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Technical innovations shed new light on archaeology
25 July 2012
York, University of
A new digital system that makes thousands of important fieldwork documents freely accessible to scholars and the public has received a British Archaeological Award for Innovation in recognition of its potential to transform research.
Fieldwork documents known as Grey Literature are unpublished by traditional means, despite often dealing with archaeology of huge value and significance.
But thanks to technical innovations developed by the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) at the University of York, they are now freely available online to any user through the Grey Literature Library using a classified and map based search mechanism, the ADS ‘ArchSearch’ interface.
Working with the British Library’s international DataCite programme, the ADS, has developed a second significant innovation which makes it easier to cite unpublished online documents.
The Director of the ADS, Professor Julian Richards, said: “The relative inaccessibility of these documents has been a source of frustration to all archaeologists committed to research. For many years, the results of the overwhelming majority of archaeological fieldwork have not been available, for practical purposes, to inform future research.
“The integration of Grey Literature into ArchSearch is a huge step forward in making this material discoverable directly alongside monument inventory records, associated archives and other resources. The potential of this hitherto virtually inaccessible resource is at last being realised and it is likely to yield major advancements in our understanding of the past. We are extremely pleased that the significance of both these advances has been recognised with a British Archaeological Award.”
Hosted by the ADS, both the OASIS on-line archaeological event recording system and its associated Library of Unpublished Fieldwork Reports, the Grey Literature Library are free and open access. The GLL is now the largest collection of online archaeological reports in the UK. The ADS is carrying out extensive work to integrate larger single agency collections of Grey Literature, some 18,000 reports have already been released and this is increasing at the rate of around 200 per month.
This is the second time that the ADS has won a BAA for Best Arch Innovation, having won it previously in 2008, for a project linking electronic archives with electronic publications, in partnership with its e-journal Internet Archaeology.