Uncovering Connections:

CAQDAS and Tropy for Art Historians and Archaeologists

Keywords: Tropy, computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS), qualitative data analysis software (QDAS), qualitative coding, archaeology, visual anthropology, digital humanities, art history, material culture studies, academic librarianship, archaeologists, art historians, visual anthropologists, analysis aids


This article reports on a 2021 study that aimed to assess art historians’ and archaeologists’ familiarity with computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS), so that academic librarians and visual resources professionals could begin to consider if access to and instruction on these tools might benefit their patrons in these disciplines. Initial findings from the study were presented at the Visual Resources Association 2022 Annual Conference. Scholarship concerning the information organization needs and practices of material culture researchers is limited but growing. Self-identified art historians, archaeologists, and object-based and material culture researchers were invited to take a survey disseminated through convenience and snowball sampling. Responses revealed a lack of participant knowledge about CAQDAS and mixed opinions about their utility. The participants’ research needs demonstrated that art historians and archaeologists interested in CAQDAS should be advised to use them for their original intended purpose: that is, as an analysis aid that helps discover patterns within medium-to-large, sometimes mixed media, datasets. CAQDAS should not be recommended as a replacement for standardized databases, and knowledge management applications like Tropy better fit the need for personal image management support. For patient and motivated researchers with digital experience, CAQDAS can be a powerful tool. For others who fare well with more traditional analog and digital methods of analysis and organization, the packages may cause more frustration than success due to substantial learning curves and financial cost.

Author Biography

Kayla Olson, Winona State University

Kayla Olson is the Reference & Liaison Librarian at Winona State University.

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