[open-archaeology] Making excavation data available to the public

Anthony Beck ant.beck at gmail.com
Mon Jul 19 17:23:18 UTC 2010

Hi Peigi,

Your e-mail has me grinning like a loon. The statement “<insert name here>
would like to make our excavation data available to the public” is something
I would like to hear more regularly.

Unfortunately I’m not in a position to offer advice on the three options
you’ve suggested: although, whichever you choose will in part be influenced
by your internal recording system, reporting procedures and analytical

That said, from reading your message I don’t think that that is what you
want to do: I get the impression you want to provide a way in which you can
easily produce visualizations of your excavation data that are suitable for
public consumption. I assume this would be spatial and attribute groupings,
and interpretations, suited to different audience members with different
archaeological experience and technical backgrounds.  If this is what you
want I wholeheartedly agree with your outlook (however, dynamic public
participation in this way may be difficult).

I would also suggest that you might need different systems for different
phases of your programme. During traditional excavation, data entry and
analysis you may want to keep your data in one of the three systems you
mention. Once you have published your report then you may want to openly
publish your data as well. In that case I would recommend you map your
schema and instances to the English Heritage extension of the CiDOC ontology
(this has already been partially done for IADB in the STAR project) and
produce triples which can be freely stored in a number of different
solutions (Freebase or Talis Commons for example). This would provide a data
resource that can be utilised freely, has an explicit schema and instance
data and can be inferenced over by a machine. This would provide a much
richer data set for subsequent re-analysis and visualization than any
information deposited within the NMR.

Alternatively you can produce a triple based recording system from which you
can automatically generate a range of different visualisations and groupings
and provide a framework through which the community can validate and
interpret the data dynamically: however, I fear that may be quite a large
task :-)

Best and please keep us informed on your progress


On Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 5:30 PM, Peigi Mackillop <PMackillop at nts.org.uk>wrote:

> Hello everyone,
> I am a newbie here so I hope this is the correct forum to ask my question.
> The National Trust for Scotland would like to make our excavation data
> available to the public, beginning with a small, forthcoming project, and I
> am looking into various open source options. All our data will, of course,
> hopefully, go into the NMR but we would like a fast-track solution to show
> the public what we are doing, as they pay for us :-)
> Our IT department is quite small and therefore we would prefer a solution
> that does not require much configuration or "nursing". I have been looking
> at three options, ARK (http://ark.lparchaeology.com/), IAD (
> http://www.iadb.org.uk) and Nabonidus http://www.nabonidus.org/. The last
> option is a hosted web front-end which bypasses the need to install software
> on a web server and seems fine for what we hope to achieve. Does anyone have
> experience of using these, and are they really the correct tool to
> communicate with our audience (who will also be professional archaeologists
> as well as interested members of the public).
> Many thanks, and best wishes
> Peigi (Peggy)
> Peigi MacKillop
> Archaeology Volunteer
> The National Trust for Scotland
> 28 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4ET
> pmackillop at nts.org.uk
> The National Trust for Scotland for Places of Historic Interest and Natural
> Beauty is a charity registered in Scotland, Charity Number SC
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