Rosemary Joyce, Professor

Closed (1) Indigenous Curation and Local Collecting: Histories of Museum Collections from Central America, AD 1700-1945

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

This project explores the hidden histories of the original collectors of objects that now form the materials for research in archaeology of Central America, with a special focus on the Caribbean Coast stretching from Belize through Honduras to Nicaragua. Based on extensive research in museums and archives in North America and Europe, the project is recovering the names and stories of local people in the region, some indigenous, others of Spanish descent, and still others immigrants from North America or Europe who relocated in Central America after independent from Spain opened the region up to often-exploitative development.

By paying attention to local people who disappear from published research on these collections, this project shows that there are many ways that different people understand the pasts manifest in things that can be encountered across the region, and questions the systematic erasure of these other voices and views.

In 2019, the project collected photos of archival documents, hand written in English and French, which now need to be reviewed and transcribed for use in a book in progress and articles. The contents of these sources range from account books of British traders to letters between French scholars. The stories they tell can be very mundane or exciting.

As part of this project, student volunteers will learn how to read handwritten archival documents-- the primary sources for all history. They will learn about the history of Central America's independent Maya and Miskito peoples, who never were incorporated into European colonies and maintained control of substantial parts of what today are the nations of Belize, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Student volunteers will be taught how to conduct research in online archives and museums, where we will continue to search for additional records.

Qualifications: Ideally, this project would attract at least one volunteer who can read French. Otherwise, there are no special skills required.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs

Off-Campus Research Site: Due to COVID19, all activities will take place remotely, using copies of documents provided through bCourses or Box, or online databases.

Closed (2) Cataloguing ‘Abbāsid Coinage: A Digital Humanities Approach to Islamicate Cultural Heritage

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

Even in today’s world, money is not just about finance. Money has arranged social relations and powerfully connected people across continents for well over a millennium. I am an anthropological archaeologist working in the Middle East and Europe to examine data from ancient Arabic (‘Abbāsid) coins (750- 1258 CE). When examined with digital tools, these coins reveal previously undetected social networks between Arabs and wider Eurasian communities across the Eurasian landmass. The archaeological and anthropological study of these Arabic coins reveals a global economic system based on Arab silver that transformed ancient Eurasia to the global space that it remains today. The cultural heritage represented in this coinage today cuts across national borders, languages, and far distances.

The student researcher will assist in (1) developing a database that will support social network modelling, (2) researching scholarship on ‘Abbāsid coinage while maintaining a bibliography of the relevant literature, and (3) documenting the collecting history of Islamic coinage across the Arab World and across Europe. This work will involve working with published and unpublished archaeological data, researching and acquiring relevant scholarship, and synthesizing relevant information from published books and articles.

The researcher will gain research experience that is immediately transferable across the Humanities and Social Sciences and will develop skills in the Digital Humanities and database management, as well as more specific training in cultural heritage- and museum studies. If there is interest from the student, there may be opportunities to work with Social Network Analysis (SNA) software and approaches in Data Science.

Please note that this project will involve remote consultation between the PI and the student researcher.

The student researcher will assist in (1) developing a database that will support social network modelling, (2) researching scholarship on ‘Abbāsid coinage while maintaining a bibliography of the relevant literature, and (3) documenting the collecting history of Islamic coinage across the Arab World and across Europe. This work will involve working with published and unpublished archaeological data, researching and acquiring relevant scholarship, and synthesizing relevant information from published books and articles.

The researcher will gain research experience that is immediately transferable across the Humanities and Social Sciences and will develop skills in the Digital Humanities and database management, as well as more specific training in cultural heritage- and museum studies. If there is interest from the student, there may be opportunities to work with Social Network Analysis (SNA) software and approaches in Data Science.


Please note that this project will involve remote consultation between the PI and the student researcher.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Sara Ann Knutson, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Familiarity with Microsoft Excel is required as well as having an interest in Archaeology, museum studies, and/or cultural heritage studies. A reading knowledge of Arabic is encouraged but not strictly necessary. Previous experience/ relevant coursework in Data Science and/ or with a programming language such as Python is also welcome.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs

Off-Campus Research Site: This is a remote URAP opportunity. The student will obtain the original data through digital means, and will communicate with project members via zoom or other mediation.

Closed (3) Colonial history of Central America: Building indexes for Honduran documents in the AGCA and AGI in the time of COVID19

Closed. This professor is continuing with Spring 2021 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Fall 2021.

During the colonial period, much of Central America was governed from Guatemala. Archives related to this period exist in Spain; in Guatemala City; and in individual countries. This project seeks to create online, published guides to colonial documents from the region, with a special focus on Honduras.

Today, the colonial documents in Guatemala City, which make up the Archivo General de Centroamérica (AGCA),can be used only by scholars under a number of restrictions intended to safeguard these fragile historical sources. UC Berkeley obtained a collection composed of microfilms of the entire AGCA. This resource was accompanied by only the barest of information about its contents. Since 2008, we have been working to provide a digital searchable index for this resource. In May 2016, we received a three year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for work indexing documents dated 1700-1821 associated with the capital city, and are now working on finalizing a finding aid (index) developed with that funding. The digital index will allow scholars anywhere in the world to know what this collection has-- and then either visit a library with the microfilm collection, or the original document repository in Guatemala City.

The AGCA digital finding aid itself is actually a subproject of the document database we have been developing for Honduras, specifically. As we work on finalizing the index for the 75,000 documents we recorded in the NEH project, we want to return to our original goals on the Honduran project. This integrates records of archives, either original or microfilmed collections, in Spain, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Microfilms for many archives in Honduras are held by the University of Texas at Arlington; others are in published reference works. When in person collaboration is possible, we might ask students to work on collecting records for some of these resources.

The microfilm copy of the AGCA held by Berkeley is one resource we are drawing on for the Central American archive in Guatemala city. Others are in the form of PDF publications that we would like student assistants to review and collect information on documents for Honduras. This is the main task we see for fall 2020.

A second task for fall 2020 involves the third major archive, the Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla, Spain. This archive has a full catalogue published online, in some cases, with documents digitized. Here, we need help to systematically collect or confirm we have collected records on all documents relevant to our research.


This project continues work that began in person on the UC Berkeley campus with URAP volunteers, and then was supported for four years by major grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Fall 2020 (and likely Spring 2021) work is adapted to be feasible as remote participation.

Volunteers will be trained in palaeography, the art of reading old handwriting. Although most of the tasks envisaged this fall will not require reading the original documents, this is a concrete research skill that we teach students every year.

Each volunteer will also receive training, if needed, in using Excel. Excel spreadsheets will be provided for data collection, and data, once collected, will be transformed in relational databases shared with students. (Students this fall won't be directly working with the databases so they do not need the software on their own computers.)

Each volunteer will have specific sources (a PDF publication or a website) they are assigned, to find records of documents about colonial Honduras and add them to the project.

Volunteers who continue in spring may be assigned more advanced research tasks, such as using internet resources to find out information about specific historical people, depending on their interests.

The project will introduce students to the processes for reading colonial handwriting, and to the rich and largely unknown episodes in the history of Central America from the 16th century to the early nineteenth century that this resource documents. Students will also learn how to create research databases, using excel to organize data that we will publish using Filemaker, a relational database program. Students will work closely with Dr. Rus Sheptak (Research Associate of the Archaeological Research Facility), an expert in both databases and colonial history, and co-director of the Honduran Colonial Archaeology project of which this work is a part.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Russell Sheptak, Staff Researcher

Qualifications: This project requires a working knowledge of Spanish, the language in which the documents are written. All other needed training is provided.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs

Off-Campus Research Site: Due to COVID19, until further notice, all work will take place remotely, with regular meetings with Professor Joyce and Dr. Sheptak arranged to meet student schedules.