Preface to Second Web Edition

Excavating Occaneechi Town has come a long way since it was conceived and published in the 1990s. As detailed in the prefaces to previous editions, it first appeared in 1998 as a CD-ROM, UNC Press’s first electronic monograph. Innovative for its time, this edition was honored with an Electronic Product Award from the American Association of Publishers. The monograph later migrated to a website, which went live in 2003. The new version maintained the same content as its predecessor and was meant to increase the monograph’s longevity and reach, a set of goals it accomplished. However, over the years since the first web edition appeared, the landscape of digital delivery has changed dramatically, necessitating the second web edition presented here.

Two extraordinary teams of undergraduate students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill undertook the redesign of Excavating Occaneechi Town for a course called "Software Engineering Lab." In 2018, Micah Anderson, Tom Boyd, Trey Hayes, and Conrad Ma created the new Electronic Dig. And, in 2020, Andy Chen, Jacob King, and Ankush Vij designed the new look for the rest of the monograph and wrote the code that translated the old pages into their current format. Their skill and dedication are well reflected in the quality of the current edition.

As new security features were added to internet browsers, vulnerabilities associated with the Java programming of the 2003 version of Electronic Dig made it ever more difficult to run; eventually, it stopped working entirely. Anderson, Boyd, Hayes, and Ma created a new version of the app, starting from scratch and using a WAMP software bundle. The new Electronic Dig replicates the key features of the earlier versions, albeit with a somewhat different, tablet-friendly design. Given the inevitability of future changes in operating systems and browsers, it is hard to predict how long this new app will remain functional, as apps tend to be much more sensitive to such changes than simple web pages are. That said, we take some comfort in knowing that Electronic Dig is a tool for teaching, not for research. It serves as a useful addition but is not essential to the website as a scholarly resource.

The HTML pages used in the first web edition became less visually attractive and more difficult to use as screen resolutions increased and digital platforms proliferated. The original web version was designed for VGA monitors that displayed only 640 x 480 pixels, less than half the resolution of most computer screens today, and the page layout did not anticipate the central role tablets and smart phones now play in accessing web content. Chen, King, and Vij completely redesigned the website to accommodate this new digital environment. The current website uses CSS and JavaScript — technologies that have advanced significantly since 2003 — to create dynamic pages that automatically adapt to the reader’s device. It also includes new, scalable excavation maps and drawings, as well as higher-resolution versions of the original field and artifact photographs. Apart from these design changes and fixing a few minor bugs, the second web edition is essentially the same in both content and pagination as its predecessors.

Our thanks go not only to these students for their excellent work but also to their professors, Diane Pozefsky and Jeff Terrell, who allowed us to take part in their course. We are also grateful to John Sherer, Iris Levesque, Ellen Bush, and Dino Battista at UNC Press for their help and encouragement in bringing this new edition to publication and to Elaine Westbrooks and Tim Shearer at UNC Libraries for giving this electronic publication a digital home.

R.P.S.D., P.C.L., V.P.S.
February 7, 2021