In 1998, the Historic Environment Information Resources Network (HEIRNET) was formed by the Council for British Archaeology with the NMRs for Scotland, Wales and England, the ADS and representatives from national agencies, museums, universities and national societies. Its aim is to find strategies to help members work together so that their information resources are easier to access for conservation, education, research and by those with a general interest
HEIRNET began by surveying historic environment information resources, suggesting ways to improve access. The subsequent report (http://www.britarch.ac.uk/HEIRNET/rep1.html) recognised the need for HEIRs to develop independently and recommended the creation of a network of HEIRs underpinned by shared standards.
The first step in this process has been the creation of an on line register of HEIRs. The register, developed with technical support from the ADS, was launched at the IFA conference in March 2001 and can be seen at http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/HEIRNET.html. The register is still growing but already provides an invaluable way of finding out about the growing number of HEIRs. As well as the register, HEIRNET is developing a technical advice service for those who manage HEIRs with the aim of promoting standards for both data and interoperability.
An exciting development, made possible by compatible data standards, has been the creation of a prototype Z39.50 portal. HEIRPORT, developed by the ADS and the University of Kent, offers simultaneous searching of databases held by the ADS, the RCAHMS and the Portable Antiquities scheme (http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/heirport/).