Category Archives: Digital Preservation

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.

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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.

IANUS Logo

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.
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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.

SciData_new_logo_22

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

 

 

 

Archiving Ipswich

Re-posted from Day of Archaeology

Two years after posting about my work on the Silbury Hill digital archive, in ‘AN ADS DAY OF ARCHAEOLOGY’, and I’m still busy working as a Digital Archivist with the ADS!

For the past few months, I have been working on the Ipswich Backlog Excavation Archive, deposited by Suffolk County Council, which covers 34 sites, excavated between 1974 and 1990.

Ipswich2

To give a quick summary of the work so far, the data first needed to be accessioned into our systems which involved all of the usual checks for viruses, removing spaces from file names, sorting the data into 34 separate collections and sifting out duplicates etc.  The archive packages were then created which involved migrating the files to their preservation and dissemination formats and creating file-level metadata using DROID.  The different representations of the files were linked together using object ids in our database and all of the archiving processes were documented before the coverage and location metadata were added to the individual site collections.

Though time consuming, due to the quantity of data, this process was fairly simple as most of the file names were created consistently and contained the site code.  Those that didn’t have descriptive file names could be found in the site database and sorted according to the information there.

The next job was to create the interfaces; again, this was fairly simple for the individual sites as they were made using a template which retrieves the relevant information from our database allowing the pages to be consistent and easily updateable.

The Ipswich Backlog Excavation Archive called for a more innovative approach, however, in order to allow the users greater flexibility with regards to searching, so the depositors requested a map interface as well as a way to query information from their core database.  The map interface was the most complex part of the process and involved a steep learning curve for me as it involved applications, software and code that I had not previously used such as JavaScript, OpenLayers, GeoServer and QGIS.  The resulting map allows the user to view the features excavated on the 34 sites and retrieve information such as feature type and period as well as linking through to the project archive for that site.

OpenLayers map of Ipswich excavation sites.

So, as to what I’m up to today…

The next, and final step, is to create the page that queries the database.  For the past couple of weeks I have been sorting the data from the core database into a form that will fit into the ADS object tables, cleaning and consolidating period, monument and subject terms and, where possible, matching them to recognised thesauri such as the English Heritage Monument Type Thesaurus.

Today will be a continuation of that process and hopefully, by the end of the day, all of the information required by the query pages will be added to our database tables so that I can begin to build that part of the interface next week.  If all goes to plan, the user should be able to view specific files based on searches by period, monument/feature type, find type, context, site location etc. with more specialist information, such as pottery identification, being available directly from the core database tables which will be available for download in their entirety.  Fingers crossed that it does all go to plan!

So, that’s my Day of Archaeology 2015, keep a look out for ADS announcements regarding the release of the Ipswich Backlog Excavation Archive sometime over the next few weeks and check out the posts from my ADS colleagues Jo Gilham and Georgie Field!

UPDATE: Ipswich Excavation Archive has now been released! All sites can be explored here!

New Guidelines for ADS Depositors

data_repositoryThe ADS, supported by funding from the Archives and Records Association, has recently revamped our Guidelines for Depositors.

The revamp reviewed the current ADS guidelines on digital archive deposition and developed updated guidance policies for depositors in light of the recent revisions to the Guides to Good Practice and the development of ADS-easy.

The revision to the ADS Guidelines for Depositors has produced a new user friendly interface designed after detailed consultation with users on the most intuitive and instructive way to present the guidelines.

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Keeping our Data Consistent

The consistency and integrity of data is essential for any digital archive. Therefore, for the past few months we have been running a series of programs to test the consistency of our file system and database and try to identify any other problems. This work started when we decided to develop a program to test all the checksums in our file system. The idea was to run the program every few months in order identify any checksums which had changed since the last run.

checksum report
Part of a checksum report.

In addition, the program would test the checksums in the file system against the checksums in the database so that we could be sure that they were synchronised. The program took a few weeks to develop and has now been run several times. Each run produces a report which shows any checksum changes in the file system and the database. Happily, there have only been a few checksums flagged up in the reports so far and usually there have been good reasons why they have been changed.

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Opening up the Grey Literature Library

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.
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The Internet Archaeology of the ADS

While rationalising old and orphaned files on the ADS servers, I stumbled upon an old index.html file for a previous version of the website.  Similar to discovering a long forgotten photograph in the attic, this led me down the meandering path of memory lane.  However unlike a photograph, reconstructing the look and feel of a web page requires some fiddling to correctly associate the style sheets and any server side includes.  After a few cut and paste commands replacing server side includes with actual HTML and a directory search for the missing stylesheet, the old homepage was back up again in all of its glory.

ADS homepage c. 2008.

Even though I spent my first four years at ADS using this homepage it looked totally foreign to me.  The structure was confused, the javascript unnecessary and the style was uninspired.  The page was functional, but left a lot to be desired compared to the structure and clarity of the present version. The backend framework and systems that make up the current website also make it manageable and easy to update, compared to the organic, disjointed structure of the previous website which led to headache inducing updates as seemingly insignificant modifications led to unanticipated bugs (or features depending on your preferred coping mechanism).
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HERALD: a new beginning for OASIS

We all know that the historic environment sector has undergone a great degree of upheaval over the last few years as a result of the recession-busting
moves by both central and local government and, perhaps even more importantly,
the slump in building activity. At the same time colleagues in the sector are coming to rely more and more on technological solutions to help provide a high quality archaeological information to the public. It is therefore heartening to be able to announce an investment by English Heritage in OASIS to consider a project to redevelop the system to better meet the needs of the historic environment community it endeavours to serve.
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Data Seal of Approval: we’ve still got it!

Avid followers of the progress of the ADS recall that in early 2011 we were thrilled to be awarded the internationally recognised Data Seal of Approval (DSA); at the time only the second digital archive in the UK to receive the award, after the mighty UK Data Archive in Essex. What you may not know is that in order to retain the award you have to re-apply periodically. It’s a bit like keeping an MOT up to date to make sure a car is road worthy. So until we have our own Ministry of Archives (MOA) test we’ll use the DSA to make sure we remain archive worthy!

As you may imagine the renewal was certainly easier than the initial application and much remained the same. We, in essence, use the same procedures and policies now as we did two years ago although these are reviewed on an annual basis. So what has changed? We were able to include in our renewal application a number of enhancements to both our public interfaces and our back-room procedures. Enhancements for users have included the addition of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) to each of our collections for greater clarity when finding and citing datasets; the completion of the new editions of the online Guide to Good Practice series; and the establishment of digital licences for depositors. Behind the scenes we have redeveloped elements of our Collections Management System to accommodate file level metadata and implemented the use of DROID, a file profiling tool developed by the National Archive.

We’re really pleased that the progress we have made over the last two years has been recognised and are proud to have had our accreditation renewed.

See our Data Seal of Approval here