The following is a Guest Blog authored by Professor Stephen Todd, currently visiting Professor in the Dept of Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London. We’re always interested in how people use our data, and indeed how they want to use or access our data. After preliminary discussions about enabling Cross-origin resource sharing (CORS) to provide direct access to ADS archived files for an xyzviewer, Stephen has been kind enough to write up his current work and wider thoughts for us as a case study.
This note discusses how xyziewer permits exploration/visualization of a subset of Star Carr data, and makes some points that arise on collaborative data and the relationship to the Archaeology Data Service, ADS. It is in two parts, the first outlines the capabilities of xyzviewer, and the second more diffuse arising thoughts.
This week my colleague (Teagan Zoldoske) flagged up the following report:
Wiseman, R., and Ronn, P. (2020). Archaeology on Furlough: Accessing Archaeological Information Online: A Survey of Volunteers’ Experiences. https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.54876
For those unfamiliar with the initiative, Archaeology on Furlough provides professional archaeologists in the UK with access to volunteer projects that can be done from home. This excellent report summarises the expectations and realities of using online resources for specific research needs. The ADS is cited frequently within, and I’m glad to see the overall positive response (see figures 2 + 3). The heavy use of the ADS Library, particularly unpublished reports, over Spring and early Summer 2020 is now partially explained!
Recently, I have been on a work placement with the Archaeology Data Service, otherwise known as the ADS, situated within the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. This placement, which is a requirement for my MSc in Digital Archaeology in the Department, came along just as the world pandemic decided to force itself upon us. This meant I was unable to go into the work environment and physically work alongside members of staff. Lockdown meant we all had to stay at home. So, I hear you ask, what have you been doing since you can only work at home? Thanks to staff members Dr Tim Evans and Jenny O’Brien I have been given plenty of interesting and fun tasks to complete.
The main tasks that I have been asked to help with include cataloguing data, adding subject terms and amending and adding data to the ADS main website for the Berkshire Archaeological Journals and School of Archaeology Monograph Series by Oxford University. The cataloguing task involved tagging the collections with keywords and topics, as well as listing potential user groups I think will find each collection useful, or interesting, and giving each collection a rating as to how useful the collection is. This collection review is aimed at being the first step towards a Cataloguing Policy, where cataloguing projects and processes can be prioritised based on specific collections assessment criteria.
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?
Islands of Stone is an AHRC-funded collaboration between the University of Southampton, the University of Reading and Historic Environment Scotland investigating Neolithic ‘crannogs’ in the Outer Hebrides. The construction of crannogs, or artificial islands, in Scotland was generally thought to have emerged during the Early Iron Age (c. 800 BC); however, one artificial island in the Outer Hebrides known as Eilean Dohmnuill, or Donald’s Island, has demonstrated much earlier origins. Originally believed to be of Iron Age date, excavations by Ian Armit soon revealed large quantities of decorated Neolithic pottery which would ‘change the direction of the entire research programme’ (Armit 1991: 444-45).
In early 2020, it was decided to take a closer look into what impact our social media accounts were having on our archives. Did what we do on social media make a difference to who sees our archives? Were our tweets heard? Were our posts seen? Above all, were people finding our archives?
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.