"The ADS is one of the most talented teams disseminating and preserving heritage data and working in digital archiving at large."

Stefano Costa

The ADS is a not-for-profit organisation based in the picturesque setting of The King's Manor at the University of York. The ADS was established on the 1st October 1996 by a consortium of stakeholders dedicated to preserving our digital heritage data. The consortium included the Departments of Archaeology at the Universities of Birmingham, Bradford, Glasgow, Kent at Canterbury, Leicester, Newcastle, and Oxford, the Council for British Archaeology, and it was led by the University of York.

The ADS was one of five discipline-based service providers that were established at this time within the Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS). The other AHDS services were formed from existing digital archives for History and Digital Texts, and two new services were created for Visual Arts and the Performing Arts.

From an early stage the ADS began to receive external funding from a variety of other organisations, such as English Heritage, reflecting the diverse nature of the archaeological sector. On 15th September 1998 the ADS launched the first version of ArchSearch; in 1999 it published the first Guides to Good Practice; and in 2002 it launched HEIRPORT, the first interoperable gateway for the historic environment sector. In 2003, the AHDS went through a process of re-branding and from 2003-2008 the activities of ADS which were performed for the Higher Education sector were still carried out in York but were done under the umbrella of AHDS Archaeology. However, on March 31st 2008 AHRC and JISC ceased their funding for AHDS, and AHDS Archaeology ceased to exist. Nonetheless, AHRC had already agreed to give continued support to Archaeology and ADS provides ongoing support for digital preservation and re-use, for research, learning and teaching for Archaeology and the Historic Environment sector for several further years. More recently the ADS has developed an innovative business model that relies on a depositor-charging policy.

The aim of the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) is to collect, describe, catalogue, preserve, and provide user support for digital resources that are created as a product of archaeological research. The ADS also has a responsibility for promoting standards and guidelines for best practice in the creation, description, preservation and use of archaeological information. For those classes of archaeological data where there are existing archival bodies the role of the ADS will be to collaborate with the appropriate national and local agencies to promote greater use of existing services.

The Importance of the ADS to Archaeology

Archaeology is in a special position in that much of the creation of its data results from destruction of primary evidence, making access to data all the more critical in order to test, assess, and subsequently reanalyse and reinterpret both data and the hypotheses arising from them. Over the years, archaeologists have amassed a vast collection of fieldwork data archives, a significant proportion of which remain unpublished. Access to data, even those which are published, is often difficult or inconvenient at best. The ADS is building an integrated on-line catalogue to its collections, and a gateway to other collections, which will be available over the Internet.

The ADS is working with national and local archaeological agencies and those research councils involved in the funding of archaeological research, to negotiate deposition of project data. This includes data derived from fieldwork as well as desk-based studies. The types of data involved include: text reports, databases (related to excavated contexts or artefacts, for example), images (including aerial photographs, remote sensing imagery, photographs of sites, features and artefacts), digitised maps and plans, numerical datasets related to topographical and sub-surface surveys and other locational data, as well as reconstruction drawings.


For Users: Archaeological Researchers and Teachers

Whether you are involved in archaeological research or teaching, the ADS makes data sets available to support your work. Our on-line catalogues enable you to search for relevant archaeological data sets, publications, or more widely across the Humanities as a whole. Our Advice pages also provide a wealth of teaching and learning resources on digital preservation and data management and our Research pages provide up to date information on the cuting edge reasearch we are involved in.

For Data Creators and Depositors

If you or your organisation creates archaeological data in an electronic form then you should consider using the ADS to provide permanent cataloguing, storage, and curation of your data. Our Collections policy is available and we will be happy to negotiate a deposit and access agreement with you. If you are interested in archiving information with the ADS, you may find our Guidelines for Depositors. You may also be interested in the recommendations contained within our Guide to Good Practice series.

For Funding Bodies and other Agencies

The ADS is the recommended repository for several funding bodies and promotes standards and best practice in the creation, description, preservation, and use of electronic information via our series of Guides to Good Practice.. The ADS also works closely with the Digital Preservation Coalition to advocate digital preservation.