7.0 Digitisation: making more data digital

The ARENA project did not set out to be a digitisation venture. The conversion of written data and documentation to a digital format is, of course, an important part of making material available to the world, but it is also a very time-consuming and expensive process. Digitisation programmes have been instituted across Europe to make newspapers, sound recordings, film collections, image collections, journals and books available as digital resources. All of this appeared beyond the remit of the ARENA project, but it became apparent that this was not the case.

Despite the fact that an ever growing amount of archaeological data is collected, analysed and stored digitally (Richards 2002) a great deal of important data across Europe exist in traditional formats. As a result the ARENA partners found themselves dealing with archives of national importance that were not digital, but needed a digital solution to make them available. This was especially important for the archives presented by the Museum Project (Norway), the Poznan Archaeological Museum (Poland) and CIMEC (Romania).

7.1 Digitised records through a map interface

In the case of the Museum Project data, the Norwegian partners were already in the process of creating a national and highly innovative digital resource from a non-digital archive. This involved digitising and indexing (in XML) the national monuments register and related documentation. The lessons learned from the technical process are discussed by Eide et al. and Waller in their articles in this issue of Internet Archaeology. The archives contributed to the ARENA project were taken from a specific region (Hegge and Egge) and made available through a map interface, bringing geographic interactivity to digitised documents.

7.2 Images, context and online publication

The Poznan Archaeological Museum contribution to the ARENA archives also involved the digitisation of archives. In this case the many images and written records regarding the historic excavations at Biskupin in Poland. The excavations at Biskupin were of particular national importance in 1930s Poland and did a lot to raise the profile of the nation internationally (Piotrowska 1998).

Prinke has described the project elsewhere in this issue of Internet Archaeology; there are key lessons to be taken from this action for the ARENA project:

7.3 Digitisation of research resources

The contribution from the Institute for Cultural Memory in Romania (CIMEC) also included a considerable digitisation element for its contribution to the ARENA project. In the case of Romania the flood of digital archives has not found its way from field archaeology to the archivists yet. So to demonstrate the importance of properly archived digital material to the Romanian archaeological community, and the public in general, a nationally recognised index of sites and illustrations was selected: The Archaeological Repertory of Romania. The Institute of Archaeology in Bucharest, known as 'Vasile Prvan', started the documentation for the Archaeological Repertory of Romania (RAR) half a century ago (in 1949-50). The project was intended to record unpublished field surveys and any mention of archaeological discovery in the known literature back to the 18th century. Reduced funds led to the abandonment of the project in 1956 but it had still created an important collection of paper cards bound together in files, arranged topographically by regions, districts and localities, according to the administrative organisation of the time. The result was a wide-ranging collection of information that has never been published, although scholars working for archaeological repertories in various territories have consulted the archive during their preliminary work.

As part of the ARENA project CIMEC has made the digitised version of the RAR available online. The digitisation of the RAR has involved submission of the written data into a database and digitisation of the illustrations and notes. The process involved scanning the original cards, image processing, and inscribing them on CD-ROMs. Although it is recognised that CD-ROM is not the ideal medium for the preservation of such archives, it is hoped that the ARENA experience will help CIMEC to suggest better preservation policies in the future.


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