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sustainable in the digital age, it was also deemed advisable to combine this dataset with the growing number of digital unpublished reports and journals and monographs held by the ADS, the former mainly derived through material uploaded to the OASIS system.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records with BIAB, and to have a single interface to cross-search all written works it held (traditionally, files from unpublished and published works sat in different databases). Having a unified database, with access to free copies of published and unpublished reports has also been in line with Historic England’s HIAS Principle 4: ‘Investigative research data or knowledge should be readily uploaded, validated and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’.
Once a year here at the ADS we let all of our cats free for a week into the world. There they do whatever fills their little hearts with joy. Playing with mice, relaxing in the warmth of monitors, and making changes to facilitate better archival of archaeological data. You know, normal cat behaviour.
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.
As well as welcoming our lovely new staff members, we also have yet more good news…
… The ADS Library now holds over 50,000 downloadable grey literature reports!
Thank you to all the archivists who have worked hard preserving, archiving and disseminating these files and to all of our depositors who continue to make our Grey Literature Collections such a rich resource!
It’s been another busy year for Internet Archaeology. One of the reasons I manage to just about stay on top of things is the help of a small number of volunteers who have given up their time to work on a whole range of aspects of the journal production, promotion and management. So I gladly namecheck Erica Cooke, Lesley Collett and Hayden Strawbridge.
This lovely infographic was created by Lesley and sums up the 2017 visitors and page views of the journal very nicely. It’s good to know that all that content we work on actually gets read…a lot. And if page loading takes just a few seconds longer on a Tuesday, now you know why!
Back in November (16th-18th), I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in the Cultural Heritage and New Technologies (CHNT) conference in Vienna. As detailed in my excitable post, written in advance of the event, my involvement was to represent the ADS at the session and subsequent round tables hosted by the ARIADNE project on the subject of Digital Preservation. One of the reasons I was so excited was that it was one of the few occasions on which the focus of such sessions was solely on the issues surrounding Digital Preservation: how it’s undertaken, problems and the challenge of ensuring re-use. It was also the first time, in public at least, that individuals representing organisations undertaking Digital Preservation from across Europe came together to present as a united front and presented to the wider heritage community. In addition, the event also took place at the beautiful Vienna town hall in (see below), a fantastic venue.
It was incredibly heartening to hear from European colleagues on their experiences, successes and challenges. I also felt that all the papers in the session – no doubt due to the diligence of co-chairs from DANS , DAI IANUS and the Saxonian State Department for Archaeology – meshed together really well. Although there were common themes, each was unique and presented a different tale to tell. Although somewhat biased, at the end of the formal session I came away thinking that I had not only contributed, but had learnt in equal measure. For those interested, IANUS have agreed to host the abstracts and presentations from the session on their website. I’d recommend these to everyone interested in a European-wide approach to the issues of digital archiving.
The first round table followed the formal session, and was listed as an open invitation for delegates to query the archivists in the room about where/when/what/how to archive. Surprisingly, considering the high profile parallel sessions, the room was packed with an array of people from a variety of backgrounds and countries across Europe. As such, the conversation veered between the extreme poles of the subject matter – for example the basic need for metadata versus adherence to the CIDOC-CRM. Reading between the lines here, what I thought the attendance and diverse topics showed was that this type of event was not only useful, but actually essential for archivists and non-archivists alike. Not only to correct misconceptions and to genuinely try and help, but also to alert us to the issues as perceived from the virtual work-face.
After a well-earned rest, and a quick visit to the Christmas markets for a small apfelwein, the next day was a chance for all the archivists to get together for an informal round table on issues affecting their long term, and shorter term objectives. Issues ranged from the need for accreditation – one of the ADS’ goals in this regard is to learn from DANS’ experience of achieving NESTOR – to file identification and persistent identifiers. In this setting the ADS is perceived as very much the elder statesperson (!) in the room, having been in the business for 20 years now, and it’s a good feeling to be able to pass onto colleagues advice and lessons from our own undertakings. I think it’s important that we continue to do this, not only to be nice (and I like to think we’ve always been approachable!), but also to achieve a longer-term strategic strength. Although we (the ADS) are winning many of the challenges at home in terms of championing the need for consideration of digital archives, there’s always more to be done. When we can also point to equivalents in continental Europe, I feel we only make our cause stronger.
However I’m also conscious that this isn’t just a one-way street and that we’ve still a great deal to learn from our European colleagues. Not only in things like accreditation, but also shared experiences on tools, file formats, metadata standards and internal infrastructure. We often say that Digital Preservation never stands still, so in this regard it’s good to look at what others are doing and reflect on what we could do better. Events such as this – and the international community of archaeologists doing Digital Preservation built in its wake – serve to make us richer in knowledge, and renewed of purpose. Looking forward to the next one!
Next month, the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) are contributing to an exciting session at the CHNT conference in Vienna: Preservation and re-use of digital archaeological research data with open archival information systems. The session is being organised by partners within the ARIADNE consortium, and chaired by members of the Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS – Netherlands), the Research Data Centre Archaeology and Ancient Studies (DAI IANUS – Germany ), the Saxonian State Department for Archaeology (Germany) and the ADS (UK).
The original rationale behind organizing the session was the need to ensure preservation and re-use of the ever-growing corpus of digital data produced through archaeological activity. Put simply, what we are creating must be available for future generations to consult, but also feed back into current research and practice. Accordingly, the focus of the session is on the services and duties of existing repositories and archives, including case studies and experiences of technical considerations such as formats, authenticity/validity and metadata. Participants will also offer wider perspectives on the rationale for curation, how it can be achieved, lessons learned, the relevance of the OAIS-standard and future challenges. Believing that there is no true preservation without re-use, the session also concentrates on dissemination; discussing accessibility, publicity (getting people to re-use data), and novel and creative methods of data publication as demonstrated through case studies.
The speakers are drawn from a range of cultural heritage institutions, representing a mix of established digital archives and current research projects that are investigating archival solutions, thus offering a range of international perspectives on the Session themes. From an ADS point of view, it will be great to meet up with familiar faces but also hear from (and get to know) new projects. In this vein the Session is followed by a Round Table which will allow for further discussion on topics, as well as allow those new to digital curation the discover more about the subject.
This inclusive participation, and learning from the experiences of international partners is a key theme of the ARIADNE project, and personally I’m excited to not only offer a UK perspective but also to learn from my colleagues and to feed back into my day-to-day role at the ADS.
The guide will provide good-practice guidance for the collection and archive of dendrochronological data in the context of archaeological and historical research. The guide is aimed at both those creating dendrochronological datasets, and those that commission dendrochronological analyses. This guide will not cover the methods involved in dendrochronological analyses, but focuses on how to describe and archive the digital data and metadata involved in these analyses.
The guide will be available soon on the Guides to Good practice website, and it’s release will be announced on the ADS website, so keep a look out for the announcement.