CONNECTED: Connecting trusted Arts and Humanities data repositories

CONNECTED: Connecting trusted Arts and Humanities data repositories is a newly funded activity, supported by AHRC. It is led by the British Library, with the Archaeology Data Service and the Oxford Text Archive as co-investigators, and is supported by consultants from MoreBrains Cooperative.The CONNECTED team believes that improving discovery and curation of heritage and emergent content types in the arts and humanities will increase the impact of cultural resources, and enhance equity. Great work is already being done on discovery services for the sector, so we decided to look upstream, and focus on facilitating repository and archive deposit.

The UK boasts a dynamic institutional repository environment in the HE sector, as well as a range of subject- or field-specific repositories. With a distributed repository landscape now firmly established, challenges and inefficiencies still remain that reduce its impact. These include issues around discovery and access, but also questions around interoperability, the relationship of specialised vs general infrastructures, and potential duplication of effort from an author/depositor perspective. Greater coherence and interoperability will effectively unite different trusted repository services to form a resilient distributed data service, which can grow over time as new individual services are required and developed. Alongside the other projects funded as part of ‘Scoping future data services for the arts and humanities’, CONNECTED will help to deliver this unified network.

As practice in the creative arts becomes more digital and the digital humanities continue to thrive, the diversity of ways in which this research is expressed continues to grow. Researchers are increasingly able to combine artefacts, documents, and materials in new and innovative ways; practice-based research in the arts is creating a diverse range of (often complex) outputs, creating new curation and discovery needs; and heritage collections often contain artefacts with large amounts of annotation and commentary amassed over years or centuries, across multiple formats, and with rich contextual information. This expansion is already exposing the limitations of our current information systems, with the potential for vital context and provenance to become invisible. Without additional, careful, future-proofing, the risks of information loss and limits on access will only expand. In addition, metadata creation, deposit, preservation, and discovery strategies should, therefore, be tailored to meet the very different needs of the arts and humanities.

A number of initiatives are aimed at improving interoperability between metadata sources in ways that are more oriented towards the needs of the arts and humanities. Drawing these together with the insights to be gained from the abilities (and limitations) of bibliographic and data-centric metadata and discovery systems, will help to generate robust services in the complex, evolving landscape of arts and humanities research and creation.

The CONNECTED project will assemble experts, practitioners, and researchers to map current gaps in the content curation and discovery ecosystem and weave together the strengths and potentials of a range of platforms, standards, and technologies in the service of the arts and humanities community. Our activities will run until the end of May, and will comprise three phases:

Phase 1 – Discovery

We will focus on repository or archive deposit as a foundation for the discovery and preservation of diverse outputs, and also as a way to help capture the connections between those objects and the commentary, annotation, and other associated artefacts. 

A data service for the arts and humanities must be developed with researcher needs as a priority, so the project team will engage in a series of semi-structured interviews with a variety of stakeholders including researchers, librarians, curators, and information technologists. The interviews will explore the following ideas:

  • What do researchers need when engaging in discovery of both heritage materials and new outputs?
  • Are there specific needs that relate to different types of content or use-cases? For example, research involving multimedia or structured information processing at scale?
  • What can the current infrastructure support, and where are the gaps between what we have and what we need?
  • What are the feasible technical approaches to transform information discovery?

Phase 2 – Data service programme scoping and planning

The findings from phase 1 will be synthesised using a commercial product strategy approach known as a canvas analysis. Based on the initial impressions from the semi-structured interviews, it is likely that an agile, product, or value proposition canvas will be used to synthesise the findings and structure thinking so that a coherent and robust strategy can be developed. Outputs from the strategy canvas exercise will then be applied to a fully costed and scoped product roadmap and budget for a national data deposit service for the arts and humanities.

Phase 3 – Scoping a unified archiving solution

Building on the partnerships and conversations from the previous phases, the feasibility of a unified ‘deposit switchboard’ will be explored. The purpose of such a switchboard is to enable researchers, curators, and creators to easily deposit items in the most appropriate repository or archive in their field for the object type they are uploading. Using insights gained from the landscaping interviews in phase 1, the team will identify potential pathways to developing a routing service for channelling content to the most appropriate home.

We will conclude with a virtual community workshop to explore the challenges and desirability of the switchboard approach, with a special focus on the benefits this could bring to the uploader of new content and resources.

This is an ambitious project, through which we hope to deliver:

  • A fully costed and scoped technical and organisational roadmap to build the required components and framework for the National Collection
  • Improved usage of resources in the wider GLAM and institutional network, including of course the Archaeology Data Service, The British Library’s Shared Research Repository, and Oxford Text Archive
  • Steps towards a truly community-governed data infrastructure for the arts and humanities as part of the National Collection

As a result of this work, access to UK cultural heritage and outputs will be accelerated and simplified, the impact of the arts and humanities will be enhanced, and we will help the community to consolidate the UK’s position as a global leader in digital humanities and infrastructure.

Accession. Migration. Duplication. The exciting world of archiving digital data.

The ADS is an accredited digital repository and data that’s deposited with us is available open access via our archives or library but what actually happens to the data?

First off, it depends on how the data is deposited with us and what the end state of the data will be but it also depends on what kind of data has been deposited.

The OASIS form allows archaeological and heritage practitioners to provide information about their investigations to local authorities and securely archive it within our Grey Literature Library for free.
ADS-easy is a faster way to deposit small to medium-sized project archives and associated metadata directly into the ADS repository. Please note, only certain data types can be submitted through ADS-easy, while file size limits and file number restrictions are in place. The ADS-easy help pages have a step-by-step guide to using ADS-easy. The first 150 images are included in the startup fee and all other files have an associated fee.
For larger projects, a variety of data delivery methods can be accommodated including CD-ROM, portable hard drive, email and Cloud services. Data should be accessible without a password or other security features or restrictions enabled. We accept some forms of compressed data (i.e., .zip, .gz).

Each deposit method has varying amounts of manual checks done to the data by archivists with large deposits requiring the most checks and OASIS requiring the least.

For reports that have been deposited via OASIS, minimal additional checks are done by archivists into the contents of the reports as the reports themselves are checked via OASIS both programmatically and through an approval process. Similarly, ADS-easy has a number of checks built into the system but it then becomes the archivist’s job to check the actual data submitted.  Large datasets on the other hand require nearly all checks to be completed by an archivist.

But what are these ‘checks’?

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My First Month at the ADS

At the best of times starting a new job can be a nerve-racking experience. So starting a new job during a pandemic should therefore be worse, right? However, from the moment I was interviewed virtually for the position of User Support Assistant at the Archaeology Data Service (ADS), I felt at ease and welcome. It has been a long time since I’ve interviewed for any job role having been in my previous role for ten years, and I have never interviewed virtually so it was a surreal process all round. However, there was nothing to worry about as before I knew it, I was offered a position as User Support Assistant here at the ADS.

I must admit, starting my new role in a pandemic has been strange as I have had to meet the ADS team, HR and other University members of staff virtually. Although during my first few weeks I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet some members of the team in the sunshine outside Kings Manor and my fellow new starters on campus for a coffee which proved that they do exist beyond a screen! I needn’t have been worried though as despite all of my induction and subsequent training sessions being online it hasn’t made my inclusion in the team or the effectiveness of the training received any less. Everyone has been so friendly, approachable and supportive.

Continue reading My First Month at the ADS
Watercolour map

Does anyone have a map?

If there is one thing that I really enjoy, it’s exploring data spatially. I really enjoy being able to look at a map and see where clusters are and see if I can find trends or even if there is anything near me. To me, this has been one of the main things that I’ve felt that the ADS is missing on its website. There is such a wealth of spatial information in our database that it only makes sense that we should have a really good map, right?

Right?

Well, eventually we will, as soon as I build it.

So what is the plan? I, Teagan, digital archives officer and map enthusiast, will be working towards making a searchable map interface that will work for the ADS Library and maybe more someday, but baby steps. This post will work as kind of a dev library to let everyone know what we’ve (I’ve) been doing towards making this map a reality.

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First month with the Archaeology Data Service

I started working as a Digital Archives Assistant with the Archaeology Data Service in August 2021. Since completing Undergraduate and Postgraduate studies in 2016, I’ve been working in the heritage sector within different collections management, conservation, education and visitor experience roles. I was keen to find a new position where I could continue working with heritage resources whilst building brand new skills and the Digital Archives Assistant role has definitely allowed me to do this.

A big part of my work with ADS involves accessioning, processing and disseminating digital archive collections so that they can be publically accessible on our website. In my first month I’ve received training sessions from colleagues in the team on how to undertake each step in this process. I also completed an online course with the Digital Preservation Coalition to strengthen my understanding of digital preservation and access. Whilst I’ve worked with archives and collections management before in previous roles using internal systems and databases, much of the digital archives process we use of ADS was completely new to me when I started. It was really useful to gain a greater understanding from these training sessions before I started working on my first archive.

I was assigned a collection from Historic Building Recording undertaken on a Grade II Listed barn at Hall Barns Farm, Stonyhurst as my first ADS-easy archive. Photography of the interior and exterior of the building and an associated report were produced to fulfil a condition of Listed Building Consent for proposed repair work, and the archive was then deposited to ADS.

Continue reading First month with the Archaeology Data Service

My First Month as a Digital Archives Assistant

Hello! I’m Evelyn, and I started my role as a Digital Archives Assistant for the Archaeology Data Service at the beginning of August. 

Having previously worked as an archive assistant for a commercial archaeology unit, I was involved in compiling and preparing digital data for deposition with museums and repositories including the ADS. I thought I was fairly well versed with the world of digital archiving, but in my short few weeks here I’ve found that digital preservation is a bit like an iceberg – there’s so much more beneath the surface than I initially thought! In my first week or so I found the AIPs, DOIs, CMS, SQL, redsquids and all the other weird and wonderful terms relating to digital data processes a little daunting. But sure enough, as soon as I began to tackle my very first ADS-easy archive and began my journey as part of the wider digital preservation mission, everything started to fall into place.

Photo of Evelyn at Wall Roman Town

My tasks so far have been delightfully varied and have included archiving small ADS-easy data sets, promoting new releases on social media, ADS Library cleaning, updating archive image captions, taking part in CATS (Curatorial and Technical Staff) Week, and searching the collections for notable archives from the last year to feature in our annual report as ‘highlights’. I’ve really enjoyed being able to develop my IT skills, which admittedly I was a little worried I didn’t have enough of, but I’ve learnt so much in such a short period of time I am just so eager to see what other new skills I develop. In the next six months or so I’m looking forward to learning more about GIS, vector graphics and 3D object collections, and trying my hand at HTML coding. The role of a DAA sounds pretty technical, but as part of the archiving process I have been able to explore some truly fascinating collections, such as building recordings, monument surveys and assemblages of material culture – all from the comfort of my home computer, which really is the beauty of digital archives! 

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New roles and new faces at the ADS

Some readers will have seen two new job adverts for working at the ADS, and so I thought it would be useful to provide a general overview of these roles and a general update of staffing across the organisation.

Goodbyes and Hello’s

In December we said goodbye to two ADS stalwarts: Donna Page the ADS Administrator, and Ray Moore (Digital Archivist, latterly Archives Manager). Donna and Ray were great friends to all at the ADS, and between them contributed immensely to the organisation. Due to COVID restrictions we had to settle on a virtual farewell party, which included many familiar faces from ADS history who stopped by to wish them both well for the future.

More recently we’ve said hello to Ben Myatt, a Finance Assistant within the Department of Archaeology who performs all our financial services. We’ve also been able to appoint existing member of staff Olivia Foster to the new role of Digital Archives Officer, with a focus on working on all the site-based archives coming from commercial archaeology, but also expanding her skills into more specialised collections. Finally, we’ve appointed a new Digital Archives Assistant, Jamie Geddes, who is fast getting to grips with the fundamental ADS workflows and digital archives.

While this has been happening, we’ve had exciting news. ADS have secured a contract with HS2 to deliver a state-of-the-art digital archives service for all archaeological fieldwork from the scheme. This allows us to increase our staffing capacity to meet the increase in archives and expected user support.

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Say Goodbye to OASIS Images!

As many readers will be aware the a new OASIS system (OASIS V) is now in place. In preparation for this we have taken the decision to remove the OASIS Images function from the current OASIS IV system from the 1st of April 2021.

What! Will this make depositing more expensive I hear you say?

The simple answer is no! In fact we will be reducing our standard ADS-easy set up fee from £200.00 to £150.00 for all ADS-easy deposited archives so archiving will generally become cheaper.

For all archives submitted via ADS-easy from the 1st of April 2021 a set fee of £150.00 (exclusive of VAT) will apply. As as part of this set fee depositors will be able to deposit up to 150 jpg/tiff images at no extra cost. Additional files will then be charged on a per file basis according to our current per file charges.

How will I deposit my photos from 1st of April 2021?

From the 1st of April 2021 depositors just need to log into the ADS-easy system without having to follow the more complex OASIS Image login process from OASIS IV. OASIS IV will include a notification to let users know about the change.

Why now?

Continue reading Say Goodbye to OASIS Images!

ARIADNE Portal UK launch!

15 March 2021 sees the UK launch of the beta version of the new ARIADNE portal, a powerful user interface enabling exploration of heritage records and archaeological archives from across the world. The portal already enables access to data from the UK, Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Spain, Bulgaria, Romania and Sweden, with additional countries being added weekly.

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Archiving Day of Archaeology (2011-2017)

This case study describes the background and behind the scenes work that has gone into archiving the Day of Archaeology Project. The final digital archive for Day of Archaeology is now live on the ADS.

Photograph of Siddhi Laxmi Temple in Bhaktapur
Siddhi Laxmi Temple in Bhaktapur. Digital Archaeology Foundation (2016): A day saving the temples of Nepal with Digital Archaeologyhttps://doi.org/10.5284/1080729

The Day of Archaeology (DoA) project aimed to provide a window into the daily lives of archaeologists. The project asked people working, studying or volunteering in the archaeological world to participate in a “Day of Archaeology” each year by recording whatever their actual activity was on a specific day,sharing it through text, images or video on the Day of Archaeology blog. By choosing a single day, readers could experience a real cross-section of archaeological work, whether exotic or mundane, that reflected the reality of the profession.

Continue reading Archiving Day of Archaeology (2011-2017)