Planning for deposition
Good news – you’ve already done it!
If you have used a data management plan (DMP), you have followed a roadmap to deposition. Stick to the plan and your archive transfer will be a doddle!
The final updated DMP brings all the information needed for archive transfer together and provides prompts for the preparation of additional information.
As a result of having kept your DMP up to date
- you will know which elements of your archive you are depositing, and have completed the selection strategy agreed with key stakeholders
- you have contacted the archive repository and know how the data will be transferred – this might be via an online uploading function for small–medium datasets, or for a bigger archive, through a portable means (hard drive) or cloud service
- all your data are named and stored in a logical and appropriate manner, with version control and a clear folder structure
- you have completed metadata tables for each element, using the forms provided by the repository for an easy transfer
- you have the permissions you need to deposit all archive materials
- you were aware of the resources required for archive preparation, and met those needs during delivery
- you are fully aware of the costs of deposition
- you have a full and final version of your DMP to accompany your archive
Supporting long-term preservation and access
The use of a trusted digital repository for the deposition of your archaeological data is discussed in the standards section of this resource. It is worth emphasising here that, as well as the ability to retain and manage digital data, our professional ethics bound up in CIfA’s Code of conduct require that archive materials be accessible.
Long-term preservation of a digital archive means its preservation beyond technological change, taking into consideration software and hardware dependence. It also refers to the authenticity of the data itself, providing confidence that the data has not been amended or changed.
Accessibility is linked to both to the medium of the digital resources and the metadata that sit alongside, and refers to access both by people and by machines.
The complexity of maintaining access and providing long-term preservation means that the curation of the digital archive needs to be funded. This need is often met by a one-off deposition charge at the point of transfer, in the same way that the physical archive is charged for by museums.
In the case of digital archives, charges will cover the costs of
- archive accession and ingest
- long-term preservation
As well as the charge for deposition, the compilation of the archive itself contributes to how well your archive can be preserved and accessed. Make sure that when you are reviewing costs at the beginning of the project, you include the resources you need for proper preparation of the archive to make it fully accessible.
Infosheet #8 - Digital archives, archaeology and museums provides some information for museum specialists and curators reagrding archaeological archives and digital data.
The FAIR guiding principles (2016) set out the ambition that all research project data should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR) (see Standards). So, our aim is not only to make sure that data which needs to be preserved can be located and accessed, but also that data is available to wider research objectives through cross-archive searches. This makes our information open and searchable; it can be combined with other data and create a far bigger and more dynamic research resource.
Interoperability is not simply a case of saving a file to a useable format – it means making the data in your archive part of something bigger. By using common tools such as standard vocabulary, geographical information and controlled chronological terms, data is searchable using known and consistent terminologies. These tools unlock data, removing barriers that might prevent your project being part of a bigger story.
Luckily, if you work with recognised heritage repositories, the requirements of deposition will help you create and deposit an archive that is interoperable. The use of OASIS and Historic Environment Records as part of that digital data management process means that the information about your project – the location, dates, material finds and interpretations – begins that process of interoperability.
Using your DMP and working with recognised information standards in heritage means that your work will continue to develop in a way that retains interoperability and will support a smoother process of archive deposition in the long run. Information about UK heritage standards are available at
In short, reusability of data means that is easy to use, easily cited and can be easily integrated into future research. The reusability of data is supported through the archive deposition process, but you need to ensure that steps are taken during project planning that will contribute to reusability. To make sure people can reuse your digital data, you need to ensure that
- metadata are sufficiently rich and well-described to support use in future research
- data formats should be limited to widely used and open formats, consistent with archive needs
- data can be fully integrated into future research projects, with full consideration of file formats, project methods and data structure
- data can be fully attributed to its source and can be referenced in the same way that any report can be
- the conditions for reuse are clear and readable to both individuals and to machines
The trusted digital repository will usually provide information that will help you understand the best way to approach some of these areas, so make sure you fully review deposition guidelines at the outset of the project.
Questions around digital archives often focus on why certain aspects of the working project archive need to be included – and reusability is a key consideration. Guidance from the repository will help you determine the best file formats to ensure data can be both preserved and available for reuse.
Your selection process will help you decide which elements of the working project archive should be included, and this should be informed by FAIR principles.
Within an archaeological project, this should take into account how your project data can be incorporated into a future research programme. For example, the final PDF report of an archaeological evaluation will include all the context information through embedded tables and finds data incorporated into appendices. Your interpretations will be supported by the images, plans and sections – but are they usable?
Extracting data from a PDF is difficult enough, but it is often edited and condensed. Even context data – the fundamental building block of most site reports – is rarely included in full. To make your site archive truly reusable for research purposes, researchers will need to be able to open relevant data files to access and query the data fully. This might include csv files of specialist finds data or context information, rather that tabulated data within a PDF.
Archaeology is a varied discipline and Infosheet #9 - Digital archives and geophysics explores FAIR principles from the perspective of specialist archaeological datasets and information.
A data management plan, or DMP, is a document which describes how you are planning to manage the data gathered through the delivery of a project, and what will happen to that data (eg. plans for sharing and preservation) once the project is complete.
These guiding principles provide a simple definition of the core principles of good data management: Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability and Reusability (FAIR).
Metadata are data about a digital resource that is stored in a structured form suitable for machine processing. It serves many purposes in long-term preservation, providing a record of activities that have been performed upon the digital material and a basis on which future decisions on preservation activities can be made, as well as supporting discovery and use.
The form of metadata required for archive deposition may be specified by the receiving repository; for example, see ADS guidelines for depositors.
Formal, accessible, shared, and broadly applicable language for knowledge representation. A standard vocabulary provides a community-recognised specification that determines the precise meaning of concepts and qualities the data represents. For the archaeological sector, MIDAS Heritage provides this, which means that data is encoded using a standard which can be read on all applicable systems.
A trusted digital repository is an accredited service that supports the long-term preservation of digital archives through the provision of specialist resources, knowledge, capacity and technical solutions that facilitate the storage, curation and accessibility of data in perpetuity. This recognised and universal system of data archive standard has provided the basis for certification of repositories using the CoreTrustSeal accreditation.