Archaeological Records of Europe - Networked Access

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Standards in Archaeology


Data Documentation and Content Standards

Formal Standards

Archiving Aerial Photography and Remote Sensing Data: a Guide to Good Practice — The Archaeology Data Service produced this guide in Autumn 1998. Written by a working party of archaeological aerial photography and remote sensing specialists, and widely peer reviewed, this guide deals with all aspects of creating, documenting, and archiving images and interpretations. The creation of Dublin Core-style metadata records for these data is also described, and examples are provided.

Art and Architecture Thesaurus — The Getty Information Institute produced this useful thesaurus in 1990 and has recently made it searchable over the World Wide Web. It's an invaluable tool for standardised description of material culture, architecture, and art in the Western World from prehistory to the present. Vocabulary is controlled through a hierarchical structure of broader/narrower terms, synonym control, and other helpful tools.

British Archaeological Thesaurus — Written by Cherry Lavell and published by the Council for British Archaeology in 1989, this was the earliest thesaurus for British archaeology. It remains a useful companion to back issues of the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography (and its predecessors, British Archaeological Bibliography and British Archaeological Abstracts), but is now out-of-print.

British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography uses and is based on a series of standards, including terminology controls and a classification system for archaeology which combine chronological and thematic concepts.

British Museum Materials Thesaurus — Released and published in 1997 at the same time as the MDA Archaeological Object Thesaurus, this thesaurus was edited by Tanya Szrajber and compiled by the museum Collections Data Management Section. This thesaurus was a response to their need to document collections from any time period around the world, and it provides a good resource for terminology control of organic, inorganic, and processed materials.

CAD a Guide to Good Practice by Harrison Eiteljorg II, Kate Fernie, Jeremy Huggett and Damian Robinson is designed specifically to provide guidance for individuals and organisations involved in the creation, maintenance, use, and long-term preservation of CAD-based digital resources in the humanities.

CIDOC object-oriented Conceptual Reference Model represents an 'ontology' for cultural heritage information i.e. it describes in a formal language the explicit and implicit concepts and relations relevant to the documentation of cultural heritage. The primary role of the CRM is to serve as a basis for mediation of cultural heritage information and thereby provide the semantic 'glue' needed to transform today's disparate, localised information sources into a coherent and valuable global resource.

Core Data Index to Historic Buildings and Monuments of the Architectural Heritage - Developed by the Council of Europe for architectural recording.

Data Standards and Guidance for Digital Data Transfer to the Northamptonshire SMR - Developed by Northamptonshire Heritage, this document covers all aspects of archaeological practice in Northamptonshire from project design through data collection and digital archiving. All contractors operating in Northamptonshire are expected to comply with recommendations in this document.

Digital Archives from Excavation and Fieldwork: A Guide to Good Practice. the primary aim of this Digital Archiving Guide to Good Practice is to provide information on the best way to create and document digital material produced in the course of excavation and fieldwork, and to deposit it safely in a digital archive facility for future use. It was written by the ADS with contributions from a wide range of authors.

Distributed National Electronic Resource (DNER): Standards and Guidelines to Build a National Resource Jisc spondored standards for us in the creation and maintenance of digital resources for the UK Higher and Further Education sectors.

Elib Standards Guidelines (Version 2) This covers, concisely, a wide range of electronic format and interchange standards, and includes references to more detailed reading.

English Heritage: Digital Archiving Requirements. English Heritage guidlines for Archaeology Commissions Programme funded projects for creating a digital archive to be deposited with the ADS.

English Heritage National Monuments Record Thesauri are now available online. They include the Thesaurus of Monument Types, mda Archaeological Objects Thesaurus, Thesaurus of Building Materials and Maritime Thesauri. Also included is a draft copy of the Defence of Britain Thesaurus developed by English Heritage's Data Standards Unit for the Defence of Britain Project. These thesauri are used in English Heritage's databases as well as the SMR Software produced by exeGesIS SDM Ltd.

FISH, the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (previously known as FISHEN). It exists to promote and develop standards covering the compilation, organisation and interoperability of 'inventories' of the rich and varied archaeological and architectural heritage. The Forum produces, reviews, maintains and updates data content standards, metadata standards and indexing or terminology standards for those working in heritage where it is essential that information created, gathered and/or curated is in a retrievable, reusable and interoperable form. It was established with a remit for England, but now has a broader co-alition with a wider agenda.

Geophysical Data in Archaeology: A Guide to Good Practice Published by the Archaeology Data Service; led by Armin Schmidt of Bradford University; and widely peer reviewed, this guide deals with all aspects of creating, documenting and archiving archaeological geophysical data. The creation of Dublin Core-style metadata records for these data is also described, and examples are provided.

GIS Guide to Good Practice — Published by the Archaeology Data Service; written by a working party of archaeologists, digital archivists, and GIS specialists; and widely peer reviewed, this guide deals with all aspects of creating, documenting and archiving archaeological Geographic Information Systems. The creation of Dublin Core-style metadata records for these data is also described, and examples are provided.

Greater London Archaeology Advisory Service Archaeological Guidance Papers - Produced by GLASS in 1998, these papers cover all aspects of desk-based assessments, fieldwork, reports, and evaluation in London.

Guide to the Description of Architectural Drawings - Published in 1997, this guide provides a general introduction to the principles of documenting architectural materials with recommendations for both digital and manual systems. Developed by the Getty Information Institute and partners.

Handbook of Standards; Documenting African Collections - Published in 1998 by ICOM, the helpful resource is published in both English and French. It provides guidance on the minimum amount of documentation required for museums curating objects from Africa. All museum disciplines are covered from humanities subjects to natural science subjects. Alot of images are used on this site, so it can be a bit slow to load.

Index Record for Industrial Sites - Published by the Association for Industrial Archaeology in 1993 this is a handbook for recording evidence about industrial heritage. This helpful booklet includes recording forms and a variety of terminology lists.

The Inscription initiative provides a foundation for developing terminology control in monument inventories and related digital resources. It is particularly relevant in the light of the MIDAS standards (below) which provides a standardised recording framework in which these terms may be deployed. It is not a wordlist or thesaurus in its own right so much as a definitive set of controlled vocabularies for a variety of purposes. To that extent it is the starting point for the concordance of diverse wordlists.

Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA) - The IFA is the professional organisation for UK archaeologists and has constitutional Codes of Conduct, Bylaws and Standards to which validated members sign up to when they join. This includes documents providing standards and guidance for desk-based assessments, field evaluations, watching briefs, excavation, and the investigation and recording of standing buildings or structures.

Intra-governmental Group on Geographic Information, Principles of Good Metadata Management An IGGI Working Group was established to prepare a best practice guide for the management of metadata and to increase the amount and currency of metadata held on the askGiraffe Data Locator. This Guide (Adobe Acrobat: 285kb) gives advice on the collection, management and dissemination of appropriate metadata and provides officials responsible for information handling with general guidance on managing metadata.

International Guidelines for Museum Object Information: CIDOC Information CategoriesCIDOC, the International Documentation Committee of the International Council of Museums has developed these guidelines about what information should be recorded for museum objects, how it should be recorded, and the terminology with which this information should be recorded. This standard is particularly useful for archaeologists working in a museums setting.

Lincolnshire Archaeological Handbook — Published by Lincolnshire County Council, this handbook establishes criteria for the conduct of archaeological projects. Covers such topics as project management, archaeological methods, recording systems, archive preparation, dissemination, and all other phases of archaeological research. This resource is vital for any unit or university research project undertaking work in Lincolnshire. NB: It has been offline for some time, but this alternative page provides contact details for relevant officials.

The Local e-Government Standards Body was established as a National Project under the ODPM's National Local e-Government Strategy. It has been set up to ensure that the National Strategy is supported with standards and mechanisms that enable existing projects, products and services to be exploited so that duplication of investment and effort in local e-government can be avoided.

Management of Archaeological Projects (MAP2) —Developed by English Heritage as a guide to the management of all phases of archaeological projects. Includes guidelines for planning, fieldwork, assessment of potential, analysis, report preparation, and archiving.

MIDAS: A Manual and Data Standard for Monument Inventories — Developed by RCHME in 1998 to assist in the creation of monument inventories such as Sites and Monuments Records (SMRs), and is an indispensable resource for archaeologists working in England. It is poarticularly relevant in the light of the Inscription initiative (above) which identfies the controlled vocabularies that will populate databases compiled to the MIDAS standard.

Monuments Protection Programme (MPP) — is a comprehensive review and evaluation of England's archaeological resource, designed to collect information which will enhance the conservation, management and appreciation of the archaeological heritage. One of its principal aims is to identify monuments and sites whose national importance and conservation needs justify some form of statutory protective designation (generally scheduling).

Multilingual Egyptological Thesaurus — The International Association of Egyptologists (IAE), Comité International pour l'égyptologie (CIPEG) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) joined forces to create this thesaurus useful for anyone working on or interested in Egyptology. This thesaurus covers a variety of topics including present location, provenance, dating, material, preservation, description, text, divine names, and royal names. Includes entries in English, French, and German. Arabic, Italian, and Spanish additions are planned.

MDA Archaeological Objects Thesaurus — The Museums Documentation Association has released this thesaurus of object and artefact names in conjunction with the former Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and English Heritage. The goal of this thesaurus is to encourage access to, and reuse of, collections, archives and record systems, and to facilitate cooperation and data exchange between all individuals and institutions involved in the retrieval, research and curation of archaeological objects.

NMR/SMR Maritime Type Standards - Useful standard for recording coastal and underwater archaeology sites.

NPPG5 - Archaeology and Planning. This National planning policy guideline has been produced by The Scottish Office and sets out the Government's planning policy on how archaeological remains and discoveries should be handled under the development plan and development control systems, including the weight to be given to them in planning decisions and the use of planning conditions.

OASIS: Logging Archaeology Commissions projects on OASIS provides a brief guidance note for English Heritage funded projects on what project types are required to complete the OASIS form and at what stage this should be done.

Planning Policy Guidelines for England (PPG) from the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions, includes important sections on "Planning and the Historic Environment" (aka "PPG15") and "Archaeology and Planning" (aka "PPG16"). This document outlines practical policy for protecting archaeology and the historic environment from modern building or other development work. The same department also has a number of policy documents which impinge on archaeology indirectly, such as the development of strategic plans and the role of various organisations in the planning process.

Project Design, Implementation and Archiving, the second Archaeological Procedure Paper produced by Historic Scotland. This is not currently available online.

Publication and Archiving of Archaeological Projects, the second Operational Policy Paper produced by Historic Scotland, detailing the aims and objectives of publication and archiving. This is not currently available online.

Recording England's Past: A Data Standard for the Extended National Archaeological Record — Produced by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and the Association of County Archaeological Officers (ACAO, now the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers, ALGAO) in 1993, this standard is a data dictionary specifically designed for recording information within England's Sites and Monuments Records. It has been superseded by MIDAS.

Recording Historic Buildings: A Descriptive Specification - Currently in its third edition, this helpful (and concise!) standard was developed by RCHME. Besides providing a short overview to field recording practice, this document provides a useful summary of architectural drawing conventions. There is little discussion of digital recording of historic buildings, but many of the recommendations made are also relevant for those using CAD packages.

Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names — The National Council on Archives' 1997 guide to the recording of name information in archives. These rules include guidance on the use of non-current place names, and other issues of relevance to the archaeological community. Available from

Scientific Date Method Thesaurus — ADS/FISH. A simple wordlist of Scientific Dating techniques.

Shipwreck Identification Thesaurus by A. M. Elkerton

Social History and Industrial Classification, 2nd edition (SHIC2) — The MDA's standard for classifying the subject matter of museum collections. A simple sub-set of SHIC2 is provided by the less formal Simple Subject Headings system, although SHIC2 should be used where possible.

SPECTRUM Documentation Standard for museums — Created by the MDA in 1994 as a standard for documenting museum collections, its use is required for registration with the Museum and Galleries Commission. The MDA provides a team of subject specialists, including an archaeologist, who are available to advise about the use of SPECTRUM.

Standards for the Deposition of Archaeological Archives with Southampton City Council — Written by the Curator of Archaeological Collections in Southampton, this resource is mandatory for units and university research projects undertaking work in Southampton.

Thesaurus of Archaeological Site Types — This 1992 thesaurus has been superceded by the RCHME Thesaurus of Monument Types.

Thesaurus of Architectural Terms — This 1989 thesaurus has been superceded by the RCHME Thesaurus of Monument Types.

Thesaurus of Building Materials: A Standard for Use in Architectural and Archaeological Records — An unpublished standard from the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, this thesaurus deals explicitly with the stuff of which buildings are composed: animal, vegetable, or mineral. Like the Thesaurus of Monument Types, terms are organised hierarchically and terminology control is provided. Users can nominate terms to be included in this thesaurus by returning a form within the thesaurus to the RCHME Data Standards Unit.

Thesaurus for Cataloguing Military Collections - Developed by the National Army Museum.

TGN — The Thesaurus of Geographic Names is a project of the Getty Information Institute, aiming to create a powerful resource holding information on names of inhabited places, regions and geographic features both now and in the past. Importantly, TGN is holding these names within a hierarchy, such that it may be determined that a town lies within a country, that country within a continent, etc.

Thesaurus of Monument Types: A Data Standard for Use in Archaeological and Architectural Records — Produced by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME) in 1995, this is a standard for use with both archaeological and architectural information. This thesaurus is actively updated by the Data Standards Unit at the RCHME. The purpose of this thesaurus is to standardise the terms used to describe archaeological sites or standing buildings by, for example, listing terms hierarchically and relating the levels of this hierarchy to one another or indicating preferred terms in the case of synonyms. For example, the hierarchical structure means that RELIGIOUS monuments include the subset of MONASTERYs and that there is a further sub-division into BENEDICTINE MONASTERY or CISTERCIAN MONASTERY depending on the particular monument being described. Synonyms are dealt with by pointing the user to a preferred term (e.g. for 'tribunal' use COURT HOUSE). This is one of the most widely used documentation standards in UK archaeology, and is a useful source of subject terms.

Towards an Accessible Archaeological Archive. The Transfer of Archaeological Archives to Museums: Guidelines for Use in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales — The Society of Museum Archaeologists 1995 guide, edited by Janet Owen, provides detailed information about all aspects of preparing an archive for deposit in a museum. Does not cover digital archiving explicitly, but does provide detailed advice on documentary archives with sources of information and a bibliography. Contact the Society for Museum Archaeologists for more information.

Union List of Artist Names — Another useful standard from the Getty Information Institute available online, the ULAN offers a way to control the recoding of names for over 100,000 artists and architects. Although of limited use to archaeologists, some prehistoric and medieval artists are included. This standard is very helpful for those involved in the recording of standing buildings as it can help you keep your Lloyd Wright architects straight (whether it's Frank or Eric that you're interested in).

Virtual Reality standards are described in Creating and Using Virtual Reality: a Guide for the Arts and Humanities edited by Kate Fernie and Julian D. Richards. This guide is intended for those who are interested in how virtual reality can be used within the arts and humanities. This Guide to Good Practice concentrates on accessible desk-top virtual reality which may be distributed and viewed on-line via the World Wide Web. It is concerned with the variety of virtual reality models that may be produced and how to ensure that these can be delivered successfully to users and preserved for future reuse.


Draft Standards and standards projects

The Aquarelle project developed several standards of relevance to archaeologists and museum specialists. This project was run by a consortium of technical partners and national heritage managers in England, France, Greece, and Italy, and was funded by the Telematics Applications Programme of the European Union. Of particular interest was their work with SGML and multilingual thesauri. The project website is now defunct, but details can be obtained through the project co-ordinator, ERCIM.

Coin Recording Standard - Currently packaged as an appendix to the Portable Antiquities Recording Scheme database user manual, this standard for recording coins is helpful for amateur and professional archaeologists. For more information, contact the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Criteria for Evaluating Heritage Multimedia — The CIDOC Multimedia Working Group, chaired by Jennifer Trant, is working on a draft set of criteria for evaluating heritage multimedia resources.

European Bronze Age Monuments: A Multi-lingual Glossary of Archaeological Terminology — Created in 1995 by a multinational working party for the Council of Europe, this multilingual thesaurus pilot project is designed to assist in the recording of Bronze Age archaeological sites and monuments in Danish, Dutch, English, and French. Though the terms within the glossary are listed in all four of these languages, the glossary itself is currently available only in Romanian, English and French. When this glossary makes its public debut, it should be a very helpful resource for prehistorians throughout Europe.

International Core Data Standard for Archaeological Sites and Monuments (Draft) — Produced in 1995 by CIDOC, the International Documentation Committee of the International Council of Museums, this document guides the user in documenting archaeological sites and monuments. The goal of this standard is to facilitate international exchange of information by encouraging standardised approaches to database structure. Useful information about naming, describing, cross-referencing, and spatially referencing sites and monuments is provided. Working examples from Denmark, England, France, and the Netherlands are provided. Contributors come from these countries and Albania, Canada, Poland, Romania, Russia, and the United States.

INSCRIPTION is an authoritative set of wordlists for use in recording archaeological heritage in the UK, currently being developed by the membership of FISH -- the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage. This resource is intended for use with MIDAS. A variety of termlists and scope notes have been developed for high-level terminology control for things such as scientific dating techniques used in archaeology.

Planning and the Historic Environment (DRAFT) A draft copy of national planning policy guideline produced by The Scottish Executive which sets out the Government's policies for the planning of development in historic environments with a view to their protection, conservation and enhancement. It has been prepared on the basis of the existing statutory framework for planning and reinforces current legislation relating to listed buildings and conservation areas for which the Secretary of State's executive agency, Historic Scotland, is primarily responsible.

Strategy for Recording and Preserving the Archaeology of Wales Produced in 1998 by Cadw and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and endorsed by the Ancient Monuments Board for Wales, this draft sets the agenda for recording, protection, and management of the archaeological resource in Wales.


Informal Standards and Helpful Resources

Informing the Future of the Past (II) The essential set of working guidelines appropriate to all HERs, large and small, and for all staff, volunteers and students involved in managing, running, using or supporting an HER.

Archaic and Alternative Port and Place Names List - Developed by the University of Wales Department of Maritime Studies and International Transport.

DIGICULT Resources from DIGICULT: Technology Challenges for a Digital Culture.

Central Archaeology Service Coding Forms - These forms have become a de facto standard, and are used by many archaeology units in Britain.

Geophysical Survey Database — This database, created by the Ancient Monument's Laboratory of English Heritage, is a well-crafted recording structure for geophysical survey data. Terminology is controlled in all fields describing the survey techniques or the archaeological site itself. The RCHME Thesaurus of Monument Types, in particular, is incorporated to control subject and period terms. English Heritage have also incorporated a list of terms describing solid and drift geology based on the 1:625000 Geological Map of the United Kingdom (Solid Geology) 3rd Edition, 1979.

IFA codes — The Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA) provides a Code of Conduct with which members are meant to comply. This Code — and other IFA guidelines — lay down minimum standards for work in many areas of archaeological endeavour, including the deposition of archival material.

The EU INFO2000 programme website is now offline, and has in any case been superceded by the E-Content programme. Standards advice can be found in the Content Village

JISC/TLTP Copyright Guidelines This document, available as a pdf file, is targeted at the HE audience and covers a wide range of copyright issues in electronic media. A very useful document for reference.

The Lexicon of Named Rock Units - an on-line database maintainted by the British Geological Survey which provides a detailed and comprehensive list of terms describing solid and drift geology.

Museum of London Archaeological Site Manual - The third edition of this manual, published in 1994, is a de facto standard used by many archaeology units in Britain.

National Register of Historic Vessels

PADI — Preserving Access to Digital Information. The National Library of Australia's PADI site aims to assist all those wishing to preserve access to significant digital information.

The National eScicence Centre

NINCH — The National (USA) Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage's guide to good practice in the digital representation and management of cultural heritage materials.

Simple Subject HeadingsDesigned by the MDA for use in small museums, this tool helps control terminology used to classify museum collections. Four broad categories are included: community life, domestic and family life, personal life, and working life. This is a simplified subset of the MDA's Social History and Industrial Classification.

UKOLN — the United Kingdom Office for Library Networking, at the University of Bath.

TASI — the Technical Advisory Service for Images.

Spectrum Terminology — The MDA Spectrum Terminology site is an absolutely fantastic resource. It provides connections to all manner of standards -- common and not -- including details for such things as SPECIES 2000 and the Vascular Plant Familes and Genera databases from the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Many organisations are also likely to have internal thesaurii and authority lists of potential use to the wider community. For example, the British Museum maintains thesauri for manufactured materials, manufacturing techniques, material culture/period, form and design. The Museum of London maintains authority lists for periods (e.g. prehistoric, Roman, medieval, post-medieval, and later) which are linked to the Art and Architecture Thesaurus where appropriate. RCHME's Data Standards Unit has a wide range of internal thesauri and wordlists, which the Unit reviews and develops, e.g. evidence and maritime thesauri; county, unitary authority, district and parish lists; condition schemes; associated roles (people and organisations) lists etc.


Spatial Data Standards

Standards geared specifically towards the handling of map-like information are as numerous and diverse as those for other areas and, given the ADS responsibility for geospatial data standards across the whole Arts & Humanities Data Service, they are addressed seperately here.

BS 7666 — British Standard 7666 specifies the manner in which address information should be specified, and is likely to prove extremely important within Local Government and the Utilities. Archaeologically, it may prove most useful in the consistent provision of address information for Listed Buildings, etc.

CEN prEN 287009 — This draft standard from the European Standards Organisation (Comité Européen de Normalisation) Technical Committee TC/287 addresses standards related to geospatial data, including the definition of a reference model, geometry guidelines, data description structures and data transfer issues. It is due to be published in 1998.

FGDC — the United States' Federal Geographic Data Committee's Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata is, perhaps, the best known and established of geospatial data standards, the current version having been first released in 1994, and updated in 1998. This standard underpins much of the US Federal Government's work with geospatial data, and is also used by other collectors of spatial data, although there do not appear to be examples of its use within the UK archaeological community. The standard was recently enhanced, and is available in a variety of commonly used formats.

ISO 15046 — This draft standard from the International Standards Organisation Technical Committee TC/211 addresses geographic information and geomatics. The draft standard appears modelled upon current FGDC practice, and offers powerful options for extensibility and modification within the wider standards framework. It is due to be published in 1998.

Mapping the Future of the Past — resources and proceedings from the conference New Information Technologies for Managing the European Archaeological Heritage, Sevilla, Spain (June 27th-30th 2000)

National Geospatial Data Framework — This important co-operative initiative is aiming to provide effective means of access to geospatial data collected and held by government and the public and private sectors. NGDF is addressing issues such as metadata standardisation and is looking to greatly increase the market for existing and new data.

OGIS — The Open Geodata Interoperability Specification (OGIS) is an initiative of the vendor-led Open GIS Consortium (OGC). OGC is looking to increase the ease with which geospatial information may be passed between products, and OGIS is one important aspect of this work.

UK Standard Geographic Base — The UK Standard Geographic Base is a proposal from the Office for National Statistics to develop a single framework by which spatial units within the UK may be uniformly described. This proposal is currently at the stage of having a sound business case developed before work proceeds.

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