Duncan BROWN | Claire TSANG
(Historic England, Portsmouth, UK)

Keywords: Data; consistency; access; re-use

One important thing to remember when creating any dataset is that in the future other people may want to access and utilise it. If this is kept in mind during data collection it is highly likely that what you create will have future currency. All too often, however, it seems that when digital information is compiled for an archaeological archive fundamental elements are overlooked. There may not be a concordance or glossary of codes used to describe, for instance, pottery fabrics or forms; file names are not self-evidently related to their content; folder structures are either non-existent or overly complicated. These shortcomings result in a digital resource that renders it impossible to visualize anything. This short paper will introduce an actual digital archive, as submitted for curation to the Archaeology Data Service and show how difficult it is to locate or comprehend any of the data included within it. Basic omissions and errors will be examined, unravelled and resolved. The exercise formed part of a series of training workshops organized by the Special Interest Group for Archaeological Archives of CIfA (The Chartered Institute for Archaeologists) in the UK. Using the archive as submitted, workshop participants were asked to answer twelve questions, some of which were unanswerable. This talk will revisit some of those questions and show how, with some thought and organization, the archive could have been structured to enable access and re-use. Computers cannot (yet) understand what has not been entered into them and therefore cannot act intuitively. Archaeologists must therefore continue to treat them as literal fools and when they create digital data, remember their responsibilities towards their contemporaries and successors. In other words, they have to visualise the archaeological archive.

Relevance for the conference: This is an exploration of how it is possible to obscure a vision of the past without a proper consideration of who the future viewer might be
Relevance for the session: This paper addresses the gap between theory and practice in the creation and presentation of digital data
Innovation: This is a presentation of an interactive training tool that is intended to improve the consistency of digital data creation