From the early 1990s, English Heritage funded an annual data collection exercise to compile an index of archaeological investigations across England. The results have been published as annual hard copy volumes, The Gazetteer of Archaeological Investigations in England, issued as supplements to the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography. An archive copy of the database which provides the information for the printed volumes published to date has been deposited with English Heritage. English Heritage also maintains a separate database of archaeological interventions which was begun by the former RCHME in 1978 The Excavation Index. By 1998 this held records for over 55,000 archaeological interventions in England. Data was collected from a variety of sources, combining bibliographic recording with direct supply in the form of reports, proformas and microfilm. The scope of the Index covers both invasive and non-invasive methods of fieldwork. holding basic data on the location and results of fieldwork. From September 1998 selected fields from the Index have been available on the Internet via the ADS on-line catalogue ArchSearch (http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archsearch/), together with the related Microfilm Index.
The OASIS project was developed in response to the need to provide a single unified index to archaeological investigations, a means of accessing the associated grey literature and an online method by which the index could be maintained. A major achievement of the project was to integrate the AIP records with the Excavation Index to provide a single concorded list. The concordance programme delivered a fully unified record for archaeological interventions in England to 1998. Where a fuller electronic copy of a report is available on-line, either on the ADS server or on the web site of the contractor or HER it is possible to include the URL of the resource as a bibliographic reference. As curators begin to require deposition of digital reports and as they make them available on the Internet it will be possible to build up an online virtual library of grey literature, directly linked from the index.
OASIS also aims to use IT to ease the flow of information from those undertaking fieldwork to the wider archaeological community, while ensuring that validation and quality assurance are not lost. The current situation involves tremendous duplication of effort. OASIS aims to capture the data once, hold it in a database, and then to allow all those parties who have a legitimate interest in it to access it. An on-line web-based Data Submission Form has been created, which is being used to inform the relevant monument records of the completion of specific field or post-excavation tasks, such as the deposition of ‘grey literature’ reports or of archives. The report can be completed on-line to provide details of all aspects of the intervention required by the local planning authority. Once the form has been completed to the satisfaction of the contractor it is saved within the OASIS database. HERs are allowed access to the same database to participate in checking and enhancing the records on-line. It is recognised that the diversity of local practices will mean that the information flow may vary according to region and the OASIS form and database holdings module is flexible enough to accommodate the various roles required by the different organisations involved. At periodic intervals a copy of all new validated Excavation Index records will be supplied to the ADS and made available on-line via ArchSearch.
A full Scottish version has now been developed and was launched in October 2006.
After validation an HER may sign off the record and download the project data as XML. For more detailed instructions about how to use the OASIS form go to http://oasis.ac.uk/
HERs can promote the use of the OASIS recording form by contractors by making it a requirement in development control briefs or requesting a copy of the OASIS summary sheet within their grey literature reports. Example wording for use within a brief can be found below.
At the start of work (immediately before fieldwork commences) an OASIS online record http://oasis.ac.uk/ must be initiated and key fields completed on Details, Location and Creators forms. All parts of the OASIS online form must be completed for submission to the HER. This should include an uploaded .pdf version of the entire report (a paper copy should also be included with the archive).
(See also Section B)