Research and Development

research image ADS's mission is to support research, learning and teaching with high quality and dependable digital resources. Fundamental to us fulfilling this mission is an ongoing programme of research into all areas of digital preservation, resource discovery and data sharing. Consequently we are actively engaged with research projects working with partners in all sectors of UK archaeology; academic, government, commercial and local. In addition to UK focussed research activities the ADS has a long track record of successful leadership and participation in European Union funded projects and more recently in collaboration with partners in the United States of America. For additional insights into ADS activities and developments please take a look at the ADS Blog Sound bytes from the ADS.

Current ADS Research Activities

European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science (E-RIHS)
E-RHIS logo E-RHIS will support research on heritage interpretation, preservation, documentation and management. It will comprise E-RIHS Headquarters and National Hubs, fixed and mobile national infrastructures of recognized excellence, physically accessible collections/archives and virtually accessible heritage data. Both cultural and natural heritage are addressed: collections, buildings, archaeological sites, digital and intangible heritage. E-RIHS will provide state-of-the-art tools and services to crossdisciplinary research communities advancing understanding and preservation of global heritage. It will provide access to a wide range of cutting-edge scientific infrastructure, methodologies, data and tools, training in the use of these tools, public engagement, access to repositories for standardized data storage, analysis and interpretation. E-RIHS will enable the community to advance heritage science and global access to the distributed infrastructures in a coordinated and streamlined way.

ArchAIDEArchAIDE logo
ArchAIDE (ARCHaelogical Automatic Interpretation and Documentation of cEramics) is funded by the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and aims to create a new system for the automatic recognition of archaeological pottery from excavations around the world. ArchAIDE will develop a new app meant to serve the global practice of archaeology, using the latest automatic image recognition technology to aid in the identification of ceramics. Currently, the characterisation and classification of ceramics is carried out manually, through the expertise of specialists and the use of analogue catalogues held in archives and libraries. The goal of ArchAIDE is to optimise and economise this process, making knowledge accessible wherever archaeologists are working.

HERALD: Historic Environment Research Archives, Links and Data - a new beginning for OASIS
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. It is therefore heartening to be able to announce an investment in OASIS to redevelop the system to better meet the needs of the historic environment community it endeavours to serve. Find out more about HERALD via the OASIS blog.

NEARCH logo NEARCH (New scenarios for a community-involved archaeology) is a new project funded under the European Union (EU) culture programme. The project will run for 5 years from autumn 2013 and follows on from the EU-supported ACE project, which identified a cultural crisis and a crisis of values and ideas that outlined the agenda of European Modernity and made it a reference for the rest of the world. NEARCH aims to assess the crisis implications in the fields of Archaeology and Heritage, and to propose new ways of working and interacting. The project also explores the different dimensions of public participation as well as the multi-scalar significance of archaeological heritage intertwined with different processes underway in today's Europe.

Completed Projects

ARIADNELogo ARIADNE (Advanced Research Infrastructure for Archaeological Dataset Networking) was a project that brought together and integrated existing research data infrastructures so that researchers can use the various distributed datasets and new and powerful technologies as an integral component of the archaeological research methodology. Ariadne enabled trans-national access of researchers to data centres, tools and guidance, and the creation of new Web-based services based on common interfaces to data repositories, availability of reference datasets and usage of innovative technologies. The project was completed in January 2017.

ADS 3D Viewer
Marie Curie Actions logo The ADS 3D Viewer was a two year project funded under the Marie Curie Actions Seventh Framework Programme, and benefited from the collaboration with the Visual Computing Lab in the framework of the ARIADNE European project. The aim of the ADS 3D Viewer project was to develop an interactive 3D web-based working environment for the management and analysis of archaeological data within ADS’s website infrastructure.

ALSF: Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund
ALSFLogo The Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF) was introduced to provide funds to tackle a wide range of problems in areas affected by aggregates extraction. The ADS undertook an English Heritage backed project to disseminate the ALSF information on the web.

EFCHED: Environmental Factors in the Chronology of Human Evolution and Dispersal
EFCHEDLogo The major objective of the EFCHED programme was to integrate and strengthen UK research in human evolution. The ADS is responsible for the data archiving and dissemination from eleven projects funded under the EFCHED programme.

LoCloud Logo LoCloud (Local Content in a Europeana Cloud) was a best practice network which began in March 2013, and ran for three years. It was coordinated by the Norsk Kulturrad and was made up of 32 partners across 26 European countries. LoCloud followed directly on from the aforementioned CARARE project and EuropeanaLocal, another recently completed best practice network project, funded under the e-Contentplus programme. It played an important role in ensuring the digital content provided by Europeana's local and regional cultural institutions were represented in Europeana. The intention of LoCloud was to combine the metadata mapping methodology of CARARE with cloud computing technology, making it easier for small to medium sized heritage organisations to make their contents accessible via Europeana. The ADS was involved in most of the project workpackages and will led the work on dissemination and use, contributing content, organising events, and promoting services.

DADAISM logo The DADAISM (Digging into Archaeological Data and Image Search Metadata) project brought together researchers from the diverse fields of archaeology, human computer interaction, image processing, image search and retrieval, and text mining to create a rich interactive system to address the problems of researchers finding images relevant to their research. DADAISM worked to transform the way in which archaeologists interact with online image collections. It deployed user-centred design methodologies to create an interactive system that went beyond current systems for working with images, to support archaeologists’ tasks of finding, organising, relating and labeling images, as well as other relevant sources of information, such as grey literature documents.

SENESCALLogo SENESCHAL (Semantic ENrichment Enabling Sustainability of arCHAeological Links) was an AHRC funded project lead by the University of South Wales Hypermedia Research Unit, which brought the ADS into collaboration with English Heritage, RCAHMS and RCAHMW. The SENESCHAL project built on outcomes and tools from the previous AHRC funded STAR and STELLAR projects, to address the lack of vocabulary control (with unique identifiers) hindering the full potential of the resulting Linked Data. Major thesauri act as informal standards, lacked the unique identifiers to allow them to act as the envisaged vocabulary hubs for the Web of Data. SENESCHAL created knowledge exchange, based on enhanced vocabulary services, which makes it easier for data providers to index their data with uniquely identified controlled terminology, and allow vocabulary providers to make their vocabularies available as Linked Data. The completed outputs are now available at Heritage Data.

Impact of the ADS: a study and methods for enhancing sustainability
Funded by JISC and undertaken with Charles Beagrie, this project analysed and surveyed perceptions of the value of digital collections held by the ADS to measure, assess and quantify the economic impact of those collections, to improve their prospects for sustainability. They explored a range of methods and sources, including data from 1996-2011 on the growth of collections and users at ADS and how return on investment grows with the collections. A focus of the project was disseminating the findings to the wider JISC and research data communities.

SWORDARMLogo Funded by JISC, in the SWORD-ARM project we worked with a number of HE institutions (the universities of Southampton, Glasgow and Manchester) to refine and enhance ADS's ingest and charging process by creating a SWORD client to streamline and automate deposit. This strengthened the ADS data management systems and business infrastructure, and delivered real benefits to depositors in terms of their ability to deposit data, create and validate metadata, engage in selection and retention, manage multiple deposits and, crucially, to manage cost estimate and charging processes. SWORD-ARM therefore represents an enhancement to ADS's role as a discipline-based repository, and an embedding of our role in a number of HE institutions. SWORD-ARM significantly improved the ability of ADS to handle increasing volumes of data and to charge directly for deposit. It improved the service offered to our depositors in terms of cost transparency, ease of use and speed of deposit.

Archaeology Britain iPad App
ArchBritApp icon The Archaeology Britain iPad app was a joint project between The British Library and the ADS. The collaboration attempted to present the archaeology of Britain in an interesting and accessible manner on the iOS platform. Unique and rare content was provided from The British Library archives, while ADS content was included to add context to some of the most significant archaeological sites in Britain. Additional content was kindly provided by external organisations and individuals to hopefully present the archaeology of Britain in a rarely seen perspective. The app is a first attempt at mobile app development for the ADS, and further improvements and extensions, including iPhone and Android versions, may happen in the future.

CARARE: a Europeana partner project
CARARELogo CARARE was a best practice network funded by the European Commission's ICT Policy Support Programme. CARARE brought together heritage agencies and organisations, archaeological museums and research institutions and specialist digital archives from all over Europe to establish a service that will make digital content for Europe's unique archaeological monuments and historic sites interoperable with Europeana. It aimed to add the 3D and Virtual Reality content to Europeana. The ADS had specific responsibility for investigating the issues surrounding the long-term sustainability of the CARARE aggregation service.

ACE: Archaeology in Contemporary Europe
ACELogo The ACE network aimed to promote contemporary archaeology at a European level, by emphasising its cultural, scientific, and economic dimensions, including its manifold interest for the wider public. With the acceleration of development, archaeology has become particularly important and challenging. Development poses severe threats to archaeological remains, which are by nature fragile and non-renewable, but can also provide opportunities for increasing knowledge and enhancing sustainable archaeological heritage management for the benefit of all.

Keeping Reseach Data Safe
Finalist 2012 This study investigated the medium to long term costs to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) of the preservation of research data and developed guidance to HEFCE and institutions on these issues.It has provided an essential methodological foundation on research data costs for the forthcoming HEFCE-sponsored feasibility study for a UK Research Data Service. It will also assist HEIs and funding bodies wishing to establish strategies and TRAC costings for long-term data management and archiving

ADS+: Fedora implementation at the ADS
FEDORALogo ADS+ was an AHRC funded project under the Digital Equipment and Database (DEDEFI) programme, which aimed to increase the sustainability of the ADS, by implementing Fedora (Flexible Extensible Digital Object Repository Architecture). The project was completed in March 2011.

STELLAR Project & STAR Project
STELLARLogo STELLAR was a collaboration between the ADS and co-investigators at the University of Glamorgan (now University of South Wales) and English Heritage, to enhance the discoverability, accessibility, impact and sustainability of ADS datasets and STAR project outcomes (services and data resources) by enhancing the interoperability between resources using the latest integration technologies and development of semantic search facilities and associated user interfaces. STELLAR built on outcomes and tools from the previous AHRC funded STAR project, which in its turn extended semantic search techniques initially developed through the EPSRC funded FACET project, a collaboration with the Science Museum.

TAG: Transatlantic Archaeology Gateway
TAGLogo The primary aim of the TAG project was to develop tools for transatlantic cross-searching and semantic interoperability between ADS and Digital Antiquity in the United States. This project, jointly funded by JISC and the NEH, investigated cross-searching and semantic linking between archives held at the ADS, Arizona State University and Digital Antiquity. It was completed in 2011.

DARIAH: Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities
DARIAHLogo The mission of DARIAH is to enhance and support digitally-enabled research across the humanities and arts. It aims to develop and maintain an infrastructure in support of ICT-based research practices, through the creation of a technical demonstrator based on the ARENA project, called ARENA 2, but with an enhanced web services architecture. The project began in October 2008 and was completed in October 2010.

GLADE: Grey Literature - Access Dissemination and Enhancement
Between 2009 and early 2010, the GLADE project sought to explore the potential options and possibilities for accessing the backlog of archaeological grey literature reports produced since the introduction of PPG16 a vast resource of reports from small to medium scale developer-led archaeological investigations produced annually in the UK. The project report includes results of research, interviews and surveys about the holdings of grey literature in the UK, and common methods of discovery and reasons for reuse of the reports. Download the GLADE report.

RECAP RescuE of Completed Archaeological Projects
Funded by English Heritage and running between 2003 and 2009, the RECAP project archived a number of completed projects from the last decade, some of international importance, which have created significant amounts of digital information.

Archaeotools: Natural Language Processing and Faceted Classification
ATLogo Between September 2007 and September 2009 the ADS and the Natural Language Processing Research Group at the University of Sheffield worked on the Archaeotools project funded under the e-Science Research Grants Scheme which itself was a collaboration between three major funding bodies, the AHRC, the EPSRC and the JISC.

VENUS: Virtual ExploratioN of Underwater Sites
venusLogo The VENUS project aimed to develop scientific methodologies and deliver technological tools for the virtual exploration of deep underwater archaeology sites. Funded by the European Commission, completed in 2009.

CIE Demonstrator, funded by the Common Information Environment
Accessible until January 2007, now no longer available.

Big Data: Preservation and Management Strategies for Exceptionally Large Data Formats

OASIS: Online AccesS to the Index of archaeological investigationS
oasisLogo Phase 1 funded by RSLP complete, current phase funded by English Heritage and Historic Scotland, for completion in 2006.

Making the LEAP Linking electronic archives and publications. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under the ICT Strategy Programme.

The Historic Environment Portal lets users search many databases at once including ArchSearch, CANMORE, COFLEIN, EH, Excavation Index, OGAR, Portable Antiquities Scheme and SCRAN. Completed 2005 {archive only}. CREE: Contextual Resource Evaluation Environment A project arising from the JISC Portals: Investigations into User ARENA: Archaeological Records of Europe Network Access Project {archive} Funded by the EC (Culture 2000), completed in 2005

PATOIS: Publications and Archives in Teaching with Online Information Sources
Funded by JISC (5/99), completed in October 2003

Making IT Happen: proving the common information environment,
Funded by CIE, completed July

Digital Archives for Scottish Archaeology
Funded by Historic Scotland, completed 2002

Mapping Information Resources
Funded by HEIRNET, completed 2000

DAPPER (Digital Archiving Pilot Project: Excavation Records)
{archive} Funded by English Heritage, completed 1999

Strategies for Digital Data: Findings and recommendations from Digital Data in Archaeology: A Survey of User Needs
{archive} Various funders, completed 1999

This project sought to unite the archaeology journal holdings of over 20 UK university, museum and private libraries to create one searchable resource. In January 2012 the project was decommissioned, the original ARCHway tables created by the ADS can be downloaded as a ZIP Archive.


  • Archaeology Academic Literacy in Virtual Environments (Archaeology ALIVE), in partnership with the Higher Education Academy
  • Informing the Future of the Past 2 In partnership with English Heritage, Historic Scotland, ARIA and ALGAO. Completed 2007.
  • Harvesting the Fitzwilliam, in partnership with the Fitzwilliam Museum, Funded by JISC(FAIR)
  • Accessing the Virtual Museum, in partnership with the Petrie Museum, Funded by JISC (FAIR)
  • The Virtual Walkabout {archive} In partnership with LTSN and the University of Leicester, completed 2003
  • ArchWay {archive} In partnership with University of York Library, funded by RSLP, completed 2002
  • Heirnet Register {archive} In partnership with HEIRNET, continuing
  • Informing the future of the Past in partnership with English Heritage and ALGAO, funded by English Heritage, completed 2000