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.

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!

The (DOC)X-files

The following blog is simply a musing on our historic approaches to archiving formatted text files, prompted by a user enquiry into “best formats” for preservation of their reports, and my role at the ADS as keeping abreast of said formats and our internal policies.

Many years ago, in a meeting of the curatorial and technical team (CATTS), conversation veered towards our procedures for handling text documents. That is files whose significant properties were formatted text/typeset reports, as opposed to plain text files (with ascii or UTF-8 encoding) often used for exporting or importing of data. One colleague, half in jest, commented that as the Archaeology Data Service our focus should be on the literal data as understood in computer science – the individual pieces of information being generated from various instruments or collected in databases. Reports it may be argued are the interpretation of that data, but often not the raw data itself.

Continue reading The (DOC)X-files

Built Legacy: Preserving Historic Buildings Data

By Angela Creswick

Responding to concern that there may be gaps in the recording of investigations and sustainable archiving of digital data and reports on standing buildings, the ADS has embarked on a five-month project funded by an External Engagement Award from the University of York to research current practice and user needs of conservation architects, surveyors, engineers and their specialist teams.
Continue reading Built Legacy: Preserving Historic Buildings Data

Christmas Competition


ADS and Internet Archaeology are teaming up again this year to provide you with the opportunity to win one of our much sought after trowel-shaped usb sticks!

To be in with a chance to win, just find one or more Christmas baubles hidden on the ADS or Internet Archaeology websites and tell us the location (web address) by emailing help@archaeologydataservice.ac.uk  or by private messaging @ADS_Update or @IntarchEditor on Twitter.

Every correct entry received will be entered into a prize draw to be held on Monday 4th January 2016. There are 6 different baubles to find so each individual can enter the draw  a maximum number of 6 times. (i.e. you can’t submit more than one entry per bauble location).

The competition is now closed.

Happy bauble hunting!


We are now please to be able to announce the winner of our Christmas competition was Rachael Nicholson! Congratulations Rachael, your new usb stick is in the post.



NEARCH artist-in-residence Leyla Cárdenas comes to York

sans_titre-2From 29 October to 6 November, the ADS and the Department of Archaeology at the University of York was delighted to welcome Leyla Cárdenas Campos and her partner Ramón Villamarin Leaño. Based inBogotá, Colombia, Leyla is one of five artists/artist partnerships to be chosen for a prestigious artist residency at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, Netherlands, as part of the NEARCH project. One of the many aspects of public participation within archaeology under exploration by NEARCH, each artist is given the opportunity to work directly with archaeologists, and explore new avenues of communication. A parallel set of residencies is also being carried out Le Centquatre in Paris.

Continue reading NEARCH artist-in-residence Leyla Cárdenas comes to York

DAI IANUS visits the ADS!

ADS was pleased to recently be the host to three Data Curators from a project called IANUS  as part of the ARIADNE project.  ADS spent two weeks immersing Martina, Anne and Philip in the day-to-day duties of a fully established repository. Here is what they had to say about their visit.

DAI IANUS visits the ADS!
By Martina Trognitz, Anne Sieverling & Philipp Gerth

From the 23rd of November until 4th of December, York had three more German inhabitants: us (Anne, Martina and Philipp)! We came all the way from Berlin to learn from the ADS.


In Berlin we work at the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in a project called IANUS. It is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and a first three year phase is now being followed by a second, which just started in March 2015. The aim of the project is to build up a digital archive for archaeology and related sciences in Germany.
Continue reading DAI IANUS visits the ADS!

British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography Survey Results

The British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography is moving from the Council of British Archaeology to the ADS in 2016. The idea is to integrate it with other ADS Library resources like the Library of Unpublished Fieldwork Reports (aka the Grey Literature Library).

The first step in this change was a user needs survey to investigate who is using BIAB in its current form and which other bibliographic tools the historic environment community are using in their research.
Continue reading British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography Survey Results

The dark valley: notes from the ADS library

Tim Evans

Over a year and a half ago I wrote a short blog on the mechanics of the ADS grey literature library, going in to (what I considered) fascinating detail on the technical considerations of archiving the reports we host online. In the intervening period since that blog I’ve spent a large portion of my time working on the Roman Rural Settlement of Britain project, and an array of what we term special collections (for example  Stones of Greece, Origins of Nottingham and Parks and Gardens). Colleagues such as Jenny O’Brien and Georgie Field have primarily been responsible for  transferring reports into the library and as such, some distance has crept into the relationship between myself and the library. Like an old friend to whom one hasn’t spoken for sometime, one starts to wonder as to whether the links and shared experiences will persevere.

Continue reading The dark valley: notes from the ADS library

ADS a Recommended Repository for Nature Publishing Group

ADS are very pleased to announce that we are now an officially recommended repository for Nature Publishing Group’s open access data journal Scientific Data. ADS joins approximately 80 other data repositories, representing research data from across the entire scientific spectrum. ADS has been approved by Scientific Data as providing stable archiving and long-term preservation of archaeology data.


Scientific Data offers a new article type, the ‘Data Descriptor’, which has been specifically designed to publish peer-reviewed research data in an accessible way, so as to facilitate its interpretation and reuse. Publishing Data Descriptors enables data produces and curators to gain appropriate credit for their work, whilst also promoting reproducible research.  The main goals of this journal are tightly aligned with that of ADS, focusing on making the data publicly accessible and encouraging re-use.

data descriptor

By becoming a recommended repository for Scientific Data, we are now not only a recommended repository for archaeological data accompanying articles published by the Nature Publishing group but researchers now have the opportunity to deposit archaeological data to ADS, whilst submitting an Data Descriptor to Scientific Data.

All depositors depositing with ADS and intending to publish in Scientific Data or another Nature Publishing Group journal must choose to disseminate the data they are depositing with us under a CC-BY liecence. For more information contact the ADS at help@archaeologydataservice.ac.uk