ADAPt or Disappear

As part of the Historic England Archaeological Archives Team, part of the Excavation and Analysis Team, at Fort Cumberland Claire Tsang, Alice Forward and I have been looking at how best to manage and archive all of the digital data that we collect.

Digital files are now replacing paper records and we have to ensure that the data we create is managed and protected effectively if they are going to last.

Screen capture of digital plan and data tables

Screen capture from Intrasis, the digital recording system used by the Excavation and Analysis Team.

It is no longer possible to just sort these things out at the end of projects or hand them over to the archives team, a life cycle approach must be adopted. To deal with this challenge we started a project called Archaeological Digital Archiving Protocol or ADAPt.

Before I go into what I’m spending today doing it is worth giving a bit of background as to how we got to this point. To start with we spoke to colleagues and looked at current practice. From our colleagues we wanted to know:

  • the types of data they collect
  • where they store it
  • what challenges they face in managing their data
Two people one doing paper work and another enter data into a computer

Staff creating digital data

Then we surveyed the sector to see how these issues were being managed within the commercial archaeology sector. Once we had a fuller picture of what the challenges are we looked at guidance from:

With all of this new information we went away and worked out how best to use existing tools. Quickly we realised that there are a gaps between some of these tools and everyday practice. If we were to support our colleagues in looking after their data then we would need to develop new tools. To see how these tools would work Alice Forward carried out a several case studies to understand how well the tools would work on:

  • A new project
  • A backlog project
  • A project that is nearing archive completion

Now we have all of this information and new tested tools it is essential that our colleagues:

  • Understand the importance of data management
  • Know how to use all of the tools
  • Understand the benefits to them of managing their data in this way

And this is where developing good training comes in which is what I’m working on today.