The Dig Digital online resource has been created for the Archaeological Archives Forum (https://archives.archaeologyuk.org/) and delivered as part of the Historic England funded project: 7796 Creating a Sectoral Standard and Guidance for Managing Digital Data. The resource has been developed by DigVentures in partnership with CIfA. A Joint Statement from the Archaeological Archives Forum, endorsed by its members, highlights that all heritage professionals can support the effective management of digital data in archaeological projects.
The Dig Digital guidance aims to provide support for those creating digital data in archaeology, helping archaeologists manage digital data throughout projects and enabling the production of complete, ordered and stable archives that meet professional standards. This online resource links existing CIfA standards to digital materials, signposting good practice information and technical standards, and providing practical advice about how to achieve those standards.
CIfA standards and guidance underpin archaeological archives management and apply to all components – the finds, documents and digital data. A tailored approach to the practical implementation of those standards needs to be considered for each element and digital material is no exception.
By implementing these standards, we ensure that our work is accessible to the public, and to colleagues, researchers and educators.
Archaeological archives and digital data
The accessibility of archives for research and public interest is a key consideration when promoting the value of the material we keep in perpetuity. Archaeologists instinctively see the importance of retaining archives, responding to the destructive nature of investigation by making the site record accessible to all. This resource is about ensuring that the data we curate validates findings and can be used by others in the future. It promotes FAIR principles – meaning that the information we collect remains findable, accessible, interoperable and re-usable.
The archaeological archive comprises information that will facilitate reanalysis and reinterpretation of the site or project in the light of new data, new research questions, new techniques and new technology. Making data available for access is not just a requirement in archaeology, but increasingly across all research-based sectors. The reasons for this are logical, but are worth stating here:
- Data helps make our work transparent, and our conclusions more valid and properly supported
- Accessibility facilitates reuse, enabling new research questions to be answered, which provides greater efficiency and increased impacts
- Open data can be used for interests beyond archaeology, providing a higher return on initial investment
- Making data available contributes to wider public benefits, achieving maximum value from research
This online resource includes background information, step-by-step examples, and case studies to provide guidance for digital data management within archaeological project delivery. It focuses on the things you can do at each stage of the project that will embed digital data firmly within the process of archaeological archive management.
The guidance does not include detailed technical standards, information about cyber security, or disaster management planning, although you will find some useful links to resources that do.
How to use this resource
There is no right or wrong way to use the resource and, depending on your own experience and knowledge, some parts will be more relevant than others.
It is useful to start with the Dig Digital Health Check – this simple checklist offers a series of questions that will prompt you to think about each element of good digital practice. Once you’ve completed that, you can dip into resources as needed. In addition to the web pages, there are a number of additional resources available and in development, which include templates of key tools that you can tailor to your own needs.
You can download the full Dig Digital guidance document, Work Digital. Think Archive. Create Access. using the link at the bottom of this page. This includes a comprehensive introduction to digital archiving, CIfA Standards and data management tools. The online resource includes everything in that document and more!
All works cited in the Dig Digital web pages are fully referenced in the bibliography of Work Digital. Think Archive. Create Access.
You can also use the Dig Digital Directory to help find your way around this resource - it is a look-up document full of links to information and resources which you can will find within these webpages and elsewhere.
Dig Digital Health Check
To get you started, the Dig Digital - Health Check will identify any areas of the digital data process that might need some attention. You should be able to quickly find aspects of data management you are unsure about, are completely new to you or perhaps just need a quick review.
You can then use the Action Plan to map out the changes you may need to make, including any training needed or organisational structures that need refreshing. The Action Plan can also be used to document your awareness of how CIfA Standards are relevant to digital data and demonstrate a commitment towards implementing digital preservation across archaeological projects.
All records and materials recovered during an archaeological project and identified for long-term preservation, including artefacts, ecofacts and other environmental remains, waste products, scientific samples and also written and visual documentation in paper, film and digital form (Perrin et al 2014, 20).
The Archaeological Archives Forum was established in 2002 to
- link together in partnership all major parties with an interest in archaeological archives in order that common policies and practice can be developed and applied
- identify the courses of action necessary to further best practice in the field of archaeological archives and to effect the means to achieve this action
These guiding principles provide a simple definition of the core principles of good data management: Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reusability (FAIR).