Although, strictly speaking, databases and spreadsheets have very different functions, it can be argued that in many archaeological applications both are used to collect and store data in a similar way (defined in terms of records/rows and fields/columns). From an archival perspective this similarity becomes more apparent when the significant properties are taken into account. When looking to preserve data in these formats, the key significant properties of both databases and spreadsheets are both the data values themselves and the structure (tables or sheets) in which this data is held. From this perspective both types of object can be treated (and archived) in a similar way.
This guide aims to provide an overview and guide to preserving the most common features of databases and spreadsheets created as a part of archaeological research. The guide will highlight their similarities – and how they can be dealt with in a similar fashion – together with areas in which they differ and in which additional elements, characteristics and processes must be documented. This guide does not, however, aim to provide detailed guidance on the design of databases or spreadsheets beyond considerations that influence their preservation.