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Section 2: Making Grey Literature Accessible

2.1.2 Archaeological grey literature on the World Wide Web

In contrast to the examples cited in the previous section, the discipline of archaeology in England has few comparable resources. However, in recent years there has been a dramatic expansion in archaeological data available online, largely due to initiatives funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, AHRC and JISC, and with the ADS online ArchSearch Catalogue. Some examples are summarised below.

Online bibliographies and databases

Online bibliographies and databases are one of the most prevalent sources of data about recent archaeological fieldwork in England. These are a result of national initiatives to bring disparate sources of information together and identify the location of original archive and report material.

The English Heritage NMR Excavation Index for England is the primary guide to archaeological excavations and interventions carried out in England, mainly in the period from 1960 onwards, and gives an index to the location of the excavation archives and finds (Hardman and Richards 2003). The database comprises some 60,000 records and now works in partnership with other projects such as the Archaeological Investigations Project, University of Bournemouth and the OASIS Project, data from which are used to update the NMR records. The NMR Excavation Index is available online as part of the ADS ArchSearch Catalogue. At present, however, the Index provides only bibliographic information about the reports or publications from these projects. It does not facilitate online access to the reports themselves, but signposts their existence and potential location with the project archive.

From 1995, the Archaeological Investigations Project has been commissioned by English Heritage to undertake a detailed study of the nature and extent of archaeological fieldwork carried out annually in England. At the time of writing, events data between 1990 and 2002 have been collected by a team of researchers visiting every HER in the country, supplemented by visits to some of the main archaeological contracting organisations, in an attempt to identify events through the resulting reports literature and enter project and summary data into the AIP database. There are issues regarding the currency of this AIP data, as well as the overlap with the event and source recording already undertaken by HERs. In addition to incorporation into the ArchSearch Catalogue, summary data about completed archaeological investigations is published as a supplement to the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography and gazetteers are available through the AIP website. The project also analyses national results and statistics about archaeological work (Darvill and Russell 2002).

The OASIS Project is a collaborative venture between the ADS, the English Heritage NMR and AIP. These projects and the work of the national network of HERs currently overlap to a large extent, and it has been recognised that there is duplication of effort in recording data about archaeological events. Streamlining this process is essential within a discipline of limited resources such as archaeology. The OASIS Project aims to provide a single unified index to archaeological investigations, a means of accessing the associated grey literature, and an online method by which the index can be maintained (Hardman and Richards 2003; ADS and English Heritage 2004). The onus is for project data to be input at source by the organisation or individual carrying out the work. There is the option for the related report to be uploaded with the project record, or for a hyperlink to be made to a grey literature report held elsewhere, for example on a contractor's own website, or in the ADS Library of Unpublished Fieldwork Reports. At the present time, the preferred formats for uploading reports are as Adobe PDF or Microsoft Word files. If no electronic copy is to be made available, the record will act as a pointer to the physical holding place of a report or archive, such as the relevant HER (Kilbride and Hardman 2004). The project aims to make full use of electronic data and available technology. Online records may currently be viewed in HTML, or XML format, the latter aimed at exporting data into other heritage datasets, such as HER source and event records. The ongoing development of the FISH Interoperability Toolkit is aimed at facilitating exactly this type of process. The OASIS Project has been used as the basis for document markup in the author's case-study discussed in Section 4. This demonstrates the potential for extracting relevant data from an XML document encoded following the TEI Guidelines. With the aid of an appropriate import script, these data can be used as a means of populating an OASIS record. Such a process would theoretically reduce duplication of effort by removing the need to key data into a project form manually.

Digital libraries and full text reports online

There are few online sources of full-text reports. One example is the English Heritage Geophysical Survey Database which provides an online index of the archaeological geophysical surveys undertaken by the Archaeometry Branch of the Ancient Monuments Laboratory since 1972, as well as by other organisations who have submitted project details. The online database can be queried via a Survey Visit query form, and via clickable distribution maps. For many of the surveys carried out since 1993, the database provides a link to a hypertext copy of the report, complete with figures and plans available in GIF format. Unfortunately, English Heritage has been unable to add substantially to this number owing to a lack of resources (Linford 1995). Because of the existence of this database, the Archaeological Investigations Project originally omitted coverage of geophysical surveys, but thankfully has recently begun to collect data about these surveys (Darvill and Russell 2002, 6).

Unlike the situation in other disciplines, digital libraries and e-print archives are rare within archaeology in England. However, a number of other initiatives are being taken, such as the archaeological publishing services offered by Digital Archaeological Reports. This service aims to further use of the Internet within archaeology by making grey literature generated by field archaeology available as documents for use on the Web (Vince 1999). Alan Vince Archaeological Consultancy reports from 1997 and 1998 are available online through the website in PDF format (Vince 2003).

There are many examples of online publication of detailed archaeological field reports and archives in Internet Archaeology (Millett et al. 2000; Richards 2001), but few initiatives of electronic publication via contractors' own websites. The author carried out a brief survey of the Webpages of the main contractors working in North Yorkshire (Falkingham 2004). Whilst some provide a list of unpublished reports, such as Archaeological Services WYAS, few provide access to online reports, although On Site Archaeology has begun to add HTML format reports. The majority of organisations provide a selection of project summaries, largely as an advertisement for their services. York Archaeological Trust is developing an innovative Archaeology of York Web Series of online publications of major excavation projects, but so far there is no indication that electronic versions of their grey literature reports will similarly be made available online. Other examples include Context One Archaeological Services of Dorset, which is making grey literature reports available online, with summaries in HTML format and full texts available for download as PDF files. The staff of the former Environmental Archaeology Unit (EAU) at the University of York are archiving the Unit's reports and the underlying digital data with the Archaeology Data Service. It is intended that these reports and databases will be made available for downloading.

On-demand publishing

Within the discipline of archaeology, there are very few on-demand publishers, and those that do exist are targeting those who wish to produce a traditional archaeological report in hard copy. One example is Heritage Marketing and Publications, whose dual system of 'print-on-demand' hardcopy and 'e-book' downloadable file now offers an alternative to traditional methods of archaeological publishing. Digital printing costs are relatively low and the option to produce small quantities at a given time ensures that there is minimum expenditure per title. An 'e-book' version can also be produced in Adobe PDF format for distribution on CD-ROM or for download via their, or the author's own, website for a nominal charge to be paid by the user. At the time of writing, no such e–books were available on their website, suggesting that this has not been a popular option.

Other initiatives

Other initiatives include online Historic Environment Records. The new Web version of HBSMR software (Adobe .pdf file), for example, recently produced by exeGesIS SDM Ltd has the functionality of uploading documents and reports to accompany relevant database records. In future, therefore, there is potential for reports to be made available online in this way. As well as being accessed via their organisational Webpages, several HERs are available as part of the ADS online ArchSearch Catalogue. Varying levels of detail are available within these online records; however, where grey literature reports are cited as sources, bibliographic references are provided, not links to full documents. However, as seen above, some aim to provide this facility in the future. Worcestershire Archaeological Service's Digital Strategy requires the submission of reports in PDF format (Atkin 2002). This is aimed at linking reports directly to the Worcestershire County HER, thus enabling full archaeological reports to be directly accessed and downloaded by the public from the Web version of the HER. At the time of writing, the Worcestershire online HER is under development and such access is not yet possible, although some reports can now be accessed via the ADS online Library of Unpublished Fieldwork Reports.

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Last updated: Wed Apr 6 2005