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Take a look inside the archives on International Digital Preservation Day

Posted on 30 November 2017

International Digital Preservation Day, the first celebration of significant collections preserved as digital materials, is bringing together experts and institutions across the world to raise the profile of digital preservation archives.

Staff at the University of York-based Archaeology Data Service (ADS) are doing a Twitter 'take over' to mark the celebrations, tweeting about their work as they are doing it on the hashtag #ADSLive. 

The methods used in archaeological excavations often result in the physical destruction of primary evidence, which means that it is important that archaeologists create and preserve a comprehensive digital record of their research. These archives are effectively the only traces that remain of the primary evidence that others can test, assess and reanalyse in the future. 

Archaeology has increasingly adopted new digital technologies to investigate the past and is now creating digital data in vast quantities. The ADS at York, currently the only digital repository in the UK accredited with the Data Seal of Approval that specialises in preserving heritage, was established 21 years ago in response to the need for a digital archaeology depository.

Digital records, however, can also be vulnerable as hardware and software advances, making older technologies out-of-data and unreadable. Digital data therefore requires special interventions to ensure their long-term use and prevent important digital data from being lost forever. 

The archives held by the ADS include data from all over the world carried out by academic, commercial and community research projects in the UK and by UK researchers working across the globe.

Here are a few examples of the records that can be found in their digital archive:

This digitised version of a hand-painted glass slide depicts Stonehenge dating to 1895 by H.M.J. Underhill. This image can be found in the H.M.J. Underhill Project archive, which contains digitised copies of a collection of glass slides that depict the Megalithic Monuments of Great Britain.  It includes images of the famous sites of Stonehenge, Avebury, Stanton Drew and the Rollright Stones. The archive also contains glass slides depicting Romano-British city remains from Bath, Colchester, Silchester and Wroxeter and examples of vernacular architecture of European windmills. Image © University of Oxford. 


This image is a photograph of conservation work undertake on the Nave Ceiling of Peterborough Cathedral. The ceiling, erected and painted in the first half of the 13th century, is of international significance. A conservation project began in 1994 and the ADS archive contains digital reports and notes on the work as well as the digital photographs documenting the process and a database of the board-by-board survey undertaken.  Image © Peterborough Cathedral.

This is an image of the 3D model of the Grimsay Wheelhouse created using the technique of photogrammetry and part of the ACCORD project. The project was a collaboration between the Digital Design Studio at the Glasgow School of Art, the University of Manchester, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Archaeology Scotland and local community groups to co-design and co-produce 3-Dimensional digital models of heritage places and monuments. This model can be found in the ACCORD archive which contains the data from the whole project. Image © Access Archaeology, ACCORD project.

For more information on the Archaeology Data Service visit: and follow them on Twitter @ADS_update