1 Introduction

The googling of the terms online excavation archives produces results including those from the ARENA project and partners. Other projects, people and cultural organisations of one sort or another are concerned with archives that are presented online. The ARENA project has focused on the communication and dissemination opportunities provided by the Internet in order to demonstrate to archaeologists the great potential this resource provides. While there may be many opportunities there are unfortunately several pit-falls, particularly connected to access and preservation of data, and it is these aspects the ARENA project has addressed in its research. The discipline of archaeology is in a good position to develop standards and appropriate techniques for the dissemination of information online as the data crosses several different types of presentation genre. It is visual, it has cultural content and is, usually, data rich. Associated with this is the fact that computer use in archaeology has been prominent for over ten years and international conferences on computers and archaeology have led to a wealth of knowledge and experience in use and dissemination of archaeological content (Lock 2003; Hansen and Dam this edition, Kenny and Richards this edition; recent poll by JISC on computer use and web content). Emphasis is now being placed on using computers beyond statistical analyses of data, rather as a major factor in communicating archaeology and in managing the resource. More recently, applications using computers are focused on demonstrating the culture of data and how as archaeologists we can use this information in more meaningful ways, perhaps leading to better understanding of the rich dynamic between data and our thoughts about it: MetaMedia. We are able to recognise more of these cultural variables that extend themselves as a result to the wider presentation of information. We are also forced to address issues connected to accessibility and preservation; recurring themes that the ARENA project has come back to time and time again.

The ARENA archives from six European partners represent a diversity of types of archive that exist across Europe. All of them are born in some manner from excavations, either as antiquarian and historic excavations or more recent excavations carried out in the last ten years. The types of archive therefore range from standard excavation archives to national records or research indices derived from excavation. Visual content varies along with emphasis on texts; image catalogues, publication-styled archives as well as multiple record and file-type archives. The archives are derived from different methods, scales and dates of collection which has increased their diversity beyond the differences in archaeological practices. The ARENA project has put some emphasis in maintaining and continuing this diversity, this is important for two reasons:

Hofstaðir is the subject of the ARENA archive; the recent research and excavation has been supported by research grants from the Icelandic Research Council, Nordic Council and the National Science Fund over a ten-year period. These nationally important archives reflect in essence a national identity in portraying archaeological practice and theory in each partner's country, and therefore have a value in the context of Europe. At Hofstair for example, not only is the archive representative of Icelandic national identity but the excavations that have occurred there have meant that this site reflects the character of archaeological practice; this is outlined in the presentation of the archive.


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