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Archaeology Data Service

Archaeology Data Service ONLINE

ISSN 1368-0560     Issue 7 (Spring 2000)
Arts and Humanities Data Service
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ADS ONLINE, the Internet version of ADS NEWS, contains articles and pictures which do not appear in the printed version. Articles that are expanded from the print version are identified with a green icon green ball, articles which appear only in ADS ONLINE are marked with a blue icon blue ball, and articles which are the same in the two versions (but with the addition of hotlinks in the online version) are marked with a red icon red ball.

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Table of Contents

ADS ONLINE People's Archaeology
Julian Richards
green ball LTSN in Archaeology
Annie Grant
red ball ADS meets AHRB
Damian Robinson
red ball ArchSearch Latest
ADS Technical Team
green ball Conference Round-Up
William Kilbride
Inside JISC-World
Alicia Wise
red ball All time high!
William Kilbride
green ball Resource Discovery
Michael Fraser
red ball ADS ads
by the editor
red ball Credits
from the editor
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People's Archaeology

People's Archaeology

“... the eventual, in some cases, imminent arrival of digital archives and the accessibility of these primary source materials not just to the academy, but to any informed lay user, may well be the biggest democratiser of historical knowledge since the invention of printed texts” (Simon Schama, Sounding the Century lecture, Radio 3; reprinted in The Guardian, 13 Nov, 1999)

The ever increasing number of ‘hits’ on the ADS catalogue and associated on-line archives are testimony that the Internet is making primary source materials more accessible than ever before. But how well are users equipped to deal with this wealth of information? Can they identify, assess and understand it? Democracy doesn’t just mean making more data available to more people; it means allowing them to assess its worth for themselves. As Nick Eiteljorg points out, in a contribution to the ads-all e-mail discussion list, democratisation can also mean providing the links “so that a naive student can follow the chain of argument down from the level of abstraction he/she encounters to the most detailed data supporting that abstraction”

But democratisation raises a number of basic issues. We need a means of identifying quality materials, and distinguishing reliable resources.Then, we need to train users not just to identify information they want, but also to understand how it came into being, so they are aware of its limitations and potential. Thirdly, for the general public, raw data needs packaging. Internet sites need to identify their users and present information accordingly.

The ADS aims to make primary data more accessible to a relatively well-informed user community. In the British Isles there has been an increasing separation between the producers and consumers of archaeological data, between the armchair academic and the field archaeologist. How many students have ever used a Sites and Monuments Record, or an excavation archive? Part of our motivation in providing access to archives is that by placing primary data back in the hands of researchers we may help repair the break in the investigative loop that has seen a growing split between theory and practice. Those seeking to reach a wider audience will have to give careful consideration to how resources are repackaged and re-presented to encourage wider access. Such users will also need an additional interpretative layer just to enable them to find their way into the archive. We may aspire to democratisation but I fear it is still some way off.

Julian Richards
email

Visit the Mailbase Archive of the ADS-ALL discussion on People's Archaeology: Back to top
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ArchSearch

ArchSearch Latest

The six months since the last newsletter have seen some very exciting developments at the ADS. A number of truly significant resources have been made available to our user community through ArchSearch, not least the fist full texts of now out of print CBA Research Reports. New resources include

Development work on the ArchSearch interface has also continued apace. Significant progress has been made towards the provision of a map-based query tool. The ADS dream of an ‘Historic Environment’ Z39.50 Gateway which will allow users to search virtually a number of distributed databases is close to being a reality. The ADS Library has also ‘opened for business’. Some of these exciting developments are described below in more detail.

Tony Austin, Jo Clarke and Keith Westcott
email

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ArchSearch

The ADS Library

The ADS Library

The ADS Library provides a new interface to ArchSearch. The Library contains resources held by the ADS as well as many useful links to those located elsewhere. New collections include the CBA Research Reports and Occasional papers located under a Books and Monographs section. Out of print volumes, that have become difficult to obtain in recent years are being made available online in PDF format, digitised by JISC who, recgonising their importance, gave them special priority as a fast track prject. Other books include Excavations at Kissonerga-Mosphilia1979-1992. The Journals section contains links to many online journals including Internet Archaeology which is archived by the ADS, and the fiche for latest volume of Sussex Archaeological Collections. The section shows how much of each journal is held online: contents, abstracts, articles and microfiche. Other publications include the NERC Ancient Biomolecules Initiative. Existing resources such as the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography and the Guides to Good Practice series have also been moved into the library.

Tony Austin
email

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ADS Catalogue

The Newham Museum

The contents of the Newham Museum digital archive, all 6342 files, have now been transferred to our server and the archive is now preserved in our backup regime. Migrating the files to the server has involved opening each file to ascertain its format, content and integrity and building a catalogue of the archive. The majority of the files have proved to be readable but there was a small proportion of corrupt files and also some files which we can not access because they are in formats which we can not, as yet, read. We have been helped by former employees of the Newham Museum Archaeology Service to recognise and access a number of files for which we did not know the creating application.

All of the recovered files have been described in a database which will assist with future work on the archive. The first few sites have been converted to formats which can be presented over the internet and are available for perusal or downloading from the ADS catalogue.

Keith Westcott
email

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ADS Catalogue

Northern Ireland Sites and Monuments Record

This subset of the Northern Ireland SMR dramatically increases on-line access to indexing metadata for the British Isles. Coverage now extends to England, Northern Ireland and Scotland as provided by English Heritage (NMRE Excavation Index), Environment and Heritage Service (Northern Ireland SMR), Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (NMR Scotland) with associated regional datasets.

The 14,000 + records of the Northern Ireland SMR should become a must for researchers interested in the archaeology of Ireland and the wider context of the Irish Sea littorals. Generally there are extensive descriptions of each site and a wide range of spatial descriptors including the ‘townland’ which is an important descriptor in Ireland. Special provision has been made to support townland as a search option when using the catalogue’s ‘where’ search.

Jo Clarke
email

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AHRB Logo    

The ADS and the AHRB: Securing the Future of digital data in research archaeology

The funding streams offered by the newly formed Arts and Humanities Research Board have caused no little excitement amongst UK academic archaeologists. In his editorial for the latest edition of Britannia, a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies, Professor Mike Fulford enthused that with research grants of up to £100,000 a year for up to five years, the AHRB ‘offers the prospect of undertaking original research on a scale previously inconceivable’.

With so much money available to scholars, the AHRB understandably needs to ensure that the projects they fund are not only academically innovative but are also technically feasible. Equally the AHRB is also at pains to ensure the long-term preservation of the digital products created as part of the funded research and to promote their scholarly reuse in learning and teaching.

The AHRB clearly shares many of the aims of the Arts and Humanities Data Service. Indeed, the AHDS is partly funded by the AHRB, and our new strategic partnership will ensure that the scholarly community reaps the maximum benefit from the increased levels of research funding. As the archaeology section of the AHDS, the ADS is well placed to mediate between the archaeological community and the AHRB.

  1. We will advise all AHRB applicants on the technical feasibility of their grant proposals, including providing information on best practice in digital data creation, storage and archiving.
  2. We will undertake an impartial review of all applications that will create a digital resource as part of the AHRB’s Technical Review process. The report on the technical feasibility of a grant proposal is passed onto the academic review board to help them come to their funding decisions.
  3. We will provide a long-term archival home to and disseminate the digital resources of projects funded by the AHRB.

Together the ADS and the AHRB are working towards offering both the prospect of undertaking exciting, innovative research and ensuring that the digital products of this research are preserved into perpetuity for the use of other scholars. The partnership is truly an exciting prospect for all those undertaking archaeological research.

Damien Robinson
email

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LTSN: Teaching and Learning in Archaeology

Archaeology in higher education has seen various projects that have had an impact on communications and IT in teaching and learning. In a series of invited articles we present a number of recent initiatives and how these relate to the work of the ADS. We start with a new organisation, the LTSN ...

At the end of last year the UK Funding Councils announced funding for the History, Classics and Archaeology Subject Centre, one of 24 subject centres within a UK-wide Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN). The work of the discipline-specific centres are to be co-ordinated and supported by a Generic Learning and Teaching Centre, based in York. The network has been funded for an initial period of 3 years, although the intention (subject to review) is to make the LTSN a permanent feature of the UK higher education scene.

The Subject Centre for History, Classics and Archaeology, which will be officially launched at the beginning of May, is based in Glasgow, from where the Director, Don Spaeth, will be co-ordinating the activities of the subject directors for history (Alan Booth: University of Nottingham and Paul Hyland: Bath Spa University College), archaeology (Annie Grant: University of Leicester) and classics (Lorna Hardwick: the Open University). These part-time staff will be supported by a number of subject co-ordinators, yet to be appointed.

The principal aims of the centre are:

In order to achieve these aims the Centre staff will be seeking the views of all who are teaching and supporting learning across the three discipline areas, and will be collaborating with other groups and organisations, including the ADS, to ensure that the work of the Centre is responsive to the needs of academic and support staff, students and relevant professional organisations.

Annie Grant
ag2@leicester.ac.uk

Enquiries relating to the overall activities of the Centre should be directed to Dr Don Spaeth, The Subject Centre for History, Archaeology and Classics, 1 University Gardens, University of Glasgow, G12 8QQ. Those relating to the archaeology strand should be addressed to Dr Annie Grant, EDSC, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, telephone: 0116 252 2716

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Insider JISC-World

Inside JISC World

Ever wonder why precisely the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) invests £500,000 each year in the Archaeology Data Service and its four sister-services in AHDS? The answers are contained in the JISC's strategy document for the Distributed National Electronic Resource (DNER). The JISC is responsible to the national funding bodies for stimulating and enabling the cost effective exploitation of information systems in higher and further education institutions in the United Kingdom, and for this reason the DNER strategy has significant implications for many archaeologists.

You may be completely unaware that some of the world's best research into digital library provision happened in the UK during the 1990's. In large part this was due to the Follett Report, and eLib funding from the JISC. The ADS and AHDS were launched in 1996, the same year that digital libraries became central to the JISC 5-year strategy through planning for a Distributed National Electronic Resource (DNER). The ADS and AHDS were always conceived as being part of the DNER, and it is therefore no coincidence that concerns such as digital preservation and effective cross-searching of distributed web-based information infuse both services and strategy.

As is often the way with acronyms attached to complex national strategies, 'the DNER' is a phrase that has come to be associated with a wide variety of things including:

The Components of the DNER

JANET, the academic network for UK further and higher institutions, is a fundamental building block for the DNER. Without it, the fast and high-quality access to the Internet would not be possible and plans for distributing large datasets around the UK would not be possible.

The JISC content collection is the name given to electronic information resources accessible for further and higher education institutions and developed by a variety of JISC-funded services (e.g. the AHDS, CHEST, NESLI, etc.). The content collection is the 'stuff' of the DNER. There are over 50 high-quality electronic datasets available for subscription to academic institutions and hundreds of others that are available free of charge. These content arrangements have been possible as the result of substantial financial support from JISC – the £500,000 annual investment in the ADS and the AHDS is only the tip of the iceberg. For interested readers, full information about the JISC's content programme can be found in the JISC Collection Policy at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/cei/dner_colpol.html

Collections held by further and higher education institutions can also be part of the DNER, and JISC is investing in tools to help service providers make local and regional collections accessible alongside the national content collection. The eLib programme has already resulted in significant exploration into the nature of, and substantial investment in tools for, the creation and support of hybrid libraries (i.e. those containing print and electronic resources). In many instances it is recognised that access restrictions may mean that local and regional collections are only available to users affiliated with host institutions, but it is hoped that the DNER strategy provides a framework for encouraging UK higher and further education institutions to share 'homegrown' resources.

Development of hybrid library portals to local, regional, and national content in the DNER are accompanied by development of other interoperable interfaces, navigation tools, and delivery mechanisms for the DNER. These include a series of faculty-based electronic subject gateways collectively known as the Resource Discovery Network, investment in media-specific portals for access to spatial mapping information or image collections, and development of portals for access to information reposing in university archives.

The DNER is created from quite a complicated system of content, interfaces, tools, and network infrastructure. The system is such that self-regulation is currently impossible. The JISC is committed to a managed environment to ensure high quality resources are delivered in ways that are most useful to students and staff in further and higher education institutions. Active, engaged systems management is thus an important component of the DNER. Topics such as authentication and security will attract particular investment from the JISC during the year 2000.

With the increasing availability of electronic information resources, and their distribution around our national network, it is becoming increasingly difficult for information mediators and end users to find the information most relevant for their activities. The DNER therefore also includes a variety of tailored support services. These include resource guides, support services such as the Technical Advisory Service for Images, and national training services such as Netskills. This is in addition to the many skilled support staff based at helpdesks in national JISC services, and in libraries and computing centres around the country.

Collaboration: a key principle of the DNER

Key to the JISC's strategy for the Distributed National Electronic Resource is the idea that the best system for users will come about through effective collaboration between stakeholders and their partners.

Within the UK higher and further education sectors, there are many stakeholders who will be important for the success of the DNER. These include:

There are other public sector partners who have roles to play. Their involvement will be especially critical in ensuring the DNER is 'joined up' to other aspects of the government's lifelong learning agenda. Some important partners include:

Some commercial sector partners also have roles to play as some components of the DNER, for example content resources, can be licensed on the open market. Delivering these off-the-shelf products into the leading edge DNER service environment, however, may involve publishers in a move to embrace standards for ensuring interoperability. It is therefore very important for our commercial sector partners to feel that they are potentially an integral part of the DNER, especially:

While some of these partnerships are developed at national level, JISC-funded services play an important role in development collaborative partnerships. In this respect the Archaeology Data Service has been especially successful – strong partnerships with archaeological funding bodies, local government agencies, not for profit bodies and museums

Some Remaining Issues

Despite the fact that the DNER already exists, and is actively providing services to staff and students in every higher education institution and in many further education institutions, there is more to be done. The funding call announced in JISC Circular 05/99 invited bids for DNER development projects to facilitate learning, teaching, and research activities. This call closed on January 24th, and we eagerly await the announcement of successful proposals. Further funding calls will follow, as will recurrent investment by the JISC in existing national services like the ADS.

Particularly topical at the moment is a debate about access to the DNER, whether this is best facilitated by gateways or portals or both, and whether or not there is really any difference between gateways and portals. This discussion will no doubt continue, but for those new to it the basic distinctions between the two concepts can be confusing. Gateways are currently conceived as web pages that describe resources accessible to users via the Internet with provide links to these resources (e.g. the Resource Discovery Network). Portals are currently conceived as web pages that enable users to cross-search multiple distributed resources on the Internet (e.g. the Arts and Humanities Data Service catalogue is a proto-portal.)

There are many areas where we hope to see development work as a result of the DNER funding programme. These should include:

Very importantly, all of this work will be done within a framework where evaluation is integral and planned from the beginning in order to feedback into service refinement.

Archaeologists are linked into the DNER through two key services: the Archaeology Data Service and the new HUMBUL gateway for the humanities (part of the Resource Discovery Network). Use their services, and let them know how they can better meet your information access and reuse needs!

Alcia Wise
JISC Collections Manager

alicia.wise@kcl.ac.uk

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The Resource Discovery Network

The Resource Discovery Network, the Humbul Humanities Hub and Archaeology

So, if the Distributed National Electronic Resource has a variety of entry points, how can archaeologists find their way round. The ADS is helping to create alternative views onto its data sets for students and lecturers for the humanities “hub” of the Resource Discovery Network

Humbul Logo The Hub is founded on the long-standing Humbul Gateway which has been based at Oxford University since the early 1990s. Under the aegis of the RDN the Hub is completely redeveloping the database and services offered by Humbul. A key component of the Hub will be its database of Internet resource descriptions for a range of humanities subjects including archaeology, classics, and history. Records for Internet resources thought useful for research or teaching will include information about authors, a description (and sometimes a review) of the site's content and audience, coverage (both temporal and spatial), and any direct relation the site might have to other resources (whether digital or not). Internet resources will also be classified according to generally accepted schemes. So, for example, resources relating to archaeology are expected to include terms drawn from the MDA Archaeological Objects Thesaurus or specify time periods in line with the MIDAS Data Standard.

The Humanities Hub is is not undertaking this work in isolation. Hubs within the RDN, overseen by the RDN Centre (based at King's College, London and the University of Bath), work together, especially on ensuring interoperability between Hubs, developing the means to share and cross-search databases, and forming partnerships with like-minded organisations. The RDN itself is a major component of the DNER and as such is working towards providing subject-based searching and browsing of data and resources within the RDN (in other contexts known as subject portals). There is a wealth of resources under the umbrella of the DNER used by archaeologists and other humanities scholars. One significant resource is, of course, the ADS itself and the Humanities Hub is especially pleased to be collaborating with the ADS (together with the CBA and the University of Glasgow) to document Internet-based archaeology resources.

We are also seeking other individuals and organisations who would like to collaborate with Humbul, particularly if you are already in the business of creating subject gateways in humanities subjects (of any size or specialism). Humbul aims to provide a portable gateway infrastructure, making it easier for subject specialists to apply their subject knowledge to the review and description of Internet resources, and so minimising needless duplication of effort. If you are interested in evaluating, describing or reviewing Web resources for the Hub (or simply want to be placed on our mailing list) then please visit http://www.humbul.ac.uk/ and complete the online form via the call for contributors' page.

Mike Fraser
humbul@oucs.ox.ac.uk

For further information please contact Dr Michael Fraser, Head of Humbul, Humanities Computing Unit, University of Oxford. Email: humbul@oucs.ox.ac.uk. Tel: 01865 283 343. Fax: 01865 273 275. URL: http://www.humbul.ac.uk/ The Humbul Humanities Hub is a service of the new JISC-funded Resource Discovery Network.

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User stats at all time high

ADS User stats at all time high

The ADS's user stats show continuing healthy growth. An all time high was reached in March this year when the number of user sessions leapt to 90,000 for the month. In January, another mile stone was reached, when we reached the 500,000 per year figure for the first time: a figure that reached comfortably over 750,000 by the end of the counting period on the 1st of April. This is almost two and a half times the figures for the previous year. Moreover, the delivery of specific resources can be matched to the user communities. The launch of the Northern Ireland Sites and Mounuments Record has been matched by the appearance of the University of Ulster and Queens University Belfast as significant users within the Higher Education Community. The Launch of the CBA research reports can be shown by an unprecedented high in the week that followed.

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Conference Round Up

Conference Round Up

As part of its commitment to outreach, not to mention research and development, the staff of the ADS have been "on tour" to numerous venues since the last issue of ADS News. As well as seminar papers and guest lectures at University College London, the University of Glasgow, and the University of Southampton, the ADS has been represented at the annual British meeting of CAA (Computer Applications in Archaeology), at the SMR user group meeting, and the Society of Museum Archaeologists. Forthcoming conference appearances include the joint CAA and USIPP Congress at Ljubljana, the Institute of Field Archaeologists Annual Meeting, GISRUK in our home patch of York, and further afield the Society of American Archaeologists meeting in Philadelphia. In May, we will play host to the SMR community with a Workshop for Local Government Archaeologists entitled "Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: Accessing and Archiving the SMR".

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Guides to Good Practice

Guides now available in paperback!

The ADS and the History Data Service are pleased to announce that three volumes of the AHDS guide to good practice series have now appeared in print, published by Oxbow Books at a price of £10. Write to Oxbow Books for more information: Oxbow Books, Park End Place, Oxford OX1 1HN England UK, tel: ++44 (0)1865 241249, fax: ++44 (0)1865 794449, or order them by email to oxbow@oxbowbooks.com Both of the ADS volumes, along with Digital Archives from Excavation and Fieldwork: Guide to Good Practice are available on the ADS website. For more details of this and other forthcoming guides on CAD and geophysics, point your browser at: http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/project/goodguides/g2gp.html where you will also find links to newly published guides from our sister service, the Oxford Text Archive entitled Creating and documenting electronic texts and from the Visual Arts Data Service entitled Creating digital resources for the visual arts:standards and good practice.

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Credits

The Archaeology Data Service is part of the Arts and Humanities Data Service, and resides at the University of York. It is jointly funded by the Joint Information System Committee and the Arts and Humanities Research Board.

The ADS collects, describes, catalogues, preserves and provides user support for digital resources created during archaeological research. The ADS promotes standards and guidelines for best practice in the creation, description preservation and use of spatial information to the AHDS. For those classes of archaeological data where archival bodies exist, the ADS collaborates to promote greater use of existing services.

     Joint Information Systems Committee  
           Arts and Humanities Data Service  
 Arts and Humanities Research Board 
University of York

ADS NEWS and ADS ONLINE are edited by William Kilbride,email. If you have any ideas about articles or features for the next issue in Autumn 2000, then write to me at the email address given.

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