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ABINGDON ARCHAEOLOGICAL GEOPHYSICS

 

 

 

Historic England

 The latest reorganisation of Historic England appears to have been more drastic than most. The problem is that, unlike the Beeching railway cuts, there has been no press release or publicity and the archaeology magazines may be reluctant to use a bad news story in fear of alienating contributors upon whom they depend.

They have stopped (Spring 2018) updating the Pastscape system which mapped the location of known archaeology. They say that they are leaving it to the local authority Historic Environment Records to put some details of sites onto the Heritage Gateway system. Moving from a single system to dozens of local systems when archaeological sites often don't respect County boundaries should have been the subject of a proper consultation, but has been done quietly. They say they have plans for a better system. The same logic would have the government closing the London to Leeds railway line whilst they are arranging a better replacement.

We are still finding things which they have dropped. Oblique air photos used to be on open shelf access in the Historic England Records centre in Swindon - now you have to order them hours in advance. At the same time Cambridge University have (22 February  2019) announced that they are making digital versions of their air photos available - when the Historic England Records Centre has been doing this for years.

There is a system for putting archaeological reports online. First you go to the Historic England OASIS system and answer lots of questions (metadata) about the site. Then you upload the report to the Archaeology Data service who, once it has had some checking, put it on their Grey literature library. The complexity of the arrangements may be a way of preventing people getting Civil Service pensions.

Historic England has the ability to set the metadata questions to make sure that all reports comply with the relevant guidance in order to get into that system - but this appears not to have been done.

Similarly Historic England has information about thousands of sites in a format which can be searched in many ways, which could be really useful for researchers. For some reason this isn't available to the general public. A small geophysics part of the system has been made public at:- https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/ehgsdb_eh_2011/