I'm a digital archivist at the Archaeology Data Service and my areas of responsibility and interest are OASIS, BIAB, databases and digital archiving in general.

HERALD project – OASIS blogs and transforming BIAB into the ADS Library

The new ADS Library

I looked at last year‘s Day of archaeology post and realised that I’m partly posting about the same thing – just one year on… The project to redevelop the CBA‘s British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography – BIAB is going strong and we are simultaneously building the new web application which will allow you to search and update bibliographic records in the ADS Library as well as shoehorning all the data from numerous sources (BIABADS Grey Literature Library, Journal archives, Monograph archives and feeds from publishers such as Oxbow and BAR) into our new data structure. I say we – my colleagues are doing those parts I’m doing planning!

Library word cloud

Suppliers of data to the ADS Library

PLANNING! Often underrated and seen as a chore but a vital part of any project. So today I’m looking at two things – what changes we need to  make to the ADS website in order to accommodate the new Library section and you wouldn’t believe how many inter-connecting links there are between archives and the Grey Literature Library reports. I’m also thinking about who we need to contact to tell about the changes to these areas of our site.

The other part of the HERALD project (the main part) is the redevelopment of the OASIS form. This is in the final planning phase with the final specification due at the end of this year, so yes you’ve guessed it more PLANNING and final consultations. We’re currently collecting comments on a couple of OASIS blog posts – one on How can we improve the Geophysics recording in OASIS? which is generating some interesting discussion and another on How should OASIS collect large area surveys? If you have any thoughts on these things please add your comments as well. The English aspect of HERALD project is funded by Historic England.oasis-herald

The planning aspect is looking at how to merge the OASIS form and the Discovery and Excavation in Scotland (DES) form for the Scottish version of OASIS. The two forms collect much the same information and although at the moment you can use an OASIS Id to pre-populate the DES form (saving some time) running two applications to do very similar things is rather inefficient. The combination of these two systems will allow for greater data sharing and better reporting of archaeological events across Scotland. This part of the project is in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland and Archaeology Scotland.

This is a long running project and I fully expect I’ll be posting about it next year too, the OASIS part of it at least – the ADS Library should be up and running this autumn.

BIAB – distraction and abstraction


For the past couple of months I have been working on how the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography (BIAB) might look once to it moves to us at ADS from CBA. The actual move will not be until next year but it certainly helps to plan, this planning phase is supported by Historic England. I’ll spend my day of archaeology on a number of the tasks identified as part of the project.

First a quick check of the running total of completed surveys: 286. The survey is aimed at asking anyone and everyone within the historic environment community if they have heard of BIAB and how often they use it and what they value about it. It’s been out for a week now and this is quite a healthy result so far. Whilst checking the numbers I usually get a little distracted looking at what the general trends are. I try not to spend too much time on this as full analysis will have to wait until the survey closes on the 23rd August but here are today’s nuggets:

Do different sectors of the community use different bibliographic tools (apart from BIAB of course)…

Academic users three favourite other tools are: Academia.edu, Google Scholar and their local university library catalogue

Other bibliographic tools used by academic user of BIAB

Other bibliographic tools used by academic users of BIAB

Where as archaeological consultants and contractors top three other tools are: Google search (not Scholar), Academia.edu and their local university library catalogue

Other bibliographic tools used by commercial archaeologist who use BIAB

Other bibliographic tools used by commercial archaeologist who use BIAB

So some overlap but a different focus which might be to do with researching different types of questions perhaps!

Please complete the BIAB survey now – if you haven’t already, of course!

Aside from survey watching, I am trying to find a source for continuing to populate BIAB with not just records of archaeological publications but also more importantly the abstracts. I had heard anecdotally that what people really liked about BIAB was that it had abstracts giving information on the content of the book or journal article but that has been backed up by the survey results so far as well. In this quest I have found that although you can get downloadable bibliographic citation data from lots of different sources, library catalogues, COPAC, JSTOR, CrossRef to mention a few, the abstracts come only from the publishers websites so I am in discussions with the publishers to see if the abstracts can be downloaded in bulk in order to populate BIAB in the future.

Up until now BIAB has been updated by hand with a small group of freelance abstractors creating records and handcrafting abstracts for each publication, including some very small and local journals. This is no longer a sustainable way of updating BIAB and hence the project looking into updating it more automatically in the future.

The last thing I will be looking at today is probably the least interesting to many people but I like databases and designing a database structure to fit all the needs of the users and the data is to me quite fun! So I’m looking at what tweaks need to be made to the structure of the existing BIAB database in order to make it work well with the rest of the systems here at ADS.  That’s a task for a pen and paper and will get me away from my computer screen for a short while.

I hope you enjoyed your day of archaeology too!