Now where did I put that data?

For someone who has been tasked with helping my team improve how we look after the data from our archaeological research, it’s a sad state of affairs that I just spent a half hour trying to find my Day of Archaeology login details. As I failed to take part last year; this means a small piece of information from just 2 short years ago was nearly lost for good. Not necessarily the most important piece of data, but it does go to show that if you do not look after data at best you waste time trying to find it, and at worst it will be lost for good. Repeating research is not a luxury that archaeologists typically have; usually it is impossible (you can’t re-dig a site), and even if you could it’s not cost effective to pay to do the work twice, so we have to make sure we are looking after it and when the time comes others can use it.

So until I spent a half hour looking for my password and login details, this is what I’ve spent most of my Day of Archaeology doing.

Our project is called Archaeological Data Archiving Protocol (ADAPt), my organisation English Heritage likes its acronyms (the less said about that the better). However, as acronyms go ADAPt is a pretty appropriate name as it is what we need to have happen. We can no longer count on our archives team to just swoop in at the end of projects and pull it together into a sensible set of files and collection of boxes to be submitted with a report to the local museum. In the digital age data management and care must be a shared responsibility from the beginning of all of research by the whole team.

I hope I’ve convinced you; now just to convince the rest of my team to do the work, on top of all of their other responsibilities.

Wish me luck,


Communicating Archaeology

I was reminded by the blustery wet south-easterly tail wind on my cycle to work this morning that summer has yet to arrive to this part of the world. However, as an Archaeological Information Systems Manager for English Heritage based down in Fort Cumberland, Portsmouth, I’m mostly office based so the weather is only an issue when I venture out to get a cup of coffee.

It has finally become apparent to me that communication is one of my main focuses. I am always asked what period or location I specialise in, the truth is I don’t take this approach to archaeology. My passion is for archaeology and archaeologists, how we communicate with each other and how we communicate with the public (who’s support we depend to continue doing what we do).

So back to my day…

After arriving in my office and making a cup of coffee I turned my attention to finalising a paper I’ve been writing called ‘Can you hack (the) communication?’ I gave a presentation on this at CAA in Southampton ( (it’s a computers and archaeology conference) back in March. This paper looks at how we as archaeologists capture digital information in the field and particular my perspective on the experience of implementing a digital recording system for archaeological excavation called Intrasis to our teams. We’ve used the system now on our last few projects.

Simple location plan with trenches to south of road and Silbury Hill to the north

This is a screenshot of a map of the excavations of the Roman Settlement across the road from Silbury Hill.

As main ringleader of social media at the fort, I started receiving my colleagues’ posts for Day of Archaeology by mid-morning. That I know of two others are participating, one from our zooarchaeologists and another from @nicola_hembrey, our finds archaeologists.

Through out the day, like most days I’m keeping an eye on my Twitter feed for good content and information @hscorley. I also am keeping an eye on the @EHArchaeology twitter account which I am primary curator. This account has been active for about 3 years now and I’m amazed how popular it has become.

Looking at Twitter today, it is of course, abuzz with Day of Archaeology content. Particular praise is due to London Archaeological Archive & Research Centre (LAARC)  for the LAARC Lottery. If only I had thought if it myself. You pick a number for a shelf, they then go and find what’s on that shelf and blog about it. I like this for several reasons, not only is it interactive and raises awareness about their archive but it also means no one has to think to hard about what to write about, it’s all there just waiting to written about.

As my day wraps up I’m going to prepare to face the elements again, the wind does not appear to have shifted and despite a bit of sunlight earlier it looks like it might rain.

Hugh Corley


Learning New Skills

I’m learning XML (eXtensive Mark-up Language) today as part of Oxford’s Digital Humanities Summer School.  The skills I’m learning will allow me to share the data from our databases with different databases developed by different organizations.  By sharing our data with others it will be possible to do new types of research which will hopefully lead to new discoveries.

Archaeology creates an incredible amount of data.  I manage databases that allow a variety of different types of archaeologists to see this data and update it with the results of their work.

I’m the Archaeological Information Systems Manager for the Archaeological Project, Science and Archives Teams for English Heritage based at Fort Cumberland in Portsmouth, UK and that was my day.