Director's Foreword

Julian Richards

Professor Julian Richards
ADS Director

This issue of ADS News concentrates on a part of our work that both builds on and complements our core role as a digital repository. Many readers will know of our work as a digital archive and will have either deposited data with us or taken advantage of the access we offer to a vast range of digital resources. However, the ADS is also directly engaged in a number of major research projects based in the UK and Europe. All these projects have a dimension that relates directly to ADS services, but frequently they involve aspects of archaeology and informatics that are on the cutting edge of research in these areas. Often the outcomes of these projects directly inform strategic thinking in the sector, helping us to look ahead to the kind of services that our users will require in five, or even ten, years' time.

In this issue we have articles exploring ADS projects in the fascinating worlds of Mediterranean underwater archaeology and Virtual Reality, the more arcane computer science based delights of Natural Language Processing, Facetted Classification and a pan-European digital infrastructure as well as more humanities focussed questions such as Archaeology's role in the politics of contemporary Europe. These projects are the VENUS project, that sees the ADS working in partnership with colleagues in France, Portugal and Italy, the Archaeotools project, a collaboration with the University of Sheffield, the DARIAH project which boasts partners from across Europe, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe and the ACE (Archaeology of Contemporary Europe) project which again, as the name suggests, draws collaborators from across the continent.

Of course, our core preservation and access work continues apace, and the six months since the last newsletter have been amongst our busiest yet. Our usual features, ADS Update (page 3) and Collection Highlights (page 12) give a good flavour of significant additions to our archive, but as ever, to fully appreciate the range of available collections and resources, old and new, a good exploration of our website can't be beaten.

AHDS Archaeology

The last few months have also seen some changes in the landscape in which higher education data services work. Most significantly, the AHRC has announced the conclusion of its funding for the Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS). The ADS has for ten years hosted the AHDS Archaeology subject centre. Although this means that AHDS Archaeology will no longer exist from April 2008, the AHRC is continuing to fund the ADS directly at an equivalent level and as a result AHRC funded depositors in archaeology will continue to access our services in the normal way. It is likely that the future will see further changes to the basis by which the ADS accepts such deposits, and part of the AHRC funding to the ADS is to allow us to explore the appropriate models by which this can be carried forward.

HEIRNET moves forward

Finally, following the successful Data Sans Frontières conference in May, HEIRNET is now committed to transforming the HEIRNET Register into a fully functioning Web Services Registry for the historic environment sector. The ADS is delighted to participate in this project by hosting the register, which will put the sector at the forefront of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) approaches to cross-searching of databases. In the near future the registry should facilitate much more flexible and open access to numerous heritage sector datasets including, it is hoped, web mapping services, databases, archives and even ultimately virtual environments. This move represents a major step forward in changing the relationship between data providers and their users such that sharing and collaboration, not just delivery, becomes the order of the day.