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.
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→
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.
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.
In June 2013 I wrote the first in what I planned to be a two part blog describing my work on the Rural Settlement of Roman Britain Project (henceforth RRS). A little later than planned, here it is.
The RRS project arose from a two-stage pilot project undertaken by Cotswold Archaeology and funded by English Heritage (now Historic England), Assessing The Research Potential of Grey Literature in the study of Roman England. This project identified the large levels of grey literature, the colloquial term for unpublished reports produced primarily through the planning process containing significant information about the Roman period.
The RRS project is being undertaken by the University of Reading and Cotswold Archaeology and funded by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust with additional backing from Historic England. The project has built on the pilot by reviewing all sources – traditional published journals/monographs and grey literature – for the excavated evidence for the rural settlement of Roman Britain with the over-arching aim to inform a comprehensive reassessment of the countryside of Roman Britain. Continue reading Rural Settlement of Roman Britain→
Since April 2012 I have been fortunate enough to be the ADS lead in the Roman Rural Settlement of Britain project, undertaken by Mike Fulford and a small team at the University of Reading in collaboration with Cotswold Archaeology with funding from the Leverhulme Trust and English Heritage. For those unfamiliar with the project, the primary aim is to research both unpublished and published sources from excavations to write a new account of the rural settlement of Roman Britain. The settlement evidence from Roman England will be published in a book-length study and simultaneously online via an ADS interface in April 2015. An ongoing phase of analysis incorporating the settlement evidence from Wales and related finds and burial data will be added in 2016. Continue reading Roman Rural Settlement at the ADS→
ADS 3D Viewer is a two year project funded under the ‘Marie Curie Actions’ Seventh Framework Programme, and benefits from the collaboration with the Italian Visual Computing Lab in the framework of the ARIADNE European project. In the past ten years the use of new technologies for the 3D documentation and reconstruction of cultural heritage has changed how we approach archaeological research.
The growth of information technology in 3D documentation tools, including electronic surveying instruments, laser scanners, photogrammetric cameras, and even CAD modellers, has brought an exponential increase in the use of digital data. The use of “real-time” survey software and hardware such as total stations, global positioning systems (GPS), photogrammetry and laser scanners has had a remarkable impact on archaeological recording as well as important implications for archaeological survey. The use of these techniques, by improving the accuracy and precision of the documentation process, is considerably changing the nature and implications of the word “digital” in archaeology. Presently, the main challenge for archaeologists and information and communication technology specialists consists in the preservation and dissemination of 3D data in archaeology. Up to now, a large number of 3D digital data archives have been produced and most focus on the preservation of the information over time without thinking about the accessibility of these data on the part of the scientific community.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are a ‘disruptive technology’, a technology that forces us to rethink how we do (or used to do) things – from protecting white rhino to delivering pizza. Everyone who needs a bird’s eye view is now wondering how this technology can help them; farmers, structural engineers, ecologists and, of course, archaeologists.
In theory, even a very minor archaeological site can now benefit from its very own aerial survey. But while the possibilities for archaeology are immensely exciting, many of the actual results are still disappointing; blurry aerial photos, images which may be pretty but which can’t be georeferenced and expensive cameras hitting the ground at terminal velocity.
The Grey Literature Library is one of the ADS’s most popular resources, and as shown by projects such as the Roman Rural Landscape, one that is of massive research value. The library is constantly growing, with most reports coming from the OASIS system. In 2013 alone, there were 3891 reports submitted. Feedback from all levels of the archaeological community makes it clear that the hosting of openly accessible digital grey literature is a boon. However, one of the questions we are most commonly asked is “why does it take so long for a report uploaded to OASIS to make its way into the library?”. This is perfectly understandable; people who have completed an OASIS record to share the results of their fieldwork want to make sure this effort is not in vain. Rest assured it isn’t, here’s a small insight into what’s going on underneath the workings of the library. Continue reading Opening up the Grey Literature Library→
To recognise the effort that authors make in order to deposit digital data and to get academic credit for that effort, Internet Archaeology (IA) and the ADS have established an open access data paper series. ‘Data papers’ maximise a dataset’s re-use potential and help to improve the preservation and the publication of data and are a valuable addition to the advancement of archaeological research. However IA and ADS have now taken the concept a little further.
In order to identify the content and provide a persistent link to its location on the Internet, each data paper in IA and the corresponding archive in ADS are assigned unique DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers, issued via CrossRef and DataCite). The introduction of these unique digital identifiers has been a major advancement for persistence in data preservation, publication and citation, but our approach has been to extend them to a more granular level. While an ADS dataset is assigned a ‘top level’ DOI, additional identifiers to specific sections of the data area have also been allocated. This enhances the archive not just by enabling direct access to a subset of data but also allows those sub-sections, often authored by specialist researchers, to be citable in their own right and gives recognition to the individuals who undertook the work e.g. see Richards & Roskams (2013) archive: where the Geophysical Survey, the Field-walking Survey and Animal Bone reports all have their own DOI. There is no limit to the granulation possible and we envisage usage right down to individual digital objects, such as a photograph or a GIS shapefile, when their importance to a hypothesis is apparent. Such use of DOIs will greatly benefit archaeological research, providing greater transparency in archaeological reporting and improving research efficiency.