Following the closure of Birmingham Archaeology (BUFAU), a project was initiated to identify and secure important born-digital archival material, and latterly to arrange transfer to the ADS. I’ve had the pleasure of archiving this digital material, including images, CAD files, databases and GIS over the last few months. The archives and reports of Birmingham Archaeology can now be accessed from the overview page: http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/1959/
A total of 68 BUFAU archives have been released. Below I will highlight some of my favourite archives that I have worked on over the last couple of months.
Ahead of the redevelopment of Derby Inner Ring Road, Birmingham Archaeology was commissioned to undertake archaeological fieldwork. This site consisted of several different archaeological investigations, including a watching brief, an evaluation, an excavation and an historic building recording. Stratified archaeological deposits spanned a period from the 11th to the 20th centuries. This archive includes an extensive image gallery, reports, CAD files and GIS. Continue reading Birmingham Archaeology Digital Archives→
The ADS are pleased to announce that the ADS Library will be moving out of its Beta phase and go Live on Tuesday 16th January. Concurrently with this the ADS will also be launching a newly designed website. The main aim of the new website design is to make it easier for our users to access our searchable resources. With the launch of the ADS Library the ADS now provides three main heritage environment search tools:
Each of these tools should be used to search for different types of information held by the ADS. Archsearch is for searching metadata records about monuments and historic environment events in the UK. The ADS Archives is the place to search for historic environment research data (such as images, plans, databases) and contains international and UK data. The ADS Library is a bibliographic tool for searching for written records on the historic environment of Britain and Ireland. Where possible, the record will provide a direct link to the original publication or report.
In order to make the differences between these search tools clear to users, and to make all three tools easy to find from our main website, we will be introducing a new website menu with drop-down links that enable a user to go straight to each of our search resources. This new drop-down menu can be seen in the image on the right.
Users will also be given the option to access a main search page that will explain the differences between each of the available search options. This page will then allow you to choose which search facility to send your chosen keywords to.
The ADS has also taken this opportunity to redesign the layout of our website, creating a bold new home page, designed to better highlight our featured collections and news items, while providing links to our new search and deposit pages.
Our new Deposit page will also provide clearer links to the different types of data deposit options available to researchers wishing to archive data with the ADS.
Our new About page provides clear links to our operations policies and details of our governance.
The new design will include a help tab on our menu with links to frequently asked questions and our contact details, allowing users to troubleshoot problems faster and get the right help quicker.
The new design will reduce the number of main tabs in the menu. This means that some of our resources have moved location. For example our Teaching and Learning page will now be found under the Advice tab. However, despite the reduction in the number of main options on the menu, the introduction of the drop-down feature will mean that, in practice, more pages will be directly accessible from the menu than previously. Overall the new design will surface the most important pages of our website better and make our key resources accessible via fewer clicks.
Although the design and structure of the website has changed, and some things may now be found in a different location, very few URLs have changed. Only out-of-date pages have been removed so bookmarks to specific pages should still work, and Archsearch, the ADS Archives and the ADS Library are still navigated in exactly the same way. If you have any trouble finding resources please contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
On 30th November 2017 the first ever International Digital Preservation Day will draw together individuals and institutions from across the world to celebrate the collections preserved, the access maintained and the understanding fostered by preserving digital materials.
The aim of the day is to create greater awareness of digital preservation that will translate into a wider understanding which permeates all aspects of society – business, policy making and personal good practice.
To celebrate International Digital Preservation Day ADS staff members will be tweeting about what they are doing, as they do it, for one hour each before passing on to the next staff member. Each staff member will be focusing on a different aspect of our digital preservation work to give as wide an insight into our work as possible. So tune in live with the hashtags #ADSLive and #idpd17 on Twitter or follow our Facebook page for hourly updates. Here is a sneak preview of what to expect and when:
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
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.
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.
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.
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→
From 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.
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→
The ADS is excited to announce that we now have over 30,000 reports in our Grey Literature Library.
A notable contribution to this number has been the addition of around 1,500 backlog reports that have been digitised and deposited with us from the North Yorkshire HER with more to come. Since the start of 2015, 734 reports have been added from 85 different organisations and 729 of those reports were submitted via OASIS. Continue reading The Grey Literature Library reaches 30,000→