archaeologist at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Her research and practice centers on open data, data sensitivity and ethics, digital preservation and access, and developing easy-to-use tools to help small organizations create, use, and manage archaeological data.


Areas of Interest

  • Digital Heritage: Using technology to communicate and understand culture and the past

  • Ethics of Culturally Sensitive Data: Understanding implications of handling data about past people in present contexts

  • Archaeological Records Management: Media including digital, print, and photographic

  • Archaeological Collections Management: Focus on collections data to ensure preservation

  • Digital Archives: Developing strategies for managing, preserving, and disseminating media

  • Public Outreach: Intersection of contemporary communities and archaeology

  • Data Collection and Analysis: GIS and relational databases, crowdsourced heritage data


Master of Applied Anthropology (M.A.A.), University of Maryland, College Park.
May 2008. Concentrations: Anthropology of Heritage, Historical Archaeology, Community-based Archaeology. Paul A. Shackel, advisor.

B.A., Virginia Commonwealth University
Department of History. May 2004. Minor in Anthropology.

Additional Training

Digital POWRR, May 2019. Competitive application. Workshop to enable librarians and archivists from small and mid-sized institutions to build skills for curating and preserving digital collections.

Institute on Digital Archaeology Method and Practice, April 2015–August 2016. Invited participant. Learned foundational programming and web development skills, developed and launched a cohesive digital archaeology project. Interviewed about the Institute on the ArchaeoTech podcast, September 2016.

National Preservation Institute Training, Section 106: An Introduction (2011), NAGPRA Essentials (2013), Archaeological Curation and Collections Management (2013), Conservation Strategies for Archaeologists (2013).

Self-Directed Training, Database Structure, SQL, Visual Basic, digital archives concepts and practices, Python, static sites, WordPress, PHP, GeoJSON, Leaflet.js (and other JavaScript), Regular Expressions, HTML, CSS, R, RStudio, Git, OpenRefine.

Current and Past Digital Projects

East End Cemetery: A Place and Its People: 2017-2019. For several years, volunteers have been documenting and restoring neglected East End Cemetery in Richmond, one of several large and significant historic African American burial places. This website presents narratives and structured data about individuals and families buried here and invites community submissions. Project support provided by Dumbarton Oaks. East End Cemetery: A Place and Its People, documentation here.

Virginia Archaeology for Everyone: A digital repository for archaeological media with a front-end WordPress interface including interactive Leaflet maps, connections to other data sources via API, and embedded tools to allow the public to explore texts and structured data. This is a proof-of-concept project. Virginia Archaeology for Everyone, documentation here and here.

DHR Collections Inventory and Optical Coding Project: Data Matrix optical codes, comprehensive box inventory, and relational database (MS Access). 2017 phase integrates archaeological field records and creating collections with descriptive metadata.

Historic Resources Emergency Rapid Response Viewer: 2017 demo at https://aejolene.github.io/disastermap/. An interactive, mobile-friendly map viewer using the Open Context API/Digital Index for North American Archaeology to provide presence/absence and contact information for state Historic Resources officials to emergency responders in the wake of natural disasters.

Virginia Archaeology News on the Map: In development, 2015. A leaflet map that displays press coverage of archaeology in Virginia, georeferenced. This is a personal project under periodic development. The resulting map can help professionals understand how archaeology is presented in the media and also be a tool for public engagement, allowing users to explore geographically.

History Surrounds Us: An interactive compass exhibit for heritage organizations, made using MIT App Inventor and completed in 2015 with plans for rebuild. *History Surrounds Us

Professional Experience

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

  • Director of Survey & Information Management November 2020 - Current
  • Historic Resources Data Coordinator November 2019 - October 2020
  • Digital Media Preservation Specialist and Archaeological Data Manager 2008 – 2019. Title formerly Archaeology Inventory Manager.
  • Interim Coordinator, Burial Permits and Cemetery Issues April 2017 – July 2017
  • Interim Co-Director, Division of Survey and Register January 2014 – September 2017

I develop strategy and implementation plans for all categories of data about Virginia’s historic resources, including preservation and management of digitized reports, photographs, and datasets in DHR’s collections.
I implement projects including a comprehensive inventory of artifact collections and records, integrating information into relational databases and creating finding aids with integrated optical bar-codes.
I analyze data about historic resources, survey activity, and land use using R, ArcGIS, and other tools.
I improve workflows across the agency to help colleagues automate repetitive tasks and to help researchers and citizens get the information they need.
I’ve defined a Climate Change Impact Area using GIS and develop a mechanism for prioritizing cultural resource survey activity within the area contributing to agency annual statistics.
I manage DHR’s database and archive of information related to nearly 50,000 archaeological sites, including supervision of GIS mapping and quality control of submissions. I’ve assumed the role of database administrator on our larger SQL Server database, developing new workflows and queries for over 250,000 combined archaeological and architectural records.
I lead agency efforts to develop and maintain VCRIS (Virginia Cultural Resource Information System). I served as sole archaeologist member of the Core Working Group during system design and now serve as the Product Owner for the agency, coordinating all ongoing enhancements and maintenance.
I serve on DHR’s National Register Evaluation Committee Archaeological Team to assess eligibility of sites in Virginia and conduct Section 106 review for archaeology related to Federal Communications Commission projects.
I serve on DHR’s Collections Management Committee to make decisions on loans, develop policy, and improve workflows.
I manage user accounts in VCRIS, including the protection of sensitive locational data related to archaeological sites.
I work with other organizations on questions of large scale data and accessibility of archaeological data.
I provide technical assistance to members of the public regarding archaeological sites and historic cemetery documentation.
I’ve planned and overseen a division budget as co-director of the Survey and Register Division, January-September, 2014.
I do fieldwork sometimes, although not as often as I’d like! I assist colleagues in excavation and supervision of crew/volunteers. I analyze excavation data and create graphics for final archaeological reports.

Freelance WordPress Development, 2017–Current.
I’ve built a custom WordPress site with extended database functionality, using PHP, javascript, HTML, and CSS. eastendcemeteryrva.com.

Freelance Microsoft Access Database Development, 2015–Current.
I’ve structured multiple complete relational databases for efficient artifact cataloging by multiple staff at private sector cultural resource management firms and academic archaeology departments. Needs met included flexibility for multi-state projects, data standardization, custom queries, and reports. Provided support and enhancements. Samples and references available upon request.

Administrative Assistant to Mark P. Leone, University of Maryland. June 2007–May, 2008.
Prepared and manage daily correspondence.
Delegated tasks to other Federal Work Study assistants.
Assisted in development of course materials and funding proposals.
Managed electronic archives of correspondence, course documents, archaeological materials, and media coverage.

Intern, Society for American Archaeology, Government Affairs Division. January 2008–May 2008.
Monitored Federal and state legislation regarding cultural resources.
Assisted in the compilation of a monthly legislative update.
Attended relevant Congressional committee and subcommittee meetings and hearings on issues related to cultural resources.
Compiled information for a database of state legislation related to archaeology.

Intern, Hampden Community Archaeology Project. June 2007–January 2008.
Planned and implemented oral history instruction curriculum for high school student fieldworkers.
Assisted in supervision of fieldwork at a 19th-century urban domestic site.
Assisted in excavation and mapping.
Conducted a community history workshop relating to archaeology and oral history in Baltimore.

Intern, National Park Service, National Heritage Areas Program. September 2006 – December 2006.
Created websites for National Heritage Area units.
Collected data about Heritage Areas for later reporting. Created web content for National Heritage Areas websites. Compiled monthly electronic newsletter.

Collections Technician, Virginia Department of Historic Resources. September 2005 – August 2006.
Streamlined DHR’s Archaeological Collections Database.
Assisted with the processing and maintenance of state archaeological collections, including artifact processing and cataloging.
Contributed to public education by participating in exhibit preparation and public interpretation.

Field Technician, Cultural Resources, Inc. May 2005 – December 2005, Gray & Pape. 2008.
Participated in excavations of Phase I, II, and III archaeological sites including several phase I surveys focusing primarily on prehistoric occupations (Middle Archaic to Late Woodland period), phase II work at a Late Archaic lithic reduction site and an 18th–20th -century plantation, phase III work at a 17th -century English settlement and several 19th -and early 20th -century cemeteries, including the removal of human remains. Assisted in technical report preparation, specifically with the preparation of maps and site forms for the State of Virginia.

VCU Intern Coordinator/Collections Technician, Virginia Commonwealth University in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. September 2004 – May 2005.
Supervised student interns in long-term collections management projects.
Assisted in developing syllabus for VCU’s Artifact Practicum course.
Developed guidelines for volunteer/intern work at DHR.
Developed large relational MS Access Database for cataloging extant and future VCU-owned artifacts and records.


  • Virginia Archaeology Charitable Trust/VACT Web editor: 2018-present

  • COVA: Council of Virginia Archaeologists. Secretary: 2014–2017, two terms. Web editor: 2018-present

  • NCSHPO TSSC: National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers Technology and Survey Standing Committee

  • SAA: Society for American Archaeology. Co-chair, Digital Data Interest Group. Member, Task Force on Public Outcomes of CRM

  • MAAC: Middle Atlantic Archaeology Conference

  • ASWG: Awesome Small Working Group, Member

Notable Presentations and Publications

Bondura, Valerie, Christyann Darwent, Stephanie Halmhofer, Annalisa Heppner, Kristina Killgrove, Hanna Marie Pageau, Jolene Laura Updike Smith, Kisha Supernant, and Heather Walder, 2019. Take Back the SAA. The SAA Archaeological Record 19(4). https://osf.io/btn25.

Co-chair, Openness and Sensitivity: Practical Concerns for Taking Archaeological Data Online, electronic symposium at Society for American Archaeology 2019 in Abuquerque, NM. Symposium website.

Contributor, The Open Digital Archaeology Textbook, specifically sections of “Making Data Useful.” This is an open, living project, so it continues to evolve with contributions from others.

Chair, Futures and Challenges in Government Digital Archaeology, electronic symposium at Society for American Archaeology 2018 in Washington DC. Symposium website. Presented “Always Halfway There: Keeping Up with Digital Archaeological Data in Virginia,” link.

“Open-ish”: Finding Balance between Site Data Protection and Accessibility at the State Level,” presented at the George Wright Society Annual Meeting. Norfolk, VA 2017.

Invited Panelist: Digital Data in the US and Canada, Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver 2017.

Invited Panelist: Government Data and Metadata Forum, Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver 2017.

“Other People’s Data: Practical Realities and Ethics of Preservation, Reuse, and Dissemination at a State Repository,” presented at Critical Perspectives on the Practice of Digital Archaeology. Harvard University, February 2017.

Interview on Profiles in CRM Podcast, April 2016.

“Approaches to Openness: Digital Archaeology Data in Virginia and Public Engagement,” presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Conference, Washington DC, January 2016.

“Scratching the Surface: Using GIS to Understand Richmond Archaeology,” co-authored with Ellen Chapman. Presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Conference, Washington DC, January 2016.

“Extraordinary Claims: Belief, Respect, and the Scientific Method,” presented at the Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference, Ocean City, Maryland, March 2015.

Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology: Springer 2014. “Archaeological Archives.”

Colonial Williamsburg Past & Present Podcast: Cemetery Secrets: August 2012

“The Future of Historic Resources Data in Virginia: VCRIS” presented at the Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference, Virginia Beach, May 2013.

“A Southside Plantation: Archaeology of the Enslaved at the Walnut Valley Cabin (44SY0262), Surry County, Virginia” presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Conference, Baltimore, Maryland, January 2012.

“Introduction: From Theories of Culture to Theories of Community,” written with Robert Chidester and presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Conference, Toronto, Ontario, January 2009.

“Buried History and Exposed Issues in Richmond, Virginia,” presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Conference, Toronto, Ontario, January 2009.

“Oral History and Community Archaeology: Developing a Program in Hampden,” presented at “Sharing Authority: Building Community-University Alliances through Oral History, Digital Storytelling, and Collaboration,” Concordia University, Montréal, QC, February 2008.

“Oral History and the Hampden Community Archaeology Project,” poster presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Conference, Albuquerque, NM, January 2008.

Grants, Honors, and Awards

  • Institute for Museums, Preservation, Archaeology Research, and Training (IMPART) Assistantship Fall 2007.

  • Institute for Museums, Preservation, Archaeology Research, and Training (IMPART) Fellowship Spring 2007.

  • Graduation with honors: magna cum laude, Virginia Commonwealth University 2004.

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