I have been working at the University of York since November 2012, as the holder of a one-year IFA/HLF Workplace Learning Bursary. My days here are often split between tasks for the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) and the e-journal Internet Archaeology.
Work for the journal can involve proof-reading articles for publication, looking at proposals and writing HTML mark-up in order to prepare the articles for online publication. This really helps you get to grips with what the authors put across, and because of the electronic nature of the journal, it’s amazing to see the innovative ways that data and concepts can be presented. Whereas traditional print journals are confined mainly to text and images, Internet Archaeology regularly deals with animations, videos, 3D visualisations and other media, which all comes together to provide some really rich, interesting content.
As part of the submissions process, Internet Archaeology articles have a digital archive with the Archaeology Data Service, and for the past few months I have mainly been busy with preserving and archiving the digital files that make up individual articles. Depending on the content, this can be quite a challenge, especially when you start to delve back to the mid-90s origins of the journal (some days I can almost hear the dial-up tone), and involves making sure all file formats are suitable for deposit under the ADS Depositors’ Guidelines, converting files which aren’t, and making sure the finished archive is suitable for long-term preservation. As I’ve alluded to, many of the deprecated formats that the journal once dealt with don’t fit comfortably within the ADS archives, and I’ve bothered many a member of staff with questions about MATLAB files or animated GIFs.
As I have reached the end of this process (for the time being), the focus of my work here has shifted to the Grey Literature Library, held here at the ADS. This is a collection of unpublished reports that are produced by archaeological contractors relating to projects they are carrying out, which are then uploaded via the Online Access to the Index of Archaeological Investigations project, better known as OASIS. Thousands of events occur across the country every year, and a great deal of data is produced, so it’s important to be able to make this data available for future research. The Grey Literature Library is a fantastic tool for this, and as new reports are uploaded every day, there is always plenty of work to be done.
So today, my day has mainly revolved around adding reports to the library, and transferring the file-level metadata so they can be accessed easily. The reports are copied to our server, and the accession recorded in the internal Collections Management System (CMS), which also documents what processes are carried out on any files—this is important, as it allows other archivists to see any changes that have been made if the archived needs to be revisited. I’ve found that documentation at every level is a key part of working at the ADS.
Most of the grey literature reports are deposited in PDF format, which have to then be converted for preservation and dissemination into PDF/A, an archival format (you can read more about the intricacies of PDF formats in the ADS blog). The conversion of PDFs can be quite a time-consuming task, and in fact the lion’s share of the process is taken up by these conversions. After all the conversions are complete, and the archived files are safely stored, more file-level metadata is generated, and the reports are available to be accessed. So data relating to archaeological events that were once consigned to filing cabinets now have a new, digital life!