Guidelines for Cataloguing Datasets with the ADS

Version 1.0

  1. An Invitation to Catalogue Data with the ADS
  2. Is it more appropriate to catalogue datasets or deposit data with the ADS?
  3. What kinds of datasets can be included in the ADS catalogue?
  4. Five reasons to catalogue datasets with the ADS
  5. Does the ADS catalogue commercial datasets?
  6. What will cataloguing with the ADS cost?
  7. What information is contained in the ADS catalogue?
  8. Creating catalogue records to the ADS
  9. Submitting catalogue records to the ADS
  10. Contacting the ADS

1. An Invitation to Catalogue Data with the ADS

The Archaeology Data Service (ADS) collects, catalogues, manages, preserves, and encourages re-use of digital resources created by archaeologists. It is one of five service providers in the Arts and Humanities Data Service which provides archival services for a range of disciplines including history, text studies (literature and linguistics), performing arts, and visual arts. One of the primary aims of the ADS is to encourage reuse of existing archaeological data. The ADS provides two primary services that meet this objective:

  • Cataloguing datasets in such a way that users can more easily find and access relevant data
  • Providing training and user support in accessing and reusing data

In this document we invite archaeologists to include information about their datasets in the ADS catalogue, explain the benefits of cataloging datasets, and describes the process of submitting catalogue records, and points to other sources of information such as the Guide to Good Practice series.

2. Is it more appropriate to catalogue data or deposit data with the ADS?

Determining if it is more appropriate to deposit a catalogue record of your data set with the ADS, or to actually deposit the data themselves for archiving, depends on two primary factors:

  • Whether your data are dynamic and changing. Dynamic and changing datasets are those that are in active use and are frequently updated. Dynamic and changing datasets are better included in the ADS catalogue than deposited for archiving unless no online access is available or they are somehow considered to be at risk. Examples of dynamic and changing datasets include Sites and Monuments Records (SMRs).
  • Whether your data are digital

If your data are ''not'' digital, they can still be included in the ADS catalogue. This is one strategy for increasing access to and reuse of artefact, fiche, paper, photographic or other records.

If your dataset is stable and suitable for digital archiving with the ADS, please look at our Guidelines for Depositors. If you are unsure whether archiving or cataloguing is more appropriate for your dataset, please contact the ADS.

3. What kinds of datasets can be included in the ADS catalogue?

The ADS catalogue contains information about archaeological datasets located throughout the world. Some of this data is accessible over the internet, and some of the data is not. Offline data catalogued by the ADS includes data stored in self-contained databases or in paper, photograph, microfilm, and museum archives.

All digital collections archived by the ADS and its sister archives in the Arts and Humanities Data Service are included in the catalogue. Other examples of catalogued datasets include SMR databases, NMR contents, national indices of excavations, and collections information from museums.

4. Five reasons to catalogue datasets with the ADS

4.1 Signposting your data

Archaeologists currently have a great deal of difficulty locating data relevant to their research despite the rich network of archaeological archives and databases located throughout the world. This seems largely due to the fact that there is currently no central signpost to archaeological resources. The ADS catalogue is designed to be one such signpost, and includes the minimum amount of information (sometimes called ''metadata'') that users need to determine whether a dataset is appropriate for them.

4.2 Professional recognition

If you catalogue your dataset with the ADS, others will know what your data are about and how they relate to data created by other projects. This makes it easier for others to learn about the information you have collected, contact you for more detailed information, and cite your work.


Cataloguing data with the ADS is one way to prevent others from having to duplicate some of your records in order to cross-reference their information to yours. This helps decrease the circulation of out-of-date or inaccurate summaries of your data. For example, catalouging of all the SMRs in England would replace the need for each of those SMRs to record detailed information contained in neighbouring SMRS (e.g. information about sites that straddle administrative boundaries).

4.4 Building links between datasets

Systematic cataloguing can enable potential users to locate resources of interest to them quickly and efficiently. This is a better strategy for resource discovery than current tools such as Internet search engines.

4.5 It's recommended by:

Cataloguing with the ADS is recommended by MIDAS, the Monument Inventory DAta Standard, which has been created by the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO), the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography, English Heritage, the National Trust, and the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME). MIDAS is designed to build bridges between the diverse existing inventories which record information about England's past.

5. Does the ADS catalogue commercial datasets?

Yes, but even if charges are made for access to a dataset, the cataloguing information must be freely accessible to all at no cost.

6. What will cataloguing with the ADS cost?

Fees are currently being waived for those lodging complete catalogue records with the ADS. If you would like the ADS to generate metadata catalogue records for you, please contact us for more information.

7. What information is contained in the ADS catalogue?

The records in the ADS catalogue are based on the Dublin Core metadata system. Metadata means simply 'data about data' or 'information about information' and metadata records contain information that describe your dataset in a simple, standard way. Metadata records allow potential users of information to quickly find out what a dataset contains, what format the information is in it, when/where/by whom the data were collected or created, and who to contact for more information about arranging access.

Creating metadata records for datasets

Metadata records contain information that describe your dataset in a standard way.  The metadata record forms the basis of a record about your dataset in the ADS Catalogue, and underpins the computerised searching process that allows users to discover and retrieve data that is useful for their purposes.  Each of these pieces of information is very important, so please provide as detailed and complete answers as possible. 

  • Title - please indicate the title (and any alternatives) for the dataset.
  • Description - please provide a brief summary (max. 200-300 words) of the main aims and objectives of the research project (or alternative process) from which the data collection arose.  Please provide a brief summary description (max. 200-300 words) of the content of the dataset.
  • Subject - please suggest keywords for the subject content of the dataset.  If possible, please used existing documentation standards (e.g. the RCHME Thesaurus of Monument Types, the MDA Archaeological Object Name Thesaurus) and indicate which standard you are following. If you use a documentation standard unique to your organisation, it would be extremely helpful is you could send a copy of it with your dataset.
  • Coverage - please give the current and contemporary name(s) of the country, region, county, town or village covered by the data collection. If names or administrative units were different during the time period covered by the data please record them separately.  Please give the dates/period covered by the dataset.
  • Creators - please list details about the creator(s), compiler(s), funding agencies, or other bodies or people intellectually responsible for the data collection.  Information can include forename, surname, affiliation, address, phone, fax, email, or URL.
  • Publisher - please list details about any organisation which has published this data.
  • Identifiers - any project or reference numbers used by you or your organisation to identify the dataset.
  • Dates -  when the dataset was created, when the archaeological project was carried out, processing dates, or computerisation dates as appropriate.
  • Copyright - please provide the name of the copyright holder for the dataset. If the collection was created during your work as an employee, the copyright holder will normally be your employer under your contract of employment. If the material is covered by Crown copyright please indicate this.
  • Relations - if the data collection was derived in whole or in part from published or unpublished sources, whether printed or machine-readable, please give references to the original material.  Please give details of where the sources are held and how they are identified there (e.g. by accession number).  If the collection is derived from other sources please indicate whether the data represent a complete or partial transcription/copy and the methodology used for its computerisation.  Please provide below full references to any publications about or  based upon the data collection.
  • Language - please indicate which language(s) your dataset is in (e.g. English, French, Swahili).
  • Resource Type - is this dataset best described as primary data, processed data, an interpretation of data, or a final report?
  • Format - please indicate what format your data is saved in (e.g. WordPerfect 5.1, HTML, AutoCAD).

8. Creating catalogue records for the ADS

The creation of catalogue records differs with types of datasets. For example, catalogue records can often be automatically extracted from the contents of databases but may need to be written independently for digital texts.

The ADS is actively developing tools that will assist you in the dissemination of your data and the construction of catalogue records. The OASIS project is just one example of these tools and is aimed at the recording of archaeological investigations across England. Data entered into the OASIS database flows directly into the relevant local HER or SMR and then onto the National Monuments Record from which it is uploaded into the ArchSearch catalogue on a regular basis. Catalogue records can also be submitted directly to the ADS in one of the following two ways:

  • Text format - we prefer catalogue records to be submitted as ASCII or RTF text files, but can also accept HTML, SGML, Word, and WordPerfect files.
  • Database format - we prefer catalogue records to be submitted as ASCII delimited files (with a clear indication of ''how'' the files are delimited - whether by comma, semi-colon, etc.) but we can also accept DBF, Access, and Paradox files.

9. Submitting catalogue records to the ADS

Catalogue records can be sent via email, FTP, or post. Either 5.25 inch and 3.5 inch floppy diskettes can be accepted. If data are FTPed, we prefer to 'pull' the data from your computer to ours. We prefer for catalogue records to be unencoded and uncompressed. If you need to make alternative arrangements, please contact us to discuss your requirements.

10. Contacting the ADS

Archaeology Data Service
University of York
King's Manor
York YO1 7EP +44 (0)1904 433 954
+44 (0)1904 433 939