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Section 4: A Practical Evaluation of XML Technologies and TEI P4 for Archaeological Markup and Multi-layered Presentation

4.1 Background to the case-study

XML offers a range of advantages over traditional electronic formats, such as Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat PDF and HTML (see 2.7.1 and 3.2). In order to demonstrate how XML technologies may be applied to electronic archaeological grey literature, a 'proof of concept' demonstrator case-study has been developed as an experiment into how reports may be encoded and transformed in a variety of ways. This aims to present multi-layered output for different users utilising client-side transformation, initially through Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0, but presented here server-side. A representative selection of three grey literature reports submitted to the North Yorkshire Historic Environment Record maintained by North Yorkshire County Council, the workplace of the author, has been chosen as the focus of this study. The Text Encoding Initiative's XML version of the TEI P4 Guidelines has been selected as a basis for the document markup, with a view to assessing its suitability for this purpose (Sperberg-McQueen and Burnard 2002; see 3.3). Meckseper (2001) has undertaken pioneering practical work into the application of markup to archaeological field reports and it is hoped that this study develops this theme a step further (Meckseper and Warwick (2003).

Sections 4.1.1 and 4.1.2 below examine the background context to the production of development-led grey literature within the curatorial area of North Yorkshire County Council and consider potential users of electronic reports and their needs. The following sections focus upon the aims, methodology and implementation of the markup exercise and the transformations applied to present multi-layered output, displaying the content of the three reports in different ways.

Links to digital files can be found at the foot of each related section below. An overview of all the multilayered presentations of the three reports can be found at the end of Section 4.

4.1.1 The North Yorkshire County Council HER and development-led archaeology

4.1.2 Review of users and user needs

4.1.3 The selection of reports for the case-study

The source materials used for the case study are three grey literature reports submitted to the North Yorkshire HER, held by the Heritage Section of North Yorkshire County Council. The County Council holds an extensive collection of unpublished reports produced by a range of organisations. This collection has largely arisen, and continues to expand, as a result of the post-PPG16 era of development-led archaeological work throughout the County. The author is familiar with this material having worked as a curatorial archaeologist within the Heritage Section for the past six years.

The three reports have been produced by Northern Archaeological Associates (NAA), one of the companies undertaking the majority of archaeological work in North Yorkshire (see Fig. 9), and one of the 'top twenty' in England (see Table 2 and Table 3). The reports were selected in consultation with Peter Cardwell and Richard Fraser, partners of NAA, on the basis that they represented 'typical' examples of report output, and had no restrictions as to client confidentiality (Simpson 1996; Young and Fraser 1998; Cooper 2003). The nature of these reports is summarised below.

Plate 1
Plate 1: Image of the three NAA reports selected for the case-study in their original hard copy format. Evaluation Report: Roecliffe Lane, Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire (Young and Fraser 1998)

This 25-page report outlines the results of a field evaluation by trial trenching in 1998 on a greenfield site proposed for residential development between Boroughbridge and the A1, adjacent to the Devil's Arrows standing stones. Ten trial trenches were investigated and a number of features of prehistoric through to medieval date were encountered, including human remains. The report includes five appendices providing the results of specialist assessments of the various finds and ecofactual assemblages recovered. A series of figures and plates are also included to illustrate the findings. Watching Brief at Catterick Bridge, Catterick, North Yorkshire (Simpson 1996)

This 12-page report presents the results of archaeological monitoring in 1996 during pre-strengthening works over the southernmost pier of the medieval part of Catterick Bridge, which spans the River Swale. The bridge is designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade II* Listed Building. A 20m length of the western carriageway was excavated, exposing the stone core of the bridge pier. A number of elevations were drawn and photographed and the report includes a series of figures illustrating the location of the works, the drawn elevations and a number of 19th-century engravings of views of the bridge. Market Place, Thirsk, North Yorkshire: Negative Watching Brief Report (Cooper 2003)

This single-page report presents the results of archaeological monitoring during the excavation of test pits for the refurbishment of a Yorkshire Water main in Market Place, Thirsk, in 2003. No significant archaeological remains were encountered. It is accompanied by an A3 photocopy of a water mains plan, with the location of the test pits highlighted. Much of the information is provided in a summary, headed, list, with a couple of paragraphs of descriptive text. The figure was not scanned because of poor image quality after reduction.

Evaluations and watching briefs are the most common forms of project undertaken in North Yorkshire (see Fig. 8). The reports have a house style typical of the majority of NAA reports held by the North Yorkshire HER, which makes for an interesting comparison in terms of structure, format and content.

The reports originally submitted to, and held by, the HER are in hard-copy format, with images and text printed out on A4 and A3 size paper, with an acetate cover sheet and a spiral binding (see Plate 1). When approached, Peter Cardwell was able to provide digital copies of the original report texts in word-processed Microsoft Word 95 (Simpson 1996) and 97 format (Young and Fraser 1998; Cooper 2003). These have been migrated into Microsoft Word 2000 format, as this is used by the author, and also converted into Adobe PDF format.

The associated figures and illustrations for the Roecliffe and Catterick reports were originally created as inked plans traced from permatrace field drawings. The plates in the Roecliffe report were photocopies of colour prints, and colour and black and white photocopies of original Ordnance Survey map extracts and black and white engravings were included in both reports (P. Cardwell, pers. comm. August 2004). These illustrations were scanned by the author specifically for use in the case study (see 4.3). Although the quality of the resulting images is not as good as scans of the originals would have been, the decision was taken to proceed with the copies as this reflects a common situation that would be faced by other HERs if they were to digitise their hard-copy reports. The North Yorkshire HER holds the paper archive for the Catterick Bridge project as the work was commissioned by NYCC Highways. However, the report states that the archive is held by the County Record Office. No archive content listing is included. As no plates were included within the original report, the author scanned a small selection of photographs from the archive to illustrate the electronic version and to test the application of XSLT for the retrieval of images (see

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