Open Access Archaeology Fund ready to make its first award!

Nine months ago, we launched our Open Access Archaeology Fund. We have sent our little USB trowels all over the globe by way of a ‘thank you’ and we have been thrilled with everyone’s generosity, not least in such austere times.

So, it makes us even happier to say that sufficient funds have now been accrued and we are in a position to make our first award to cover costs of an unfunded proposed archive or article. (Full details of eligibility can be found here)

So if you or someone you know, has already submitted an article proposal or approached ADS about an archive for which you have no funding, then you can apply to the fund today.

Have you donated yet?
The successful application will likely deplete the fund substantially but we did not want to delay making the first award – it is infinitely preferable that the benefits of the fund can be fast and tangible. However we need more donations to do it all again in 6 months time!

Every donation you make helps to ensure that more archaeological research is open and accessible.

Donate today

The PUBLICAN project

Internet Archaeology and the Archaeology Data Service are working together on a project concerning the current and ongoing impact of our activities on publication policy and practice (which we are calling PUBLICAN for short). We’re especially interested in the impact digital archiving and publication has had on the commercial sector.

Can you help us to compile a national picture of how digital has changed and affected professional practice?

Some further background information to the project can be found in this recently recorded Archaeology Podcast Network podcast https://www.archaeologypodcastnetwork.com/arch365/118

And the survey itself (short!) can be found here:

http://intarch.ac.uk/projects/publican/

Last orders? … The survey link will be closed on 30th June.


Halfway House at Gweedore, Co. Donegal, probably by Robert French
c.1884. National Library of Ireland on The Commons, Ref.: L_ROY_01372.
No known copyright restrictions

ADS Library: BETA version now online!

The ADS, Historic England and the Council for British Archaeology are pleased to announce the beta release of ADS Library.

Weaving a web of references.

The ADS Library is the fusion of existing datasets. These include journal and series backruns archived with the ADS, the Library of unpublished fieldwork reports (aka the Grey literature library) which is mostly populated with reports from OASIS and last but not least the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography  (BIAB) which is in itself a collection of different datasets which have been collected over the last hundred years.

The project to get these references online as a single resource has involved cleaning, mapping and enhancing the data from the different datasets. Allowing them to share the same data structure and hopefully give users as consistent information about each item listed in the library. Some records simply show the existence of a report or publication and others link out to the publication itself where available. There was some overlap in the combined datasets and we have endeavoured to merge records where appropriate in order to limit the existence of duplicates in the lists of results.
Continue reading ADS Library: BETA version now online!

Call for papers: EAA session sponsored by ArchAIDE

The annual EAA Conference will be held this year in Maastricht, the Netherlands from 30 August to 3 September. The ArchAIDE project would like to invite papers related to the topic of automation in artefact recognition. Papers are encouraged which not only highlight technical possibilities, but also challenges facing artefact recognition by archaeologists working across Europe. Session details are available below:

 

Session 166: Automation in artefact recognition: perspectives and challenges in archaeological practice

Theme: Interpreting the archaeological record

Session format: Papers, maximum 15 minutes each

Deadline Extended to 25 March, 2017

You can submit a paper to the session via the EAA website 

Given that artefacts are of fundamental importance for the dating and interpretation of archaeological contexts, the automatic recognition of artefact types has been one of the ‘golden chestnuts’ of archaeological computing, dominating computer application papers of the 1970s and 1980s, but development of a practical working system has not been successful. Nonetheless, software and image recognition technology has moved on, and projects like ArchAIDE, DADAISM and GRAVITATE are working towards the (semi-) automatic recognition of artefacts (pottery, metalwork, stone tools, plastic arts, etc.) and the (partial) automation of archaeological workflows.

 

Artefact recognition is a time consuming activity, and spending time (and money) in repetitive work is not optimal, but automation can help in supporting interpretation with innovative computer-based tools. Artefact recognition calls for complex, specialist skills which are not always available. Automation can facilitate specialist interpretation for generalists, increasing the number of researchers able to devote more time to data analysis, and consequently to greater comprehension and new knowledge in areas such as trade and exchange, supply and production, religious or social affiliation, and so on.

Based on this assumption, we call for papers to foster both theoretical discussion as well as practical solutions, focused on how automatic artefact recognition could:

• meet real user needs, and generate economic benefits;
• produce new interpretations;
• revolutionise archaeologists’ habits, behaviours and expectations;
• create societal benefits from cultural heritage, improving access, re-use and exploitation of digital cultural heritage in a sustainable way.
 

Rural Settlement of Roman Britain: Salute!

A bronze figure of a boy on a chimera, found in Colchester in 1804. Image from Society of Antiquaries of London Catalogue of Drawings and Museum Objects (doi:10.5284/1000409). Not technically from a rural settlement but I like the picture!

In December of last year (2016), I completed the final stage of the digital archive and dissemination for the The Rural Settlement of Roman Britain project. The first publication and (revised) online resource were launched at a meeting of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies at Senate House of the University of London.

I’ve written previous blogs on the project, so won’t repeat myself here too much. Suffice to say that the final phase publishes the complete settlement evidence from Roman England and Wales, together with the related finds, environmental and burial data. These are produced alongside a series of integrative studies on rural settlement, economy, and people and ritual, published by the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies as Britannia Monographs. The first volume, on rural settlement, has now been published, while the two remaining volumes will be released in 2017 and 2018.

The existing online resource has been updated both in content and functionality: the project database is available to download in CSV format, and most key elements of the finds, environmental and burial evidence have been added into the search and map interface. Hopefully the dissemination of the data in these forms allows re-use of this fantastic dataset in a variety of ways and, I hope, by a variety of users.

Example of the online map, showing weighted distribution of inhumation (black) and cremation (orange) burials

As with previous posts on this project, I’d like to say how much I’ve enjoyed working with the team at Reading and Cotswold. Producing an online archive and formal publication in tandem and in such a short time is no mean undertaking. I’m particularly happy/impressed with the determination by the researchers to make their data openly available at the earliest opportunity. Hopefully this is a benchmark that others will aspire to reach. A debt of thanks is also due to all those organisations that assisted the project, particularly the HERs of England and Wales who provided exports from their systems and aided the team at Cotswold with access to fieldwork reports. Finally, I’d have been lost without the awesome Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire created by Johan Åhlfeldt. At an early stage it became clear that creating any kind of ‘baseline mapping’ of Roman archaeology (combining NMP + HER data for example) would be problematic – both in terms of technical overheads and copyright. To do something on the scale of the EngLaId project’s ArcGIS WebApp simply wasn’t in the scope of the project! Johan’s work was thus timely and extremely useful in providing a broad backdrop of Roman Britain in which to compare the project results.

The rationale behind much of the interface work was to act as data publication of an academic synthesis and not to get tied down in building something akin to a Roman portal. Throughout the project we’ve been at pains to point out that this is very much a synthesis and interpretation of the excavated evidence in relation to a research question. Not a complete inventory or atlas of every Roman site. Indeed, it became clear that as soon as the data collation had been completed 31st December 2014 for sites in England and March 2015 for sites in Wales), it was effectively missing all the discoveries made in the following years. Thus although providing broad context was necessary in this case, if someone wanted to know everything about the Roman period (including sites not excavated) from a particular area they’d be best off consulting the relevant HER.

This in turn leads onto the $64,000 Question which I was asked at every event around England and Wales (including the final one in London). “What plans are there to keep this database updated”? Without wishing to appear pessimistic, I would always answer “None”. Aside from the logistics and finances of keeping a large database as this constantly updated, there’s also the fact that this is a very subjective synthesis of a much larger resource. To my mind, the key question is how do we make it easier for other researchers to build on this and have academic synthesis of a period or theme happen on a more regular basis. One of the answers to this is surely access to data, especially the published and non-published written sources. This isn’t really radical, and indeed increased access to data is being explored and recommended by the Historic England Heritage Information Access Strategy. The work of the Roman Rural Settlement project has many lessons to inform these strategies, some of which will form future papers by the project team. Out of curiosity I’ve undertaken my own analysis of the project database and ‘grey literature’ sources (a term I don’t like!) and the OASIS system but will save that for a separate blog post. ..

At the post-launch meal I did end up asking the team a rather cheesy question of “which is your favourite record”? The responses were often based around the level of finds, or in the relative level of information the site could add to a regional picture. My answer(s) were perhaps a little more prosaic, for example I really like records such as Swinford Wind Farm (Leicestershire) which has fieldwork reports disseminated via OASIS, and a Museum Accession ID. However my heart veers towards 42 London Road, Bagshot (Surrey): the site of my very first experience of archaeology as a somewhat geeky 16 year old. The site was never published, and thus it’s great to see it live on in this resource and with a link to the corresponding HER record to (hopefully) allow users to go and explore the wider area. Perhaps even to undertake their own research project. To my mind, to stimulate further work large and small that would be a great legacy of the project.

Tim

Reflections on CHNT 2016

Back in November (16th-18th), I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in the Cultural Heritage and New Technologies (CHNT) conference in Vienna. As detailed in my excitable post, written  in advance of the event, my involvement was to represent the ADS at the session and subsequent round tables hosted by the ARIADNE project on the subject of Digital Preservation. One of the reasons I was so excited was that it was one of the few occasions on which the focus of such sessions was solely on the issues surrounding Digital Preservation: how it’s undertaken, problems and the challenge of ensuring re-use. It was also the first time, in public at least, that individuals representing organisations undertaking Digital Preservation from across Europe came together to present as a united front and presented to the wider heritage community. In addition, the event also took place at the beautiful Vienna town hall in (see below), a fantastic venue.

Just a normal staircase at Vienna town hall. not intimidating in the least
Just a normal staircase at Vienna town hall. Not intimidating in the least

It was incredibly heartening to hear from European colleagues on their experiences, successes and challenges. I also felt that all the papers in the session – no doubt due to the diligence of  co-chairs from  DANS , DAI IANUS and the Saxonian State Department for Archaeology – meshed together really well. Although there were common themes, each was unique and presented a different tale to tell. Although somewhat biased, at the end of the formal session I came away thinking that I had not only contributed, but had learnt in equal measure. For those interested, IANUS have agreed to host the abstracts and presentations from the session on their website. I’d recommend these to everyone interested in a European-wide approach to the issues of digital archiving.

The first round table followed the formal session, and was listed as an open invitation for delegates to query the archivists in the room about where/when/what/how to archive. Surprisingly, considering the high profile parallel sessions, the room was packed with an array of people from a variety of backgrounds and countries across Europe. As such, the conversation veered between the extreme poles of the subject matter – for example the basic need for metadata versus adherence to the CIDOC-CRM. Reading between the lines here, what I thought the attendance and diverse topics showed was that this type of event was not only useful, but actually essential for archivists and non-archivists alike. Not only to correct misconceptions and to genuinely try and help, but also to alert us to the issues as perceived from the virtual work-face.

After a well-earned rest, and a quick visit to the Christmas markets for a small apfelwein, the next day was a chance for all the archivists to get together for an informal round table on issues affecting their long term, and shorter term objectives. Issues ranged from the need for accreditation – one of the ADS’ goals in this regard is to learn from DANS’ experience of achieving NESTOR – to file identification and persistent identifiers. In this setting the ADS is  perceived as very much the elder statesperson (!) in the room, having been in the business for 20 years now, and it’s a good feeling to be able to pass onto colleagues advice and lessons from our own undertakings. I think it’s important that we continue to do this, not only to be nice (and I like to think we’ve always been approachable!), but also to achieve a longer-term strategic strength. Although we (the ADS) are winning many of the challenges at home in terms of championing the need for consideration of digital archives, there’s always more to be done. When we can also point to equivalents in continental Europe, I feel we only make our cause stronger.

However I’m also conscious that this isn’t just a one-way street and that we’ve still a great deal to learn from our European colleagues. Not only in things like accreditation, but also shared experiences on tools, file formats, metadata standards and internal infrastructure. We often say that Digital Preservation never stands still, so in this regard it’s good to look at what others are doing and reflect on what we could do better.  Events such as this – and the international community of archaeologists doing Digital Preservation built in its wake – serve to make us richer in knowledge, and renewed of purpose. Looking forward to the next one!

Tim

Built Legacy: Preserving the Results of Historic Building Investigations

Today we release the findings of our Built Legacy Project (see ADS blog April 2016). The full report can be downloaded here.

It’s long been known that the conservation and built heritage sector have not really engaged with OASIS, the ADS and digital archiving in general. We wanted to investigate why and what could be done about this.

The project aimed to:

  • Establish a state of the sub-sector snapshot of digital archiving practice/awareness
  • Survey practitioners we have not traditionally engaged with – IHBC, RTPI etc. facilities managers, local authority staff, etc.
  • Conduct outreach in terms of event attendance, video, leaflet and training workshop.

Continue reading Built Legacy: Preserving the Results of Historic Building Investigations

Open Access Archaeology Fund

To mark our shared 20th anniversary year, Internet Archaeology and the Archaeology Data Service have combined forces to launch the Open Access Archaeology Fund, with the specific aim of supporting the journal publishing and archiving costs of researchers who have no means of institutional support. We are asking you to support our efforts by pledging a recurring or single gift.

We are grateful for all gifts and to say thank you, everyone who donates over £25 will receive a token of our appreciation – one of our highly desirable red USB trowels. A limited number of special edition orange and purple trowels are also available for those who make donations of between £50-£74.99 (orange) and £75 and over (purple).

USB Trowels

Fund allocation will be prioritised to those without means of institutional support, namely early career researchers and independent scholars. As the Fund develops, we will publish the total raised and a list of the articles and archives assisted by your generosity.

Thank you for your support, by giving to the Open Access Archaeology Fund you help to reduce the barriers to open archaeological research and advance knowledge of our shared human past. Donate Today – Every Gift Helps

Looking forward to CHNT Vienna

Next month, the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) are contributing to an exciting session at the CHNT conference in Vienna: Preservation and re-use of digital archaeological research data with open archival information systems. The session is being organised by partners within the ARIADNE consortium, and chaired by members of the Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS – Netherlands), the Research Data Centre Archaeology and Ancient Studies (DAI IANUS – Germany ), the Saxonian State Department for Archaeology (Germany) and the ADS (UK).

The original rationale behind organizing the session was the need to ensure preservation and re-use of the ever-growing corpus of digital data produced through archaeological activity. Put simply, what we are creating must be available for future generations to consult, but also feed back into current research and practice. Accordingly, the focus of the session is on the services and duties of existing repositories and archives, including case studies and experiences of technical considerations such as formats, authenticity/validity and metadata. Participants will also offer wider perspectives on the rationale for curation, how it can be achieved, lessons learned, the relevance of the OAIS-standard and future challenges. Believing that there is no true preservation without re-use, the session also concentrates on dissemination; discussing accessibility, publicity (getting people to re-use data), and novel and creative methods of data publication as demonstrated through case studies.

Example of the 3D viewer created for dissemination of the archive from the Las Cuevas Project. http://dx.doi.org/10.5284/1036099
Example of the 3D viewer created for dissemination of the archive from the Las Cuevas Project. http://dx.doi.org/10.5284/1036099

The speakers are drawn from a range of cultural heritage institutions, representing a mix of established digital archives and current research projects that are investigating archival solutions, thus offering a range of international perspectives on the Session themes. From an ADS point of view, it will be great to meet up with familiar faces but also hear from (and get to know) new projects. In this vein the Session is followed by a Round Table which will allow for further discussion on topics, as well as allow those new to digital curation the discover more about the subject.

This inclusive participation, and learning from the experiences of international partners is a key theme of the ARIADNE project, and personally I’m excited to not only offer a UK perspective but also to learn from my colleagues and to feed back into my day-to-day role at the ADS.

Tim

A decade in data

birthday_badgeIt’s hard to believe, but next week will mark my 10 year anniversary at the ADS. I originally started on a one-year contract to oversee the archiving of key digital outputs produced by English Heritage ALSF projects (with the job title of ALSF Curatorial Officer), but have since stayed on in the role of Digital Archivist, more recently taking over responsibility as the ADS’ Preservation Lead.

The realisation that I’d spent a decade in one organisation initially triggered a Proustian flashback of projects, archives and even files I’d worked on, and thus the idea of a blog was born. I was tempted to call this blog something like “In Search of Lost Time” (time being a portmanteau of my first name and initial of my surname), but was perhaps a little floral as well as erroneous: here at the ADS we never lose anything…

Curious as to what I’d achieved over this period (apart from a sense of satisfaction in safeguarding humanity’s digital heritage), I returned to the ADS Collections Management System (CMS) to query what it was I had worked on. In short, I’ve been responsible for

  • 1018 accessions (the act of receiving and ingesting data from a depositor)
  • Arriving on:
    • 1 x 3.5 inch floppy disc
    • 298 x CD-ROMs
    • 46 x DVDs
    • 208 x Emails
    • 337 x FTP downloads
    • 12 x HTTP downloads
    • 87 USB hard drives
    • 30 USB memory sticks
    • 5523 Web uploads (via OASIS)
  • Archiving 377 collections
  • Updating/adding to a further 169 collections (Journals, collections of OASIS reports etc)
  • Curated 323,050 accessioned files (in 800,000+ files on our AIPs and DIPs)
  • Undertaken 4094 processes (e.g. migrations)
    • Of which 966 processes related to the creation of Preservation PDF/A (12,592 files if you’re curious)
  • Drunk at least 11300 cups of tea (a slightly spurious figure based on an average of 5 cups a day x (10x(annual working days – holiday)).

Over that time, and all those cups of tea, there are definitely some projects that stick in my mind as being memorable. So, to commemorate my decade in data, here  are my top 10 covering every year I’ve been at the ADS:

2006: Wearmouth and Jarrow Monastic sites. Volume 2 Appendix C

My first archive! Notable for using Tab delimited text, which was soon to be replaced as a dissemination format by Comma separated values.

2007: West Stow, Lackford Bridge, Suffolk

One of the first sizeable projects to come through as part of my ALSF work, this was instrumental in building up a strong start to the project. It’s also a useful dataset arising from a modern appraisal of an old rescue excavation.

2008: Land south-west of Ripple, Worcestershire

Although tempted to opt for Gwithian (check out the photos!), I went for this project which was completed in 2008. It’s a nice mixture of reports, data and photos from (to my mind) quite an important site, especially if you’re interested in the dating of pit alignments.

2009: Fieldwalking the cropmark landscape on the Sherwood Sandstone of Nottinghamshire

The first of a series of big projects I started to work on incorporating map and/or database interfaces. This one was built in ArcGIS Server.

2010: The evolution of Rome’s maritime facade: archaeology and geomorphology at Castelporziano

Primarily because I worked on the fieldwork project (look carefully for pictures of a youthful Tim), but also as it was at the time, the largest archive we held. A detailed archive for a very interesting site.

2011: The Deanery, Chapel Road, Southampton (OASIS ID wessexar1-92410)

Although at first appearance this is a somewhat modest archive, it represents a great leap forward. This was the first archive from an agreement between ADS and Southampton Arts and Heritage, whereby digital archives arising from development-led work in the City of Southampton would be passed onto the ADS. We now have several agreements with Local Authorities to perform this role (for example see Worcestershire), and it all started here. As an aside, I often use this archive as an example to show to students as it comprises a compact, well-documented dataset including reports, images and a plan – essential material for anyone working in/researching the city.

2012: A Long Way from Home: Diaspora Communities in Roman Britain

A great example of the archiving of an important research dataset, although I’m also swayed by the similarity of the man in the image on the introduction page and the ex-Everton manager David Moyes.

2013: Quarry Farm, Ingleby Barwick

The site is the most northerly known Roman villa surviving in the Empire, and the dataset is a useful companion to the published CBA Research Report.

2014: Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Lithic Artefact (PaMELA) database

The PaMELA database consists of two main parts: a literal digital transcription of Jacobi’s card index (the Jacobi Archive); and a searchable database with typological and chronological keys (the Colonisation of Britain database). I could spend hours browsing this archive!

2015: The Prehistoric Stones of Greece: A Resource from Field Survey

I expected to put down the Roman Rural Settlement of Britain project, but I won’t consider that finished until the final interface (with access to all data) is finished later this year. So I’ve gone for this project, a rescue of a dataset that had been available on another website, but subsequently removed. The interface has a strong spatial element, and after some thought I moved away from Google Maps and ESRI products (such as ArcGIS Server) to embrace OpenLayers. In the end the hard-learnt lessons (e.g. how to close a polygon?) reaped dividends in my work on the large map for the Roman project.

2016: Birmingham Archaeology (BUFAU) Digital Archives

Before working for the ADS, I’d spent most of my professional life working for Birmingham Archaeology (previously known as BUFAU). That organisation closed in 2012, and subsequently a project undertaken to ensure that all key physical and digital materials are transferred to a suitable archive. We’re only halfway through the project, but already we have the majority of the c.2000 reports written over the years, and a selection of digital materials. It’s been good to go back to where I started, and even to archive some of my own (not very good!) reports!

I’ll end the blog there, who knows, I may update this in another 10 years!

Tim