Preservation and Re-Use of Digital Archaeological Research Data with Open Archival Information Systems

Gemeinsame Sektion vom Archaeology Data Service (UK), Data Archiving and Networked Services (NL), Landesamt für Archäologie Sachsen und IANUS bei der
21. Konferenz "Cultural Heritage and New Technologies" in Wien, 16.–18. November 2016

Session-Eröffnung Dr. Reiner Göldner, CHNT 2016 – © IANUS | Maurice Heinrich (Photograph)


Studien zu vergangenen menschlichen Aktivitäten schaffen Ergebnisse mit dem Potenzial, die Zukunft zu gestalten. Daher müssen archäologische Forschungsdaten für künftige Generationen von Wissenschaftlern erhalten bleiben. Nur wenn digitale Daten kuratiert, angemessen bewahrt und an ein breiteres Publikum verteilt werden, können sie für neue Forschungen oder neue Zwecke wiederverwendet werden.
Archäologische Daten werden im erhöhten Maße digital erstellt. Sie bieten wesentlich mehr Möglichkeiten und mehr Funktionalitäten als ihr analoge Pendent. Langzeitarchivierung ist mehr als das Speichern von Daten auf einem Datenträger. Einige bekannte Erfahrungen mit Datenverlusten führten zur Entwicklung des "Open Archival Information System" (OAIS), das inzwischen ein anerkanntes Referenzmodell und ISO-Standard für die Struktur und den Betrieb digitaler Archive ist. Heute stellt OAIS ein wichtiges Mittel dar, um digitale archäologische Forschungsdaten dauerhaft zu bewahren und zukünftigen Generationen mit Erfolg zugänglich zu machen.

Studies of past human activities create results with a potential to shape the future. So, archaeological research data have to be preserved for future generations of scientists. Only if digital data are curated and preserved appropriately and disseminated to a wider audience can they be reused for new research or new purposes.
Archaeological data are created digitally with increased regularity. Digital data provide many more possibilities and more functionality then analogue data. Long-­time preservation is more than storing data on disk. Some famous experiences of data loss led to the “Open Archival Information System” (OAIS), which is a well-­accepted reference model and ISO-Standard for the structure and operation of digital archives. So, OAIS is an important means to permanently preserve digital archaeological research data and to make them available to future generations with success.


Beschreibung der Sektion

Im Rahmen der 2016 zum 21. Mal in Wien stattfindenden Konferenz Cultural Heritage and New Technologies (CHNT 21) veranstaltete IANUS vom 16.–18. November in Zusammenarbeit mit dem niederländischen E-depot voor Nederlandse archeologie am Data Archiving and Networked Services (edna/DANS), dem englischen Archaeology Data Service (ADS) sowie dem Landesamt für Archäologie Sachsen die gemeinsame Sektion „Preservation and Re-Use of Digital Archaeological Research Data with Open Archival Information Systems”.

Diese Veranstaltung konzentrierte sich auf die Dienste und Pflichten der bestehenden Repositories und Archive sowie die Umsetzung des OAIS-Modells im Rahmen der täglichen Arbeit der Datenkurierung, -erhaltung und -verbreitung. Die Vorträge befassten sich mit verschiedenen Aspekten wie Daten zu erhalten sind, einschließlich empfohlener Formate und signifikanter Merkmale von Datenformaten, Migrationsstrategien und speziellen technischen Lösungen. Fragen bezüglich welche Daten archiviert werden sollen sowie Anregungen zu den erforderlichen Dokumentationen und Metadaten wurden ebenfalls berücksichtigt.

Within the frame of the 21st Conference on Cultural Heritage and New Technologies (CHNT 21) from 16.–18. November 2016 in Vienna, IANUS co-organized together with the Dutch E-depot voor Nederlandse archeologie at the Data Archiving and Networked Services (edna/DANS), the English Archaeology Data Service (ADS), and the State office for archaeological heritage in Saxony the joint session "Preservation and Re-Use of Digital Archaeological Research Data with Open Archival Information Systems".


This event focused on the services and duties of existing repositories and archives and the implementation of the OAIS model within their day‐to-day business of data curation, preservation and dissemination. Talks addressed different aspects of how to preserve data, including recommended formats and significant characteristics of data formats, migration policies and special technical solutions. Questions of which data are worth archiving and how to resolve this question, as well as suggestions about required documentation and metadata were considered.


Leitung der Sektion

Tim EVANS – ADS (UK) | Valentijn GILISSEN – DANS (NL) | Reiner GÖLDNER – Landesamt für Archäologie Sachsen (D) | Felix SCHÄFER – IANUS (D)

Abstracts und Präsentationen

Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart (D)
ARCHES “Archaeological Resources in Cultural Heritage, a European Standard”
Direktlink Präsentation
The initial ARCHES-Project of the Archaeological Archives Working Party of the Europae Archaeologiae Consilium ran from June 2012-May 2014. It was financed to 50% by a grant from the European Commission’s Education, Audiovisual and Cultural Executive Agency under the Culture Programme 2007-2013. Data on archiving practice was collected in surveys by the participants. Workshops in each of the members’ languages were held to encourage bidirectional information on local/national archiving practices and visions. As a result, six principal activity areas in the compilation and preparation of an archaeological archive were identified: collection, analysis, reporting, ordering, packing and transfer. This result is reflected in The ARCHES Guide: The “Standard and Guide to Best Practice in Archaeological Archiving in Europe”, which was written both to help institutions with systems in place to refine their techniques as well as to offer initial guidance for setting up archaeological archiving standards where none yet exist. In seven languages “The Guide” sets out project planning, archive standards, collection of data, recording of information, treatment of records, finds and digital data, the analysis and archiving the results, packing of records and finds, the presentation of digital data, ordering and indexing for archive transfer and the long-term curation and management of archaeological archives (sustainability). Especially innovative are the multi language tables of roles and responsibilities and a comprehensive dedicated bibliography on archaeological archiving. After the end of the financing period ARCHES has not come to an end. It remains up to date on its home page and has an active LinkedIn presence with almost 1000 members. As it becomes better known, institution from around the world are looking to ARCHES to guide their own archiving procedures. This contribution hopes to increase the visibility of ARCHES for the archaeological community and encourage colleagues to take part in the ARCHES dialogue.
Landesamt für Archäologie Sachsen (D)
Archiving Archaeological Research Data – Requirements, Objectives and first Experiences
Direktlink Präsentation
Preserving digital data over long times is an ambitious task. While most analogue documents are best stored without touching them, digital data need permanent care and curation. Regarding some differences between analogue and digital data – lifecycle, complexity, functionality and so on – it can be realized, that digital archiving is a new challenge.
This paper will deal with requirements and objectives on archiving archaeological research data, as discussed in a working group of the Association of State Archaeologists in Germany (Verband der Landesarchaeologen in Deutschland – VLA). Interesting themes of that discussions were “Archive Objectives”, “Worthiness of Archiving”, “Suitability of Archiving” and “Future Use Scenarios”.
This paper will also deal with first experiences in building up a digital archive for archaeological research data in Saxony. This archive follows principles of “Open Archival Information System” (OAIS). It is based on professional software that has to be adapted to the special requirements of archaeological data like e.g. excavation documentation.
First lessons learned were, that our ideas of archiving were not very professional and that implementation and operation of such archive system is a considerable effort.
The professional system acts very complex, adapting it to our simple workflow ideas was not quite easy. On the other hand, Archive Information Packages are quite simple and it has to be carefully considered, how to ingest complex convolutes of data like excavation documentation.
Don’t underestimate all the tasks around your new archiving system. According to OAIS we need a close cooperation of organization, people and systems to operate a digital archive. There are many tasks to do manually, not least to choose archive data formats and to decide, how to preserve them over years and years.
The paper will sum up some of the most important steps to archive digital archaeological research data.
Archaeology Data Service (UK)
Twenty years of the ADS: lessons and challenges for the future of data curation
Direktlink Präsentation
Since its foundation in 1996 the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) has accessioned over 1700 separate collections covering the full breadth of archaeological data generated by UK-based practitioners. At the time of writing the ADS holds over 2,000,000 files, representing over 350,000 distinct objects, curated in an OAIS compliant digital archive.
This paper presents insights from the practical experience of undertaking digital archiving. Taking a typical example of a fieldwork archive produced through development-led work it will examine the key stages of OAIS in operation, with specific emphasis on the long-term preservation of text-based documents. Unpublished documents, often referred to as ‘grey literature’, are one of the most common forms of ‘data’ deposited at the ADS and in many ways – such as a lack of any in-depth technical file-level metadata – present a relatively straightforward corpus of material for those beginning their own archives and an information-rich resource for the wider community.
The paper will also offer a perspective on the difficulties of being a successful archive, particularly in a commercial (i.e. development-led) framework. It will discuss the constant need to balance the technical requirements of the archive (file formats, metadata) with the priorities of a depositor, as well as the often differing perceptions on the nature of, and what constitutes archives and data.


Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Projekt IANUS (D)
Data Curation: How and why. A showcase with re-use scenarios
Direktlink Präsentation
IANUS is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) with the objective to build up a digital archive for archaeology and ancient studies in Germany. A first three year phase of conceptual work is now being followed by a second, in which the concepts get implemented and the data centre begins its operational work.
Data curation is essential for preservation of digital data and helps to detect errors, aggregate documentation, ensure the re-usability of data and in some cases even add further functionality and additional files. This paper will present the workflow of data curation based on a data collection about European vertebrate fauna and will exemplify the different data processing stages at IANUS according to the OAIS model – from its initial submission until its final presentation on the recently established data portal. One aspect of this will be the discussion of the archival information package.
The research data stored in the IANUS repository offers many different options for data re-use. Some possibilities will be showcased on the basis of the datasets already ingested in IANUS. They include the visualisation of geographic information with GIS, statistical analysis, reutilisation of bibliography, image processing, and subsequent use of 3D models. A reuse of these data can provide additional benefits to the scientist, e.g. the possibility to examine the topography of findspots or the distribution of archaeological finds and the enlargement as well as regulation of sources.
Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) (NL)
Archiving the past while keeping up with the times
Direktlink Präsentation
The e-depot for Dutch archaeology started as a project at Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) in 2004 and developed into a successful service, which has ever since been part of the national archaeological data workflow of the Netherlands.
While continuously processing archaeological datasets and publications and developing expertise regarding data preservation, various developments are taking place in the data landscape and direct involvement is necessary to ensure that the needs of the designated community are best met. Standard protocols must be defined for the processing of data with the best guarantees for long-term preservation and accessibility. Monitoring the actual use of file formats and the use of their significant characteristics within specific scientific disciplines is needed to keep strategies up-to-date.
National developments includes the definition of a national metadata exchange protocol, its accommodation in the DANS EASY self-deposit archive and its role in the central channelling of information submission. In international context, projects such as ARIADNE and PARTHENOS enable further developments regarding data preservation and dissemination. The opportunities provided by such international projects enriched the data by improving options for data reuse, including allowing for the implementation of a map-based search facility on DANS EASY. The projects also provide a platform for sharing of expertise via international collaboration.
This paper will detail the positioning of the data archive in the research data cycle and show examples of the data enrichment enabled by collaboration within international projects.
Wouter BOASSON, Ronald M. VISSER
RAAP, Boaedificat, Saxion (NL)
SIKB0102: Synchronising excavation data for preservation and re-use
Direktlink Präsentation
Key issue in re-using data from excavations is the need to understand the meaning of the contents. Integrating studies have a hard time using old datasets, for obvious reasons like finding the right data in the first place, understanding unknown codes, and the inherent difficulty of combining data from different excavations. These problems are commonly addressed by archiving and publishing harmonized data, which enables searching through combined datasets, but at the price of losing important detail.
Despite hesitation, an interchange format for digital archaeological data was needed. We played a major role in the drafting group for what would later become the ‘SIKB0102’ interchange standard, where we ultimately focused on: 1) keeping the original level of detail while providing a harmonized view; 2) serving archiving as well as data interchange in active projects; 3) control of versions and 4) making sure that relations, key to solving archaeological mysteries, are central. An unusually flexible interchange format was created, that can hold detailed data together with, and linked to, harmonized data. Having the harmonized data makes it easy to search and combine datasets, while having the related detailed data makes it possible to drill down to the original level of detail. Archaeological data is all about structure and location, so we took care of including the vector geo-location data in the specification as well. Combining all these aspects in one interchange format make the SIKB0102 specification stands out.
In The Netherlands the archaeological research data must be provided to the national archival institute (DANS), and the KNA (quality standard for the Dutch archaeology) demands submitting the data to the national archive. Today the KNA requires to provide archaeological excavation data according the SIKB0102 specification, which is a big step forward in re-using archaeological excavation data.
Edeltraud ASPÖCK, Gerald HIEBEL, Matej DURCO
Austrian Academy of Sciences (Ö) / University of Innsbruck (Ö)
Developing an archive for archaeological data: the ‘A puzzle in 4D’ project
Direktlink Präsentation
‘A puzzle in 4D’ is a project dealing with the problem of integration of heterogeneous and incomplete digital and non-digital records of archaeological long-term excavations to prepare them for spatio-temporal analysis, long-term archiving based on national and international standards and open-access online publication for specialists and the general public. The project will be a case study to develop an archive for archaeology data at the ÖAW ACDH.
Fieldwork has taken place at Tell el Daba (TED) in Egypt since 1966 and during this time, the archaeological discipline has seen major changes, most notably developments in information technology have caused a shift from analogue to digitally-born data. As a result, the TED archive at the Institute for Oriental and European Archaeology OREA contains a huge and heterogeneous resource of digital and non-digital sources like documents, photographs, plans and drawings.
In our paper we will present work we have carried out so far and discuss the current challenges of the project. We are establishing a metadata model and map it to the CIDOC CRM, an ISO certified standard for heritage documentation and CRMarchaeo, an extension for archaeological excavations. For the types of archive sources that we started digitizing like field drawings we will present the mappings and initial RDF and JSON-LD representations. One of the big challenges in integrating the information sources is the creation of identifiers. We will present our approach to differentiate between identifiers for the documentation sources, the archaeological objects and structures as well as the excavation activities and structures created by excavations.
We will end our presentation with research questions we came up with during our work and questions related to the architecture of a system that can handle the created metadata structure and relate it to the digital resources creating an implementation that satisfies the project requirements.