8.0 Preservation and publication: online archives

The ARENA project set out to publicise the need for the preservation of digital archives in archaeology. This was achieved through online exemplars, conference workshops, round-tables and papers and the publication of articles in a variety of publications.

The role of these well-preserved archives is, then, of utmost importance, for without access to data there is no point in preservation. To achieve Hansen's utopia (1992 and this issue of Internet Archaeology) access is required; Hansen highlights the need to break down language barriers and to facilitate cross-sector searching. All of these things need an underlying set of standards for data organisation and description. ARENA has demonstrated the interactive nature of map bases, but Hansen has also pointed out that without good map bases we cannot offer best quality access. Both standards and mapping will also be required for mobile technology applications and indeed are essential to meet the future needs of the semantic web.

In his article in this issue of Internet Archaeology, Waller suggests a new utopian view of shared information for archaeology in Europe. Just as Hansen looked forward to the power of the Internet in 1992, so Waller looks to web services and portlets to take us still further along the pathway to data sharing and access.

Both this article and that of Aldred have alluded to the important role that properly archived digital resources can play in publication. Publication is perhaps still the most important medium for allowing access to digital archives. It is through publications that data is interpreted, but it should also be possible for readers to access actual data in order to interact more deeply with the interpretation, as described by Richards in Internet Archaeology Issue 15 (Richards 2004).

Traditional paper publication has to find ways of coping with archaeological data; this usually results in huge tomes of prohibitive size and cost, containing many appendices. In recent years the appendices have been dropped into a microfiche or CD-ROM attached to the inside cover, often lost and ultimately unusable as technology moves on. The alternative to the appendices of archival data is of course to leave them out altogether, making data available only through a visit to the archive.

Digital publication of data archives has many advantages. Data can be downloaded and reworked. Hybrid publications can be produced utilising the advantages of traditional publication to present the synthesis of an archaeological project while the supporting data can be made available online. In some cases the synthesis can be best presented using interactive media, best experienced entirely online. All of these options have their role to play in widening access to archaeology.


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