by Martin Newman
The Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) is a professional institute for the study and care of the historic environment in the United Kingdom. The Institute’s annual conference was held in Torquay in England from the 7th to 9th April 2009 and saw a session to launch a new Information Management special interest group of the Institute. The new group is aimed at those working with historic environment data/information management, computing and informatics. This first event showcased a wide range of current projects and recent developments.
It’s not just potsherds and bones any more. Information management is integral to modern archaeological practice. Photo: Edmund Lee.
The session opened with a paper by Edmund Lee titled 'Everything We Know Informs Everything We Do': A Vision for Information Management. This set the scene for the papers that followed by examining the current state of historic environment information management in theoretical terms as well as looking at what needs to be undertaken to make information management central to good practice. There then followed a series of case studies. Jay Carver looked at multidisciplinary working for the Highways Agencies Cultural Heritage Management Plan which is drawing together datasets from a range of partners. Guy Hunt's paper concerned digital data creation on site, using a developer funded site as a test bed for approaches and how theoretical approaches could be adapted to produce a hybrid system that worked in a practical environment. Mike Middleton and Susan Casey considered the impact of the INSPIRE directive and presented the preliminary findings of a study of the spatial depiction of heritage objects looking at spatial data quality and the current state of polygonisation in Scotland. David Thomas and Tom Pert talked about a major National Assembly for Wales supported initiative Csgliad y Bobl - the Peoples Collection, which is creating an online archive illustrating Welsh History using photographs, documents and film. The theme of online access continued with a sobering look at usability testing, with Cat Cload presenting a case study using the Heritage Gateway, a web portal for historic environment data managed by the National Monuments Record at English Heritage that uses web services to create interoperability between datasets from differing sources (www.heritagegateway.org.uk). The final paper of the session also dealt with access via a portal. Dan Hull and Stuart Jeffrey presented a web services case study, HEIRNET the Historic Environment Information Network. The session also included the group's Annual General Meeting with the election of a committee. Versions of these presentations will be published in the first edition of the group’s newsletter, and future events are planned including a joint meeting with the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH). It is hoped that the group will foster links between archaeologists involved in managing information and those working in information technology. Further information about the IfA Information Management Special Interest Group including membership is available on the IfA’s website.
National Monuments Record, English Heritage, UK