CAAUK 2018 Edinburgh – Part 4

Posted on November 27, 2019


The last of the CAAUK videos:

Twenty years after. Challenges and successes in digital archiving

The following paper provides a reflective historiography on the ongoing work of the Archaeology Data Service (ADS), the only accredited UK digital archive for archaeological data. As the organisation moves past its twentieth year the landscape it inhabits has changed considerably. At a practical level archives are now bigger, more varied (encompassing both research and development-led sources) and composed of more ‘complex’ data-types than previously encountered. Within a wider context, the concepts around what a data archive should be and do have changed significantly: the growth of the Open Access movement, the increased necessity and requirement to provide or aggregate data with national and international partners, the concept of data as a citable publication/output, and the responsibilities that come with peer-accreditation of digital repositories.

Against this backdrop the ADS has continued to rise to any challenges, and to persevere to develop and adhere to best practice in order to stay true to its founding principles of providing free access to digital materials in perpetuity. This paper aims to share with the audience some of these challenges so as to provide insight and understanding about what the ADS do, and why we do it. The paper also outlines some of the problems and opportunities on the horizon, and presents a self-critical yet optimistic perspective on how the ADS can continue to improve and best serve its community of users.

Tim Evans

Adventures in Open Data

The Open Data Strategy was published by the Scottish Government in 2015. The Strategy sets out an ambition for making public sector data open and available for others to use and re-use. In promoting Open Data, the Scottish Government recognize that Making data Open offers a number of benefits including improved public services and wider social and economic benefits through innovative use of the data.

As with other initiatives such as the INSPIRE Directive, the strategy focuses solely on information created by the Public Sector. It does not address the symbiotic relationship of those who create and use data with those who curate the data. Adoption of an Open Data approach offers significant benefits to everyone in the data life cycle improving both access to and re-use of data. The paper will review the tentative steps towards making data from the National Record of the Historic Environment available as Open Data. It will highlight where to find that data and illustrate some of the potential benefits to end-users of that data including data downloads and remote access of spatial data through web services and accessing controlled terminologies, including thesauri and the recently published work on Scottish Archaeological Periods and Ages. Progress will be benchmarked against Tim Benners-Lee’s 5-star Open Data scheme.

However there is much more the sector can do collaboratively. In offering a critique of the inefficiencies of persisting with established analogue approaches to handling data, case studies will highlight the benefits of adopting an Open Data approach across the heritage sector.

Alex Adamson, Peter McKeague

“The joys of upgrading!” Or, lessons learned from a simple upgrade

This paper follows on from the New Systems for Old and Into the Field with Intrasis CAA UK papers given in 2009 and 2011, where we at Fort Cumberland first explained how we chose and implemented our digital recording system. The world of digital recording doesn’t stand still – we recently upgraded our decade-old off-the-shelf software (Intrasis) to the latest version, incorporating a partial revision of our data template and a wholesale replacement of associated hardware, and thought we’d share our new findings with anyone contemplating a similar task with any of the currently available systems on the market. Our goals were driven by the increased potential to empower users to do more with their data, and included keeping our system current, exploiting a number of significant software improvements, and getting ready for wireless networking as a precursor to true “trench-side” digital recording.

Fundamental changes to the new software presented challenges migrating existing databases, and also caused us to re-evaluate some of our existing working practices and most of our training materials to match the new interface – activities that were probably long overdue. There was a cost in terms of highly-skilled staff time to carry out the upgrade and revise both materials and procedures, a new training cost for existing staff, and a cost in terms of project management that are all additional to the headline costs of actual software and hardware, and also are additional to the normal running cost of the system. Using our specific example with Intrasis, the aim of this paper is to highlight the broad processes and key issues that will confront anyone trying to maintain a complex digital recording system over the long term so they can plan effectively. It should be of interest to developers, users, and managers alike.

Tom Cromwell

Using GIS to Understand Climate Change Risk in the Historic Environment

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has duties under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 that require it to contribute to climate change adaptation. HES is key to the delivery of Climate Ready Scotland: Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme. HES has planned an informed and pragmatic approach to recognising and understanding the risks, and opportunities, that a changing climate presents the historic environment with. This includes understanding the risk and impacts of climate change on our own estate of 336 Properties in Care of Scottish Ministers.

Our approach to identifying ‘at risk’ sites on our estate has been shaped by working in close partnership with other organisations, including the British Geological Survey and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. This collaborative project provided an opportunity for public sector bodies to bring together scientific data and technological innovation in order to devise a new methodology that aims to identify the effects of Climate Change on Scotland’s historic environment.

Existing spatial data from these organisations was compiled and managed in a Geographic Information System (GIS) Project using ESRI ArcGIS 10.1 software. The datasets contained information on susceptibility, probability and scale for natural hazards such as coastal erosion and flooding. By combining this data with spatial data pertaining to our own estate we have been able to develop a screening tool for natural hazards that has been able to inform the most thorough risk assessment carried out to date on HES’ Properties in Care. By screening for natural hazards we have been able to identify the properties we believe to be most at risk from future climate change, as the severity and occurrence rates of natural hazards, such as flooding, is intrinsically linked to climate variables such as precipitation.

The results of this initial assessment are already informing conservation and maintenance through our Asset Management Plan and Investment Plan (2018). By building in climate change risk to strategic planning, we are increasing the inherent resilience of the historic environment to cope with altering environmental and climatic conditions, helping to safeguard it for future generations.

David Harkin, Mairi Davies, Emily Tracey

Flexibility and efficiency

When it comes to Archaeology, there are different approaches to information and data collection. There can be structure or anarchy. Structure is represented by formalized data collection down to every point. Anarchy on the other side is characterized by a lack of rules and the documentation becomes individual, based on knowledge, archaeological questions, number of staff etc.

Intrasis stands for something else, that we can call Structured Anarchy, where you actually can have both approaches. It’s the project managers who decide. Once you have decided which information to store, you can always reuse the settings you have made or alter it for different project approaches. Due to the flexibility of Intrasis, and the structured data model, your data always allows the same type of output, analysis by Wizards etc. Intrasis capability to store data from different disciplines, all according to the needs of each specialist, also makes it truly inter-disciplinary.

Intrasis is a combined database and GIS, especially designed for archaeology. It is used throughout the whole excavation process, from import of survey and input of archaeological data, through analysis, to layouts of maps for the report. You use the same software for all projects and that is how it will be an efficient tool that everyone easily gets familiar with.

We will in this paper show how Intrasis can be used in projects with different approaches, excavation methods or goals.

Karin Lund, Jane Jansen

Studying Animal Mummies: An exploration of non-invasive surface and content recording techniques

This paper discusses the application of non-invasive imaging modalities to a selection of ancient Egyptian animal mummies and associated votive artefacts from the Manchester Museum collection. The pilot study had four main objectives: 1) to assess the viability of photogrammetry as a surface recording medium for research and digital display, 2) to assess the possibility of generating end-process data of sufficient quality for engagement and the remote study of collections, 3) to determine the viability of photogrammetry datasets for 3D printing applications, and 4) to investigate the potential of merging data acquired through CT scanning with surface scanning data for visualisation purposes.

A replicable photogrammetry methodology using readily available equipment and basic consumables is outlined, highlighting the accessibility of the technique as a research tool for museums, heritage professionals and volunteers, many of whom have limited resources and for fragile artefacts which cannot be excessively handled. The methodology was designed to be adaptable, enabling modification dependent on size and observing any conservation concerns over the condition of the artefact being studied. The clinical radiographic methodology for the study of animal mummies will be described and the potential for merging comparable datasets will be investigated as a means of making these fragile artefacts accessible to visitors and researchers.

The results of the pilot will be discussed, showcasing the accessibility of non-invasive research methods available to study ancient mummified remains.

Lidija M. McKnight, Lee Robert McStein

Comparing modes of digital engagement for archaeological sites & their dissemination

The scale in which it is possible to record, archive and interpret archaeological and historical data has qualitatively increased due to the capabilities and capacities of available creative technology tools. This access offers the possibility of better preservation, understanding and sharing of results from archaeological excavations. As part of the Tay Landscape Partnership project, we have conducted archaeological excavations at several sites across the inner Tay estuary area and have developed applications that enable engagement with new non-academic audiences. With associated data, the sites were placed back into the digital landscape.

A majority of this work has focused around engaging local communities in the excavation of Moredun Top, the location of a prominent Iron Age hillfort. In this paper we analyse our workflow for creating immersive and mobile representations of the hillfort, both as it is now and as it was in the past. Our methods enable the results of digital interpretation to be deployed and accessed in multiple use case scenarios.

We use a combination of aerial photography, photogrammetry, digital modelling and spherical photography to create digital assets which document the archaeological process, facilitate interpretation of the findings and enable wide engagement with the results. We have applied our workflow to creating digital reconstructions such as Moredun Top, as well as Pictish Forteviot and its surrounding landscape, the cityscape of Perth in 1450, and Abernethy in 1060.

Digital landscapes many kilometres in size were created within the UNREAL4 game engine. The scale that is possible in the software make it possible to provide visual context for the site location. Yet scale also possess a challenge as it requires computing facilities to render not available on modern smart phones. We address this issue by using spherical photography of the reconstruction to create media that is embedded in a virtual reality smart phone application.

David Strachan, Sophie Nicol, Catherine Anne Cassidy, Alan Miller

Integrated data management in commercial Archaeology

The continuous development of computer applications are rapidly closing the gap between raw recording of data on the field and visualisation of results. Technologies such as BIM, photogrammetry and laser scanning are becoming more and more common in Heritage related disciplines allowing to increase the quality of data modelling for analytical purposes.
Archaeology is one of the fields where these new approaches are proving to be a real asset. In Headland Archaeology we have a strong commitment to improve the way Heritage is recorded and not only for commercial purposes but also to transmit knowledge to future generations.
As we try to develop our GIS capabilities to be able to provide our clients with accurate predictive modelling analysis, assessing the potential impact of their development projects on Heritage and therefore enhancing mitigation strategies, we realised how much this approach can change the way society understands our discipline. We aim to produce high quality 3D models of our sites with all data integrated within using opensource software not only to reduce costs but having the opportunity to further develop our own plugins: QGIS and Blender.

The implementation of a GIS-based workflow eases the compilation of the results from our projects which can be imported into Blender. The latter has been upgraded from 3D modelling to GIS capabilities thanks to BlenderGIS, a plugin which allows the input of several georeferenced formats into the 3D environment. Photogrammetry models from the archaeological features recorded can then be imported into a 3D environment where the surrounding landscape can be also modelled from LiDAR data. This gave us a solid foundation to work in the visualisation of the data without losing accuracy nor making up anything that is not based in the actual archaeological data.

After this first step is set up we can work towards visualisation and 3d modelling for outreach purposes but always showing where the border between archaeological fact and virtual reconstruction stands to produce an accurate model from the past projected to the present and the future.

Rafael Maya-Torcelly

Visualising urban heritage: Dundee’s lost spaces re-imagined

In an urban environment, traces of lost built heritage lie among familiar streets and cityscapes. Telling the stories of an ever changing urban fabric while remaining connected to the current day places poses exciting challenges and opportunities for digital visualisation. Dr Alice Watterson and Dr Kieran Baxter report on their experiences of using creative practice to tackle these challenges while developing public outreach visualisations of Dundee’s built heritage. Taking a flexible approach that combines digital modelling with methods from visual effects and animation, they respond to three radically different sites within the city limits. An Iron Age hillfort that once overlooked the now urbanised landscape of the Tay Estuary, the 19th century Dundee to Newtyle Railway, and the Royal Arch that once stood at the city docks are visualised using short film and augmented reality formats. Through these examples, the relationship between creative practice and visualisation technology, and the role that these can play in heritage interpretation, will be explored.

Alice Watterson, Kieran Baxter

Posted in: Videos