Internet Archaeol 17. Falkingham. Summary

E-monograph Series. No. 16

A Whiter Shade of Grey: A new approach to archaeological grey literature using the XML version of the TEI Guidelines

Gail Falkingham

Senior Archaeologist, Heritage Section, Countryside Service, Planning and Countryside Unit, North Yorkshire County Council, County Hall, Northallerton, North Yorkshire, DL7 8AH, UK.

Cite this as: Falkingham, G. 2005 A Whiter Shade of Grey: A new approach to archaeological grey literature using the XML version of the TEI Guidelines, Internet Archaeology 17.


This article has arisen through the author's interest in two contemporary issues within archaeology: the production and dissemination of grey literature and the potential of XML. Grey literature is examined, with specific reference to unpublished reports literature produced in the present climate of developer-funded archaeology in England. There are concerns about the accessibility of this literature, both from within and beyond the archaeological profession. The vast majority of reports are word-processed and then printed in hard-copy format for limited distribution. The original, digital document however, has largely been seen as a by-product.

Awareness of the importance of these digital reports, and their preservation must be raised. Electronic means of delivery and dissemination via the World Wide Web offer huge potential and present opportunities for new ways of working. Archaeology is not alone in seeking to promote the accessibility of grey literature; indeed there are many disciplines that have created online initiatives aiming to do just this, utilising a variety of means and a range of electronic file formats. The use of XML technology appears to offer many advantages over traditional formats, such as word-processed, PDF and even (X)HTML files, particularly with regard to the manipulation and presentation of encoded electronic text. Increasingly, XML technology is being used for electronic delivery and dissemination and the pros and cons of so doing are discussed in this article.

This theme has been developed by the author through a 'proof of concept' practical case study of three unpublished grey literature archaeology reports from the North Yorkshire Historic Environment Record. XML documents have been created from the original word-processed electronic reports by the manual application of XML markup, the methodology for which was devised following the XML version of the Text Encoding Initiative's TEI P4 Guidelines. The level of detail to which the reports' structure and content has been encoded has been influenced principally by a review of user needs identified by recent national surveys and the potential for export of data for the population of other heritage datasets. Through the application of CSS and XSL stylesheets, the case study demonstrates how the reports and their content may be displayed in different ways and how selected data may be extracted from the text for input into other systems, such as Historic Environment Records and the OASIS Project database.

The author came to this project as a novice in the use of XML and XSLT, and learnt far more as the case study progressed. Whilst it has been possible to achieve the desired aims, it is acknowledged that this is just a starting point; more advanced users of XSLT will, no doubt, be able to produce more sophisticated ways of applying styling and transformation. Nevertheless, it is hoped that this exploration of the potential of archaeological document markup will encourage others to use and experiment with XML. The practical elements of this paper demonstrate how XML and XSLT have the power and flexibility to open up new possibilities for the presentation of grey literature on the Web, and for the repurposing of report content, above and beyond those achievable with the proprietary file formats favoured at present. There is national interest in, and call for, the development of new methods of electronic publication for archaeological reports; it is hoped that this article will contribute to this debate.

This electronic publication has been grant-aided by English Heritage as part of its policy to explore new media publication. English Heritage logo

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