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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
As part of the CBA’s #FestivalOfArchaeology in 2020, I spent a light-hearted day revisiting some of Internet Archaeology’s and ADS’s milestones. I also asked those whose paths intersected and crossed ours to join in and share memories.
The strength of the ADS has always been the people who work here. As a team, we accomplish a lot. Out of the existing cohort of 13 staff, eight are female. Individually, and as a group, these women bring an array of knowledge, skills, and commitment without which we would be diminished. To coincide with International Women’s Day 2020, and in mind of its mission “To celebrate digital advancement and champion the women forging innovation through technology“, it is an opportune moment to celebrate our female staff. Even those who think they know the ADS, should read on to discover the vast array of expertise at hand (listed in alphabetical order)…
I’m finally at the end of my
internship here at ADS, which has flown by. I’ve learned a lot and have been
able to appreciate some of the intricacies of what goes on behind the scenes at
an organisation such as ADS.
I started off working on the library, starting off by updating the entries for Internet Archaeology. Which inspired me to write this blog post. I also did some tidying up of entries in the library. Doing this made me not only appreciate what a huge resource it is but also led to me falling down many, many rabbit holes. I especially love some of the publications from before 1850 and their illustrations. Looking at the older reports from local and regional archaeology and antiquarian societies also made me appreciate how the library also represents the history of British archaeology and how much of our discipline is built on these earlier efforts.
Many moons ago, the ADS decided that it was going to try and increase its social media presence. To this end, we started tweeting, and posting, and doing all sorts of social media like things. From this, we began experimenting with the world of hashtags and found ourselves interacting with #Archive30. It was through this trend of talking about a different thing from our archive and work that we came to the day of outreach.
Now outreach can mean something different to each person. According to Google’s dictionary it means ‘an organization’s involvement with or influence in the community, especially in the context of religion or social welfare.’ So we were at conundrum. How would we, an organization dedicated to the preservation of digital data going to show our many followers (who I’m sure were waiting with bated breath) that we left our offices every once in a while?
Well, if there is one thing that I enjoy, it’s a good old visualization of information. And that is how the lovely map below was made.
Many friends of ADS will remember Tony Austin, who sadly died on 9 April 2019, aged 69. Tony was a key figure at the ADS during our formative years, his dry and understated sense of humour, knowledge and enthusiasm will be missed by all of us who worked with him.
It’s been six weeks since I started working at the Archaeology Data Service and went down the rabbit hole and into a world of checksums, AIPs, OMS, CMS and DROIDs. I knew fairly little about digital preservation before starting, so had no real idea of what I might be letting myself in for. Alongside trying to keep abreast of the plethora of acronyms, I’ve been involved in some interesting and varied projects so far and I’m very grateful for how welcoming the ADS team has been.
Following a BA in archaeology at the University of Durham, I moved to London to study the archaeology of Egypt and the Near East at UCL, with a focus on GIS and computational methods in archaeology. I developed an interest in archives and collections documentation during a placement at a museum during my master’s degree. Admittedly, I’d anticipated taking a more traditional route of working with material objects and I knew quite little about digital collections. Joining the ADS is my first foray into digital preservation and I’m excited to be learning about such an interesting subject and working with archaeological data. I’m especially looking forward to developing my technical skills; and of course still being able to have fun with GIS from time to time.