3. Methodology

3.1 Introduction

This document is intended to aid those using the West Heslerton Structures Catalogue Web-CD and also to assist those in the process of adopting a similar system. First and foremost, it should be stated that the catalogue was not intended to replace the variety of techniques currently used to assess information from excavated sites, which include the use of digitised site plans and a variety of interactive databases. It was primarily designed to enhance distributed information in a user-friendly way, which would facilitate access to both primary and secondary data for other members of the project team.

The initial entry into the catalogue is primarily visual, with digitised plans of the excavation acting as visual cues to the areas of interest. Although at first sight it may appear that the zooming in to the feature of interest is interactive, in fact the scenes are set at the time that the clickable map is created, and the views cannot be altered by the user. For those interested in accessing a specific feature, this can be achieved without having to use the visual cues by using the context search routine. If you know the full Key_Id of a context, typing in the Key_Id will take you immediately to the structure or feature which contains the context you wish to analyse.

3.2 Aims

The catalogue is to help those wishing to gain a moderate amount of knowledge about the site.

It is an aid to the assessment, analysis and interpretation of the site and is not the completed site report.

It is not static, and although it will ultimately form a core of the supporting data for the published paper reports, it will change as new data are analysed, added and cross-referenced to other catalogue entries.

It is in a format designed to be accessible to as many people as possible.

To enable it to be easy and comfortable to use, decisions had to be made on how much information was to be included, and what would be excluded. The inclusion of all the data available would make the catalogue unwieldy and it would immediately cease to fulfil the purpose for which it was created. To undertake a total primary analysis, the user must go back to the primary sources.

The catalogue, although changing, is a fixed medium with links established that can only be edited by opening the separate documents within it. The user can only reveal, not create. The catalogue entries are built by the core project team, although any specialist may contribute both data and additional pages for future linking by the core team.

The WEB-CD is of course read-only and cannot be directly edited.

The relatively primitive WEB editing tools and present limitations in HTML make re-formatting the catalogue a difficult exercise, although we anticipate that this will change in the future.

WEB browsers generally provide very poor printing facilities and it is anticipated that we may have to create in-house printing tools to generate a paper copy of the full catalogue for archiving purposes.

4. Software used in the development of the catalogue

Each catalogue entry which constitutes a single WEB Page is started following the creation of a clickable plan of the area concerned, generated at a standard scale using G-Sys. This entry is additionally used to add clickable hot-spots to images and to extract some of the database components. Once the clickable map is created the initial page is prepared using Microsoft Word and edited using Netscape and Microsoft Wordpad. Database tables are imported from dBase tables loaded into Microsoft Excel. Adobe Photoshop is used to modify and edit the pictures and images to be inserted into the document (the matrix diagram, scanned sections and photographs extracted from Kodak Photo-CDs). Most of the tabulated data relating to material culture, faunal and environmental evidence was initially prepared by hand using dBase III format tables loaded into FoxPro for Windows and Microsoft Excel. To facilitate page updating as the record is enriched with additional identification, more detailed dating and phasing information tables is now being generated through Microsoft Access reports, which reduce the amount of preparation by hand, although the results still have to be passed through Excel to ensure correct formatting. In house software created using GFA-Basic for Windows is being used to update the HTML source files so that links between multiple tables are retained when a table is replaced. As the work progresses the level of automation will increase, as more automated editing of the HTML source files becomes possible.

5. Creating the Catalogue

5.1 A step by step guide

The creation of a document for the catalogue is a complex procedure and not easily explained. There are many ways to achieve the same result, and familiarity with a particular program will bias the catalogue author towards its use. There follows below a sample step-by-step guide to the creation of a catalogue entry.

  1. Sections. If the original sections are drawn on permatrace, they are photocopied and the photocopies used for scanning. The sections are scanned at 600 DPI (dots per inch) and saved as TIFF files.
  2. Excel is used to record HTML notes, objects and animal bone from the context, object and animal bone databases. The individual databases are opened and all information deemed to be irrelevant to the catalogue entry is deleted. An HTM file is created for each database (using the Tools\Internet_Assistant_Wizard sub-menu) and the database file closed without saving the deletions.
  3. Also create a matrix bitmap if appropriate. It is copied from the relevant source and pasted into Adobe Photoshop, then saved as a BMP (bitmap) file.
  4. Photoshop. The section TIFF files are opened and any blemishes removed. A scale bar is added by copying and pasting a .TIF file created (in Photoshop) for adding to images scanned at 600 DPI. It must be added before the size of the canvas is altered to ensure that the correct proportions are maintained. The image is cropped and the image width (Image\Image size\Print size\Width sub-menu) is altered so the image fits onto a web page. As a convention, the project used an image width of 20cm for post-holes, 30cm for pits/ditch sections and 40cm for anything larger, such as Grubenhaus sections. The sections are then saved as JPG files (which are smaller and thus more economical than TIFFs).
  5. The matrix bitmap is cropped to size. It is changed to an indexed colour mode (again to save disk space) and saved as a JPG file.
  6. Word. Create or copy document. The easiest way to do this is to decide on a format and keep it as an original or source document and then save it as the new document you want to create. Alternatively, just 'save as' or copy an appropriate existing document. The first document is the most arduous to create, but once in existence there should be no need to start every document from scratch.
  7. If the document was copied the titles need to be changed to the relevant contexts.
  8. Fill in contexts and finds table
  9. Fill in totals tables, where appropriate. Each table title is bookmarked so it can be reached through a hyper-link from the context and finds table (e.g. DD35Animal_Bone_Totals)
  10. Open Notes HTML. Copy and paste into document (at present Word will not allow you to paste directly into a table in an HTM file). Cut and paste into context table.
  11. Open Objects HTML. Copy and paste into objects table.
  12. Open animal bone HTML. Copy and paste into animal bone table
  13. Create bookmarks:
    1. animal bone table and objects table. In both tables, if there are few finds the table is book-marked at the title (e.g. Objects). If there are many, the first entry of each context is book-marked so the relevant totals table is directly linked to the correct place in the objects or animal bone table (e.g. DD34Animal_Bone).
    2. notes and sections (e.g. DD34Notes)
    3. totals tables, if relevant. (e.g. DD35Animal_Bone_Totals)
  14. Create hyper-links:
    1. from context table to Notes
    2. from context table to totals tables
    3. from totals tables to objects and animal bone tables.
    4. Note that in large documents it is quicker to create the hyper-links in Netscape Communicator rather than Word.
  15. Insert sections and matrix (where applicable) as a picture into the document. These files must always remain with the document file in the directory as the document is only linked to the sections and does not contain them.
  16. Fill in the table of details.
  17. Write discussion.
  18. Create the clickable map. It is necessary to create any links that may exist as early as possible to cut down on editing time later. Any external document name will always be phrased in the same way (see file names).The clickable maps are created in G-Sys at a screen resolution of 1024 x 768 (as this was felt to be a common resolution). The site grid is retained to give a scale and a quick indication of area. The map is created in G-Sys [Files\HTML Files\Create New Clickable ISMap\Use Full Screen sub-menu] and the Hot-Spots added using an amended version of the Key-Id (e. g. 2DD38) so every Hot-Spot is identifiable in the HTML source [Word View\HTML Source or Communicator Edit\Source Code].
    1. Open the clickable map HTML in Word. Once the map is created, the Hot-Spots need to be edited in their source mode to make them look for the bookmarks within the document. A typical source code will read something like
    2. <AREA shape=polygon coords=454,322,490,315,513,450,477,451 href="2dd38.htm">
    3. and needs the following editing to make it find a bookmark called DD38Notes- an a before the href (to anchor the text/image to a hyper-link) and a hash (#, a necessary internal link to link the Hot-Spot to the bookmark) to replace the area code which does not appear in the bookmark (e. g. "#DD38.HTM"). Further, the ".HTM" at the end of the phrase needs to be replaced with the bookmark phrase (e. g. "#DD38Notes", as the bookmark at the section where the Hot-Spot needs to point to is "DD38Notes"). The bookmark can be anything suitable, for instance, if there are two sections for a particular feature, the bookmarks may be DD38N and DD38E, the Hot-Spot phrase will then be "#DD38N" and "#DD38E". Note that case is important and the same upper and lower case letters found in the bookmark should be used in the hyper-link.
    4. The file drive and directory locators also need to be removed so only the JPG is located in the image source (e. g. <IMG.src="2dd34.jpg">). This will enable the map to be opened wherever the file is placed, rather than leaving it locked into a specific file location.
    5. Copy and paste the clickable map into the document.
    6. Check the document and links in the browser. If any links do not work, edit the HTM source file to correct the faults.
A sample document explained is an analysis of a single catalogue entry and its components.

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Last updated: Mon Oct 5 1998