"Culture 2000" European Programme


Archaeological Records of Europe - Network Access. Extending Online Access and Digital Preservation of European Archaeological Archives

Ref. No. 430 CLT2001/ action: 2

Period: 3 years (Dec. 2001 - Nov. 2004)


Project Coordinator:

United Kingdom - Archaeology Data Service (ADS), York Universitity (Jon Kenny, ARENA European Project Officer; contact: Julian Richards) (http://ads.ahds.ac.uk)


Denmark - National Agency for Cultural Heritage, Copenhagen (contact: Henrik Jarl Hansen) (http://www.kuas.dk);
Islands - The Institute of Archaeology [Fornleifastofnun lslands], Reykavik (contact: Orri Vésteinsson) (http://www.instarch.is/english.htm);

Norway - The Museum Project, Oslo University (contact: Jon Holman) (http://www.muspro.uio.no/engelsk-omM.shtml )

Poland - Poznan Archaeological Museum (contact: Andrzej Prinke) (http://www.muzarp.poznan.pl);
Romania - cIMeC - Institute for Cultural Memory, Bucharest (contact: Irina Oberländer-Târnoveanu) (http://www.cimec.ro)

Description of aims and activities:

    Promoting elements of the heritage concerned.
    Organising research projects, projects to raise the public's awareness and to teach and disseminate knowledge.

Organisation of initiatives for exchange of experience and the further training of professionals.

   Description of the activity:

   It is intended to develop a programme of European seminars and workshops on the preservation and promotion of digital cultural heritage data. At the workshop on "New Information Technologies for Managing the European Archaeological Heritage" held under the Raphael Programme in Sevilla in June 2000 participants from 16 European countries called upon the European Commission to provide financial support for "the establishment and maintenance of multilingual information resources and electronic communications networks to disseminate information such as: guides to good practice, existing national and regional practices for heritage information management..., metadata approaches and standards for the interoperability of archaeological geographic information systems." The current bid unites some of the key European stakeholders in implementing this proposal.


To allow the partners to share and extend their existing expertise and experience
To make expertise and experience gained through the project available to all European countries
To develop and promote digital archival file format and metadata standards and communications protocols
To identify areas where there is a need for Guides to Good Practice, to translate existing Guides, and to seek to develop projects for the creation and promotion of new Guides

Target Group:

   There is an urgent need to raise awareness of the fragility of digital data and to promote actions which secure its long term future amongst all European countries. This action will be aimed at the partners themselves and at other European bodies with a responsibility for the preservation of archaeological archives.

   Indicative Timetable: In order to maximise attendance and benefit workshops and seminars will, where possible, be added to the agenda of existing meetings of European archaeologists. Where possible the Project Management Board will also meet as part of the same event.

April 2002 International Computer Applications in Archaeology Conference, Crete: 1st meeting of project partners
June 2002 2nd meeting of project partners, Copenhagen
Sept 2002 EAA Conference, Thessaloniki; 3nd meeting; European workshop on digital data preservation
Jan/Feb 2003 4th meeting of project partners
April 2003 CAA Conference; 5th meeting; workshop/seminar
Sept 2003 EAA Conference, St Petersburg; 6th meeting; workshop/seminar
Jan/Feb 2004 7th meeting of project partners
April 2004 CAA Conference; 8th meeting; workshop/seminar
Sept 2004 EAA Conference, Cracow; 9th meeting; workshop/seminar
Nov 2004 10th (Final) meeting of project partners

Expected Results:

   It is hoped that this action will raise awareness of digital archiving, will promote standards and interoperability at a European level and will provide a prototype framework for a European archaeological archiving network.

Promoting elements of the heritage concerned.

   Description of the activity: Each of the partners is responsible for the protection and promotion of significant archaeological archives of national and international importance; several are also responsible for the maintenance of national computerised registers of sites and monuments. The ADS Digital Archiving Pilot Project for Excavation Records (DAPPER) project, funded by English Heritage, demonstrated that by making archives available online and providing appropriate documentation it was possible to enhance accessibility and ensure the long term preservation of the data. Whereas a recent survey published in the European Journal of Archaeology (Hedley and Swain 1999) found that, on average, traditional museum archives received less than 20 visits per year, the DAPPER online archive for the Eynsham Abbey excavations has already received more than 6000 visits. As part of the cooperation agreement the partners will identify and make a number of key archaeological archives and cultural heritage data sets available to the profession and the general public. These will be selected for international significance and wide European public interest. Particular emphasis will be given to themes where the partners have a critical mass of archives relating to a particular period or European culture, such as Viking expansion and colonisation.


To allow the partners to develop and share expertise in the protection and promotion of digital archives
To promote this expertise amongst other European agencies
To promote scholarly and public access to selected digital archive data sets and archaeological texts of international significance

Target Group:

   The first two objectives are aimed at archiving professionals but in the long term they will benefit the scholarly community and general public by allowing archives to gain experience in the management, preservation, and dissemination of digital data. The third objective will have the direct and immediate result of promoting scholarly and public to some key cultural heritage data archives. The project will be developed so as to ensure that standards and methods are extensible to other cultural disciplines. The ADS works closely with its sister archiving services in Performing Arts and Visual Arts, and CIMEC also works with other categories of data. A specific role of the Visual Arts and Performing Arts Data Services will be to provide advice on how far technologies may be transferable to related sub-disciplines.

Indicative Timetable:

Jan 2002- Project planning
Apr/May 2002 Identification of key digital archives
June 2002- Preparation and documentation of archives, using SGML/XML (see Action4)
Apr 2003 EAA Conference; launch of on-line archives
Oct 2003- Evaluation of user feedback and preparation of project report
Nov 2004 Final meeting of project partners; plans for future enhancement

Expected Results:

   This action will provide direct experience of the preparation and documentation of digital archives for each of the project partners. It will also promote the use of digital data amongst the scholarly community and will enable public access to the results of archaeological fieldwork of international significance.

The adapted and innovative use of new technologies, to the benefit of participants, users and the general public.

Description of the activity:

   Archaeological data always has a geospatial component in that the location and various attributes of sites, monuments or finds can be mapped according to their geospatial coordinates. Many of the partners already have some experience in the use of map-based searching and web-delivered clickable maps. At the National Museum of Denmark the DKC has provided an interactive map-based web site since 1997; the ADS has also provided map-based searching of its web-based catalogue. This provides an intuitive interface to cultural data, for academic, professional and public audiences. The interest of the general public in cultural information is promoted by allowing them to ask questions of the type "What was found in this location?… in my village?… in my town?… in my region?". Such spatial interfaces are particularly important at European level, where a true understanding and appreciation of past cultures and societies (such as Celts, Romans, Slavs, Vikings etc) depends upon map-based searches which transcend modern political boundaries.

   In addition there is a need for the emerging European digital archives to develop interoperability (see (4)) so that collections relating to single themes or specific areas held in more than one physical location can be searched simultaneously. For example, the ADS curates digital archives relating to fieldwork conducted by UK-based archaeologists in several other European countries. The project will investigate mechanisms for archival transfers between partners, but will also seek to develop interoperability such that, for example, the distributed archives relating to the archaeology of any regions or countries can be located by cross-searching several catalogues.


To share experience and expertise in the development of map-based interfaces to archaeological records
To implement map-based searching at several of the project partners
To investigate the implementation of a common map-base for searching at a transnational scale, including copyright and coordinate system issues
To develop a system of interoperable map-based searching which allows users to cross-search the archives of several partners, with an easy to use and intuitive user-interface, for public use.

Target Group:

   The common map-based interface will be aimed at the general user without the detailed for specialist archaeological knowledge, and will provide a key means of promoting the use of online archival material within and also beyond the scholarly community.

Indicative Timetable:

Apr 2002- Identification of web-based mapping technologies to be employed
Jun 2002- Development of map-based searching at each partner
Sept 2002 Resolution of geospatial co-ordinate system conversion issues
Jan/Feb 2003 Identification of a shared map-base, or alternative strategies
Apr 2004 CAA Conference: launch of an interoperable map-based searching system
Nov 2004 Final meeting of project partners; plans for future enhancement

Expected Results:

   The partners will develop existing expertise for map-based searching for archaeological information, and will open this out for public use. They will investigate and implement technologies for interoperable map-based searching.

Organising research projects, projects to raise the public's awareness and to teach and disseminate knowledge.

Description of the activity:


   Over recent years there have been several standards initiatives (the Dublin core standard, XML, and Z39.50 communications protocols) which together will allow better integration and interoperability of European digital archives. The EC Aquarelle Project helped develop Z39.50 systems and proved the concept, but did not lead to the implementation of any working systems. Dublin Core metadata has been recommended by several Governments; the AHDS and ADS have been key players in promoting it amongst the arts and humanities communities. There has also much interest in the use of XML (an SGML derived mark-up language) for tagging digital archive objects and using it for web delivery, and the Norwegian Museum Project has extensive experience in the application of SGML/XML to archaeological archives. To achieve full interoperability there is also a need to apply multilingual thesauri. The National Museum of Denmark was a lead partner in the Council of Europe project to develop a Bronze Age thesaurus; this has been published, but has not yet been implemented. Under this action the partners will build on each of these initiatives and will work together using the online archives created under Action 2 to develop interoperability. This is in turn a necessary stage to achieving the spatial interoperability for public access to be developed under Action 3.


To agree metadata standards for the description of cultural archives
To investigate the use of multilingual thesauri in cross-searching
To implement base level interoperability using http protocols and SGML/XML amongst all partners
To implement high level interoperability using Z39.50 protocols and SGML/XML or other emerging technologies amongst some partners
To create a framework for a European Archaeological Archives web-based portal

Target Group:

   Common access to distributed European archives will be of benefit both to the scholarly community, and the wider general public with an interest in their shared European archaeological heritage.

Indicative Timetable:

Jan 2002- Project planning
Apr/May 2002 Identification of key technologies to be used for interoperability
Jun 2002 Resolution of metadata and multilingual issues
Oct 2002- Development of cross-searching using http protocols and SGML/XML
Jan/Feb 2003 Confirmation of partners to implement Z39.50 interoperability
Sept 2003 EAA Conference; launch of the ARENA interoperable gateway
Oct 2003- Evaluation of user feedback and preparation of project report
April 2004 CAA Conference; presentation of paper on technical aspects of project
Nov 2004 Final meeting of project partners; plans for future enhancement

Expected Results:

   This action will enable interoperable access to distributed archives from the ARENA: European heritage web portal. It is important to stress that this is not another gateway to web-sites, such as ARGE (the Archaeological Resource Guide to Europe). Gateways such as ARGE rely on a centrally held database of web sites, which must be continually updated to maintain currency. The Z39.50 portal will link to distributed target databases which can be updated by their host institutions. Thus the project is both sustainable beyond its funded life span, and extensible, as there is no technical limit on the number of targets that can be linked.

Contact: Irina Oberländer-Târnoveanu
e-mail: irina@cimec.ro

Romanian translation: Vlad Oberländer-Târnoveanu

Last update: 24 April 2002