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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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The future for England’s Rock Art

Several users have been in touch concerned over the future of England’s Rock Art website. Suffice to say that users should rest easy that no data is being lost, and public access to data is being retained.

Here’s the important background as to why this is happening:

England’s Rock Art website was originally launched in Summer 2008, as the culmination of a Historic England (then English Heritage project) to catalogue carvings in the Northumberland region. Since then it has been added to, principally with records from the Beckensall archive that were previously stored with Newcastle University. The website itself is actually a fairly complex application, with an underlying spatial database and Java framework that allows the user to interrogate the database.

Since its launch, the ADS have continued to perform a wide range of updates, patches and migrations on the application to ensure it’s longevity. These have involved major rebuilds in 2011, 2015, and 2018. Despite this additional work, undertaken with no additional funding, some features have begun to creak and latterly break (such as the map interface). More recently, the framework as a whole has become outdated, being deemed at risk for the last 18 months, and is now at a point where a major rebuild/application migration is required. This is not only to retain functionality, but also for security.

We take security very seriously here, and as such and in consultation with our IT services have agreed that the application is now at its end of life, and sadly needs to be replaced. We don’t take such decisions lightly. We’re aware from access stats that Rock Art has on average 30 unique visits every month and has a core interest group that needs to access the data, so we’re currently taking steps to make sure the data in the Rock Art database is maintained and made publicly accessible in perpetuity.

What’s happening?

The data itself (i.e. the text and images used in the database) is being turned into a standard ADS public archive. This means the individual records (CSV) images (JPG/TIF) and VRML will be available to access download. This includes all the later additions such as the Beckensall archive.

This means, for example, that all the information on the page for an ERA record such as this one, will still be there, just not in the website format and perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing.

We’re hoping to have this done as soon as possible, and when ready the ERA URL will resolve to the new archive.

Further ahead, there are some advantages to bringing the ERA data into a standard archive. The metadata can be incorporated within our Collections Management System (CMS) and Object Management System (OMS), the latter of which is forming the basis of our plans to centralise and implement cross-searching of Objects (i.e. files), and also to benefit from technical developments for external sharing such as IIIF. Overall, the data will be better curated, access widened by bringing it ‘in-house’.

In addition, we have plans to devote staff time to build on the raw data to develop the archive into an ADS Special Collection which replicates the database and map-based experiences we know a lot of our users enjoy for example Roman Amphora or Roman Rural Settlement of Britain). This is being done as a staff training exercise, so timescale for completion is less certain but I would hope we have an Advanced interface ready in 2021.

We hope all our users will understand that this work is being undertaken as a practical response to a tricky problem that impacts all public ICT applications at some point. In this case, and because the resource was already held by ADS we’re happy the data are secure and will be made publicly accessible as soon as possible, and that where we can (and remember the ADS has no core funding) we will continue to enhance access to the data so that the legacy of the original project is continued.