All posts by Jenny Ryder

Archiving Ipswich

Re-posted from Day of Archaeology

Two years after posting about my work on the Silbury Hill digital archive, in ‘AN ADS DAY OF ARCHAEOLOGY’, and I’m still busy working as a Digital Archivist with the ADS!

For the past few months, I have been working on the Ipswich Backlog Excavation Archive, deposited by Suffolk County Council, which covers 34 sites, excavated between 1974 and 1990.


To give a quick summary of the work so far, the data first needed to be accessioned into our systems which involved all of the usual checks for viruses, removing spaces from file names, sorting the data into 34 separate collections and sifting out duplicates etc.  The archive packages were then created which involved migrating the files to their preservation and dissemination formats and creating file-level metadata using DROID.  The different representations of the files were linked together using object ids in our database and all of the archiving processes were documented before the coverage and location metadata were added to the individual site collections.

Though time consuming, due to the quantity of data, this process was fairly simple as most of the file names were created consistently and contained the site code.  Those that didn’t have descriptive file names could be found in the site database and sorted according to the information there.

The next job was to create the interfaces; again, this was fairly simple for the individual sites as they were made using a template which retrieves the relevant information from our database allowing the pages to be consistent and easily updateable.

The Ipswich Backlog Excavation Archive called for a more innovative approach, however, in order to allow the users greater flexibility with regards to searching, so the depositors requested a map interface as well as a way to query information from their core database.  The map interface was the most complex part of the process and involved a steep learning curve for me as it involved applications, software and code that I had not previously used such as JavaScript, OpenLayers, GeoServer and QGIS.  The resulting map allows the user to view the features excavated on the 34 sites and retrieve information such as feature type and period as well as linking through to the project archive for that site.

OpenLayers map of Ipswich excavation sites.

So, as to what I’m up to today…

The next, and final step, is to create the page that queries the database.  For the past couple of weeks I have been sorting the data from the core database into a form that will fit into the ADS object tables, cleaning and consolidating period, monument and subject terms and, where possible, matching them to recognised thesauri such as the English Heritage Monument Type Thesaurus.

Today will be a continuation of that process and hopefully, by the end of the day, all of the information required by the query pages will be added to our database tables so that I can begin to build that part of the interface next week.  If all goes to plan, the user should be able to view specific files based on searches by period, monument/feature type, find type, context, site location etc. with more specialist information, such as pottery identification, being available directly from the core database tables which will be available for download in their entirety.  Fingers crossed that it does all go to plan!

So, that’s my Day of Archaeology 2015, keep a look out for ADS announcements regarding the release of the Ipswich Backlog Excavation Archive sometime over the next few weeks and check out the posts from my ADS colleagues Jo Gilham and Georgie Field!

UPDATE: Ipswich Excavation Archive has now been released! All sites can be explored here!

The Grey Literature Library reaches 30,000


The ADS is excited to announce that we now have over 30,000 reports in our Grey Literature Library.

A notable contribution to this number has been the addition of around 1,500 backlog reports that have been digitised and deposited with us from the North Yorkshire HER with more to come. Since the start of 2015, 734 reports have been added from 85 different organisations and 729 of those reports were submitted via OASIS.
Continue reading The Grey Literature Library reaches 30,000

Jenny Ryder’s Day of Archaeology at the ADS: a Silbury Hill update

Small photo of Jenny Ryder

Here it is, my Day of Archaeology 2013 and after a routine check of my emails and the daily news I’m ready to begin!

I am currently approaching the end of a year-long contract as a Digital Archivist at the Archaeology Data Service in York on an EH-funded project to prepare the Silbury Hill digital archive for deposition.

For a summary of the project, see the ADS newsletter and for a more in-depth account of my work so far check out my blog from a couple of weeks ago: “The Silbury Hill Archive: the light at the end of the tunnel”

Photo of Silbury Hill and surrounding landscape: 'Silbury Hill ©English Heritage'
Silbury Hill ©English Heritage
Continue reading Jenny Ryder’s Day of Archaeology at the ADS: a Silbury Hill update

The Silbury Hill Archive: the light at the end of the tunnel.

Photo showing the shadow of Silbury Hill ©English Heritage
Shadow of Silbury Hill ©English Heritage

This is the first of a two-part blog reporting on the progress of my work in preparing the digital data from the English Heritage Silbury Hill Conservation Project for deposition.  For an introduction to my work, please see the ADS Spring 2013 newsletter

A bit of background

Silbury Hill is “the largest man-made mound in Europe” (English Heritage) roughly 4,500 years old and a mystery that many antiquarians and archaeologists have, in their time, tried to solve through extensive survey and excavation.

To summarise: The Silbury Hill Conservation Project began after a hole appeared on the summit in May 2000, after which the hill continued to be monitored through a series of surveys, assessments and evaluations.  These proved that the hill was suffering from various collapses caused by previous excavations being inadequately backfilled and voids were therefore created by the subsidence of material.

The Silbury Hill digital archive: a monumental task

Photo from the Silbury Hill site office 2007, progress shot of Jenny Ryder working ©English Heritage
Site office, progress shot of Jenny Ryder working ©English Heritage

As mentioned in the ADS newsletter, the digital data generated from the Silbury Hill Conservation Project represents all of the site visits, surveys, evaluations, excavations, photogrammetric recording, finds retrieval and environmental sampling undertaken over the span of 9 years as well as the consequent research, assessment and analysis of the site data.

At the beginning of 2012, the dataset comprised over 30,000 files and I was employed by English Heritage for three months to undertake the daunting task of selecting which files should be retained and renaming and reformatting files where appropriate.  As it transpired, that three month period was not enough to even sort through which files needed to be kept for archiving and which should be discarded; consequently I was employed for a further year to continue to prepare the digital data for deposition.

Continue reading The Silbury Hill Archive: the light at the end of the tunnel.