Category Archives: Archives

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 More recently, the framework as a whole has become outdated, being deemed at risk for the last 18 months, and is now at a point where a major rebuild/application migration is required.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.

The exciting world of Metadata

Metadata.

Something extremely important to the long-term health and reuse of data and yet the mere mention of it can cause people to shut off and run away. So, what is it and how is it different from data?

Metadata is the data about data. I think that sums it up quite nicely, don’t you? Ok, let’s phrase it a different way. It’s essentially the documentation needed to make the data findable, understandable, and useable. It allows for verification of claims, reuse for future projects, and more.

Perhaps some visuals would help. Below is some data, 5 trench raster images in this case. In which English region was each photo taken?

Continue reading The exciting world of Metadata

I hit save so it’s preserved right?

No preservation format is perfect. While physical mediums such as paper can last centuries under proper conditions, it is that qualifier that is key to its longevity. Everyone has seen what can happen to paper when it gets wet. Similarly, there are many horror stories of corrupted files that have helped create sceptics for using digital preservation over physical preservation. 

We have had 4000+ years to develop strategies to conserve the ‘written’ word and less then 50 for methodologies to preserve digital data.  However, as long as digital data is properly cared for, there is no reason that it too cannot last just as long.

There are two types of digital data; born digital which is data that has never been in a physical format or digitised data which was originally a physical before begin converted.  Both types of face similar problems and today I‘m going to talk about one of the more hidden killers of digital data: data degradation.  

A comic strip that talks about how great digital data is and how it never degrades while have the quality of the image become more degraded in each panel.
©xkcd, Digital Data
Continue reading I hit save so it’s preserved right?

World Digital Preservation Day 2019: the ‘Bit List’ vs Archaeological Data

World Digital Preservation day logo

The Archaeology Data Service would like to wish everyone a very happy World Digital Preservation Day. We’re excited to be raising awareness of Digital Preservation and celebrating the work that we do.

We’re looking forward to reading the DPC’s new edition of the ‘Bit List‘ of Digitally Endangered Species released today and hearing about how our fellow archivists and the #DigiPres community are participating.

We thought we’d address a few of the ‘endangered species’ of file formats on this year’s list and see how they relate to the data that we receive as an archive for archaeological data.

Continue reading World Digital Preservation Day 2019: the ‘Bit List’ vs Archaeological Data

Human Settlements in a Digital Universe: The No Man’s Sky Archaeological Project

By Andrew Reinhard

On August 11, 2017, a community of a few hundred people awoke to find their homes and farms destroyed, the air too toxic to breathe, and temperatures either soaring of plunging hundreds of degrees on either side of zero. They needed to evacuate, a mass exodus to the stars happening over the next few weeks. Their settlements became disaster ruins overnight, and this catalysmic event turned a human population into climate refugees.

Continue reading Human Settlements in a Digital Universe: The No Man’s Sky Archaeological Project

Gems in the Library #2 The Underhill Archive

It’s almost the weekend so obviously this was the right time have fun with some of the beautiful images to be found in the HMJ Underhill archive, compiled by Oxford University and available in our archives. Also I felt like brushing up on the old QGIS skills. So I decided to georeference some of these images and see how they match up with modern maps.

These images all come from the Underhill Archive available on the ADS Archive. The archive was put together by Deborah Harlan and Megan Price at the University of Oxford. It consists of hand painted glass slides of British megaliths as well as maps of ancient Britain and the areas surrounding prehistoric monuments.

Northern Roman Britain georeferenced here on open street maps. The map was probably drawn around 1895.
Northern Roman Britain georeferenced here on open street maps. The map was probably drawn around 1895.
Continue reading Gems in the Library #2 The Underhill Archive

Gems in the ADS Library #1

After spending time working on the ADS library I thought it would be fun to share with you a few gems of the library content. Subsequently I fell down numerous rabbit holes. It was quite hard picking articles as there is so much there but in the end I decided to discuss two articles which explore archaeology, computing and digital environments. I found these articles fascinating because they challenge my entire concept of heritage and archaeology, especially how its applied to new technology. So I hope you don’t mind me going off on a tangent in discussing them. I’m planning to do a few posts in this series with a different large theme each time as way of showcasing how awesome it is to have all this open access data available.

Archaeology of Virtual Universes

We’re all away of how the pace of development of technology seems to accelerate faster and faster; a handaxe might have been a standard tools for millennia, but chances are the computing technology you used ten years ago is defunct. Dealing with obsolete formats, in both their hard and soft versions, is a big part of a digital archivists job, have a look at the story of the Newham Museum Archaeological Service Archive to find out more.

Continue reading Gems in the ADS Library #1

Headed off into uncharted waters: My first month at the ADS

Hello all!  Teagan here to tell you about my first exciting month at the ADS.  First a bit about myself.  Yes, that is a ship on my head.  What better way to get myself in ship shape to bring you the best blog possible? 

I was born and raised in sunny California where I pursued my dream of becoming a pirate archaeologist by completing a BS in Civil Engineering (ok, I had a bit of trouble reading the treasure map).  From there I flew over the seven seas to arrive in York where I received my MSc in Archaeological Information Systems before I struck gold and began working here at the ADS as a digital archives assistant.

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‘It Makes You Feel Like You Are Working as a Real Scientist’

Using data provided by the ADS for digital archaeological teaching and learning at the University of Vienna

Guest Post By: Dominik Hagmann & Fabiola Heynen

Dominik Hagmann is an university assistant at the Department of Classical Archaeology and lecturer at the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Fabiola Heynen is a master’s student in classical archaeology at the University of Vienna.

This is the first in a series of guest posts exploring the re-use of digital data preserved and disseminated by the ADS. This post explores how various data-sets preserved by the ADS are re-used as a teaching resource at the University of Vienna.

Framework

Since 2017 a newly established series of courses at the Departments of Classical Archaeology as well as Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Vienna want to provide interested students with basic knowledge about digital archaeology in theory and practice. The students acquire first experiences through various practical exercises using and discussing free and open-source software (FOSS) on topics like the application of 3D photogrammetry for the archaeological record or spatial analysis with the help of a geographic information system (GIS).

Continue reading ‘It Makes You Feel Like You Are Working as a Real Scientist’

Exploring the Re-use of ADS Data: Guest Post Series

The ADS has been interested in the re-use of the data in our archive for as long as the ADS has been preserving data. Providing access and preserving data for others to re-use is why we do what we do!

While tracking of quantitative usage statistics is standard for most online archaeological resources, gaining qualitative understanding and strong examples of data re-use has always been more difficult.

As a result we have instigated a guest post series intended to acknowledge the wide range of research carried out that re-uses data preserved and disseminated by the ADS and raise awareness of the research potential of data re-use in archaeology and beyond.

As the year progresses we will publish a number of guest blog posts from archaeological and historic environment researchers from around the world, highlighting the wonderful and varied ways in which ADS archive data is re-used.

As new posts are published they will be added to the above list.

You can also see some other re-use examples from our 2015 Data Reuse Awards.

Get involved!

The ADS would love to hear of your experiences re-using our archived data. Pitch us a post by emailing help@archeologydataservice.ac.uk