Category Archives: Development

Changes to the ADS Library

The scholar, Periander in his library with printed text. Reproduction after a woodcut, 1488-89. Credit: Wellcome Collection
CC BY.

Since a Beta release back in March 2017 we’ve received a great deal of feedback on the ADS Library application. We know it’s used intensively, with over 120,000 downloads in 2019, but as with any IT application there are places it can be improved!

For the uninitiated, the ADS Library was the outcome of a Historic England funded project to ensure the longevity of the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography (BIAB). BIAB had traditionally been maintained by the CBA, with records added into the database by hand from extant sources (see Heyworth 1992). As this approach became less sustainable in the digital age, it was also deemed advisable to combine this dataset with the growing number of digital unpublished reports and journals and monographs held by the ADS, the former mainly derived through material uploaded to the OASIS system. This was also an opportunity for the ADS to align its records with BIAB, and to have a single interface to cross-search all written works it held (traditionally, files from unpublished and published works sat in different databases). Having a unified database, with access to free copies of published and unpublished reports has also been in line with Historic England’s HIAS Principle 4: ‘Investigative research data or knowledge should be readily uploaded, validated and accessed online’.

Continue reading Changes to the ADS Library

The Redesign Continues

Hello all, and thank you very much for your feedback to our website redesign survey, they have been really helpful in the redesigning of the website. We are happy to now say its beginning to be built! However, if you would like to take part in the survey there is still time to provide your input.

Survey: https://york.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2lUFXuzQEg3pntb

Our work is currently concentrating on the menu to make the new design accessible, mobile-friendly and intuitive. An early peek of the new clean and sleek design can be seen below.

I hope that you are as excited about the design as we are! We are hoping that the new design will be completed soon providing you, our users, with a full preview and the opportunity to comment on the design before we launch.

Once again we would like to involve you in this part of the project so keep your eyes peeled for our posts on the design process, social media polls and other opportunities to get involved. And do tell us what you think of the new simpler menu design in the comments below.

ADS Homepage Redesign

Here at the Archaeology Data Service, we believe that the way in which we connect to the past truly matters, and as a result, we are redesigning our website’s homepage.  For the first stage of this, we will be carrying out a survey into how you, the user, use the website and if there are any elements you would like improved or added. 

Follow this link to tell us your opinions: https://york.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_2lUFXuzQEg3pntb

The second stage will involve having a sneak peek at the designs and offering your opinion on them in terms of what you like and dislike.

So get ready for your opportunity to be involved in redesigning the face of our business, for we believe every story is important. If you have any questions we are always very willing to answer.

Homepage design

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

ADS Business Process Review

In early 2018, as part of  the ADS strategic plan to maintain and develop our world-leading position in digital preservation and Open Access publishing in Archaeology, the ADS management team commissioned a Business Analyst at the University of York (Jamie Holliday) to provide an external, critical, yet friendly review of the work of the ADS and Internet Archaeology. The aim was to identify opportunities to improve our service delivery, processes, management practices and staff development. The review took a mainly qualitative approach, using a balanced scorecard methodology, looking at ADS from the perspective of:

  • Customers
  • Finances
  • Internal Processes
  • Learning & Growth

The review also commented on more general strategic issues that emerged, including succession planning, achieving clarity of vision and improving our financial position to allow for increased reinvestment. A follow-up review, conducted by the University’s Assistant Director of Information Services and Head of IT Infrastructure, Arthur Clune, focused on ADS Technical Systems. The reports, recommendations and ADS Action Plans were received by the ADS Management Committee in October 2018, although there is ongoing work on charging models.

Staffing News

The most immediate and visible impacts of the review have been some changes to ADS roles and staffing. In September 2018, with the departure of Louisa Matthews to undertake a PhD in the University of Newcastle we took the opportunity to create a new post, held by Katie Green. Whilst it has the job title of Collections Development Manager, it actually combines aspects of this role with that of her former job as Communications and Access Manager. Other aspects of the former CDM role have been taken by Ray Moore, our new Archives Manager. Ray is now the first port of call for archive costings, and also oversees the day-to-day work of the archivists. The most recent change is that we have appointed a Deputy Director to oversee operations management:  Tim Evans, who joined ADS in 2006 as ALSF Digital Archivist and is currently HERALD project manager, will take this post up from December. Tim will retain responsibility for oversight of HERALD, the OASIS redevelopment project, and will also begin to represent ADS in a broad range of external partnerships. Finally, we hope soon to be looking to appoint at least one Digital Archives Assistant, an entry-level trainee grade for budding archivists.

Watch this space!

Julian Richards

ADS Director

New Look Website

The ADS are pleased to announce that the ADS Library will be moving out of its Beta phase and go Live on Tuesday 16th January. Concurrently with this the ADS will also be launching a newly designed website. The main aim of the new website design is to make it easier for our users to access our searchable resources. With the launch of the ADS Library the ADS now provides three main heritage environment search tools:

Each of these tools should be used to search for different types of information held by the ADS. Archsearch is for searching metadata records about monuments and historic environment events in the UK. The ADS Archives is the place to search for historic environment research data (such as images, plans, databases) and contains international and UK data. The ADS Library is a bibliographic tool for searching for written records on the historic environment of Britain and Ireland. Where possible, the record will provide a direct link to the original publication or report. Continue reading New Look Website

ADS Goes Live on International Digital Preservation Day

On 30th November 2017 the first ever International Digital Preservation Day will draw together individuals and institutions from across the world to celebrate the collections preserved, the access maintained and the understanding fostered by preserving digital materials.

The aim of the day is to create greater awareness of digital preservation that will translate into a wider understanding which permeates all aspects of society – business, policy making and personal good practice.

To celebrate International Digital Preservation Day ADS staff members will be tweeting about what they are doing, as they do it, for one hour each before passing on to the next staff member. Each staff member will be focusing on a different aspect of our digital preservation work to give as wide an insight into our work as possible. So tune in live with the hashtags #ADSLive and #idpd17 on Twitter or follow our Facebook page for hourly updates. Here is a sneak preview of what to expect and when:

Continue reading ADS Goes Live on International Digital Preservation Day

Call for papers: EAA session sponsored by ArchAIDE

The annual EAA Conference will be held this year in Maastricht, the Netherlands from 30 August to 3 September. The ArchAIDE project would like to invite papers related to the topic of automation in artefact recognition. Papers are encouraged which not only highlight technical possibilities, but also challenges facing artefact recognition by archaeologists working across Europe. Session details are available below:

 

Session 166: Automation in artefact recognition: perspectives and challenges in archaeological practice

Theme: Interpreting the archaeological record

Session format: Papers, maximum 15 minutes each

Deadline Extended to 25 March, 2017

You can submit a paper to the session via the EAA website 

Given that artefacts are of fundamental importance for the dating and interpretation of archaeological contexts, the automatic recognition of artefact types has been one of the ‘golden chestnuts’ of archaeological computing, dominating computer application papers of the 1970s and 1980s, but development of a practical working system has not been successful. Nonetheless, software and image recognition technology has moved on, and projects like ArchAIDE, DADAISM and GRAVITATE are working towards the (semi-) automatic recognition of artefacts (pottery, metalwork, stone tools, plastic arts, etc.) and the (partial) automation of archaeological workflows.

 

Artefact recognition is a time consuming activity, and spending time (and money) in repetitive work is not optimal, but automation can help in supporting interpretation with innovative computer-based tools. Artefact recognition calls for complex, specialist skills which are not always available. Automation can facilitate specialist interpretation for generalists, increasing the number of researchers able to devote more time to data analysis, and consequently to greater comprehension and new knowledge in areas such as trade and exchange, supply and production, religious or social affiliation, and so on.

Based on this assumption, we call for papers to foster both theoretical discussion as well as practical solutions, focused on how automatic artefact recognition could:

• meet real user needs, and generate economic benefits;
• produce new interpretations;
• revolutionise archaeologists’ habits, behaviours and expectations;
• create societal benefits from cultural heritage, improving access, re-use and exploitation of digital cultural heritage in a sustainable way.
 

A decade in data

birthday_badgeIt’s hard to believe, but next week will mark my 10 year anniversary at the ADS. I originally started on a one-year contract to oversee the archiving of key digital outputs produced by English Heritage ALSF projects (with the job title of ALSF Curatorial Officer), but have since stayed on in the role of Digital Archivist, more recently taking over responsibility as the ADS’ Preservation Lead.

The realisation that I’d spent a decade in one organisation initially triggered a Proustian flashback of projects, archives and even files I’d worked on, and thus the idea of a blog was born. I was tempted to call this blog something like “In Search of Lost Time” (time being a portmanteau of my first name and initial of my surname), but was perhaps a little floral as well as erroneous: here at the ADS we never lose anything…

Curious as to what I’d achieved over this period (apart from a sense of satisfaction in safeguarding humanity’s digital heritage), I returned to the ADS Collections Management System (CMS) to query what it was I had worked on. In short, I’ve been responsible for

  • 1018 accessions (the act of receiving and ingesting data from a depositor)
  • Arriving on:
    • 1 x 3.5 inch floppy disc
    • 298 x CD-ROMs
    • 46 x DVDs
    • 208 x Emails
    • 337 x FTP downloads
    • 12 x HTTP downloads
    • 87 USB hard drives
    • 30 USB memory sticks
    • 5523 Web uploads (via OASIS)
  • Archiving 377 collections
  • Updating/adding to a further 169 collections (Journals, collections of OASIS reports etc)
  • Curated 323,050 accessioned files (in 800,000+ files on our AIPs and DIPs)
  • Undertaken 4094 processes (e.g. migrations)
    • Of which 966 processes related to the creation of Preservation PDF/A (12,592 files if you’re curious)
  • Drunk at least 11300 cups of tea (a slightly spurious figure based on an average of 5 cups a day x (10x(annual working days – holiday)).

Over that time, and all those cups of tea, there are definitely some projects that stick in my mind as being memorable. So, to commemorate my decade in data, here  are my top 10 covering every year I’ve been at the ADS:

2006: Wearmouth and Jarrow Monastic sites. Volume 2 Appendix C

My first archive! Notable for using Tab delimited text, which was soon to be replaced as a dissemination format by Comma separated values.

2007: West Stow, Lackford Bridge, Suffolk

One of the first sizeable projects to come through as part of my ALSF work, this was instrumental in building up a strong start to the project. It’s also a useful dataset arising from a modern appraisal of an old rescue excavation.

2008: Land south-west of Ripple, Worcestershire

Although tempted to opt for Gwithian (check out the photos!), I went for this project which was completed in 2008. It’s a nice mixture of reports, data and photos from (to my mind) quite an important site, especially if you’re interested in the dating of pit alignments.

2009: Fieldwalking the cropmark landscape on the Sherwood Sandstone of Nottinghamshire

The first of a series of big projects I started to work on incorporating map and/or database interfaces. This one was built in ArcGIS Server.

2010: The evolution of Rome’s maritime facade: archaeology and geomorphology at Castelporziano

Primarily because I worked on the fieldwork project (look carefully for pictures of a youthful Tim), but also as it was at the time, the largest archive we held. A detailed archive for a very interesting site.

2011: The Deanery, Chapel Road, Southampton (OASIS ID wessexar1-92410)

Although at first appearance this is a somewhat modest archive, it represents a great leap forward. This was the first archive from an agreement between ADS and Southampton Arts and Heritage, whereby digital archives arising from development-led work in the City of Southampton would be passed onto the ADS. We now have several agreements with Local Authorities to perform this role (for example see Worcestershire), and it all started here. As an aside, I often use this archive as an example to show to students as it comprises a compact, well-documented dataset including reports, images and a plan – essential material for anyone working in/researching the city.

2012: A Long Way from Home: Diaspora Communities in Roman Britain

A great example of the archiving of an important research dataset, although I’m also swayed by the similarity of the man in the image on the introduction page and the ex-Everton manager David Moyes.

2013: Quarry Farm, Ingleby Barwick

The site is the most northerly known Roman villa surviving in the Empire, and the dataset is a useful companion to the published CBA Research Report.

2014: Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Lithic Artefact (PaMELA) database

The PaMELA database consists of two main parts: a literal digital transcription of Jacobi’s card index (the Jacobi Archive); and a searchable database with typological and chronological keys (the Colonisation of Britain database). I could spend hours browsing this archive!

2015: The Prehistoric Stones of Greece: A Resource from Field Survey

I expected to put down the Roman Rural Settlement of Britain project, but I won’t consider that finished until the final interface (with access to all data) is finished later this year. So I’ve gone for this project, a rescue of a dataset that had been available on another website, but subsequently removed. The interface has a strong spatial element, and after some thought I moved away from Google Maps and ESRI products (such as ArcGIS Server) to embrace OpenLayers. In the end the hard-learnt lessons (e.g. how to close a polygon?) reaped dividends in my work on the large map for the Roman project.

2016: Birmingham Archaeology (BUFAU) Digital Archives

Before working for the ADS, I’d spent most of my professional life working for Birmingham Archaeology (previously known as BUFAU). That organisation closed in 2012, and subsequently a project undertaken to ensure that all key physical and digital materials are transferred to a suitable archive. We’re only halfway through the project, but already we have the majority of the c.2000 reports written over the years, and a selection of digital materials. It’s been good to go back to where I started, and even to archive some of my own (not very good!) reports!

I’ll end the blog there, who knows, I may update this in another 10 years!

Tim

British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography Survey Results

The British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography is moving from the Council of British Archaeology to the ADS in 2016. The idea is to integrate it with other ADS Library resources like the Library of Unpublished Fieldwork Reports (aka the Grey Literature Library).

The first step in this change was a user needs survey to investigate who is using BIAB in its current form and which other bibliographic tools the historic environment community are using in their research.
Continue reading British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography Survey Results