Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society

It’s always a delight to see society’s make their publications open access, and hopefully it paves the way for other groups. The decision to upload volumes after ten years strikes me as a sensible approach.

CBA North

Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society

The Archaeology Data Service and the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society have announced the release of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Transactions archive.

For further details of this are on the ADS website, see http://dx.doi.org/10.5284/1032950  Here you will find all of the Transactions volumes published from 1874 up to 2006, with the years 2007-2014 articles available in abstract form.

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Ex Historia 7

The latest volume of Ex Historia was published today, and is available for free through the University of Exeter’s website. First published in 2009, it is run by post-graduate students at Exeter, and accepts submissions from around the country. The journal is entirely online, which cuts down on costs, but laid out like a print journal like the Scottish Archaeological Internet Reports.

For the last two volumes I have helped out as a subject editor, and it’s been a rewarding process to see the finished work. From my point of view it’s good to read about something other than castles and practice feedback skills. Compared to the amount of time I spend on other work, it doesn’t take very long.

Once the subject editors have given the articles a once over they’re sent of to experts for thorough review. So if you have a research paper you’d like feedback on, or have a book review in mind, I strongly recommend getting in touch with the Ex Historia team when they put out a call for papers latter in the year.

Now go ahead and check the journal out.

Archaeology and the question of open access

This time last year I was in the middle of a ‘survey of relevant literature’ for my PhD. What that really meant was browsing every journal I could lay my hands on to track down articles which discussed castle slighting. It was a task which spanned months. There’s a lot to be said for hard copies and I find it much easier to read the printed word for extended periods than a screen. But when you are searching article titles to see which ones merit further investigation, digital is so much easier.

It is all about open access.

In short, open access means making content available to as many people as possible. The Archaeology Data Service leads the way in this area, making journals, monographs, and even excavation reports accessible. It can be used by the general public, archaeology professionals, or academics and researchers. A few months ago, English Heritage worked with the ADS to make 80 high-quality monographs available through the service. From their website, you can access back issues of Medieval ArchaeologyThe Archaeological JournalProceedings of The Society of Antiquaries of ScotlandSurrey Archaeological Collections, and many more.

Open access is not uniform. At one point I was keeping track of whose journals were available online and whose weren’t. I contacted a couple of societies, asking if they planned to digitise their catalogue. The answer was that while they hoped the journals could be made available digitally, the process was time consuming and by implication expensive.

Some societies, such as the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, opt to host their content themselves. I’m not sure of the reason for choosing this over using the ADS, but it may be because it is easier to control how the content is delivered that way. While I would like to see a central place where people looking for open access journals can go to find information, the important thing is that the research is available in the first place. A straightforward Google search is often enough to flush out open access journals, but Open Access Archaeology has a search function which makes browsing easy.

This means that we should celebrate the lengths some organisations have gone to to make their contents freely available online.

Sites such as Research Gate and Academia allow authors to self-archive their work. The University of Exeter stipulates that a copy of any research published while you are a student there must be deposited in Open Exeter Research. I’m pleased that my university has adopted the policy. Pragmatically, making your research open access – whether as an individual researcher or an learned organisation that has been around for 150 year – makes it far more likely that it will be picked up by others and influence their work. If you want to make a difference, you need to put your research out there. My experience is that open access helps young researchers, especially those who might have limited time such as myself. The economics behind it are interesting, but not something I’m really familiar with. What I do know, is that without open access I would not only have taken much longer to get to the current stage in my research, but that there are some sources which would have essentially remained out of my reach.

Castles without borders

For a long time I’ve felt that the Gatehouse Gazetteer gives those researching castles an unfair advantage over people in other fields. Philip Davis has done an excellent job on creating bibliographies for every castle, fortified manor house, and fortified church in England and Wales (as well as including rejected sites). The more I’ve learnt about castles, the more important I’ve found this resource to be, not least because it includes links to sources where they are online. Cathcart King’s Castellarium Anglicanum was an index of castles in England and Wales and included key bibliographic items, but print format limits your space. Now everyone can build on that work thanks to Davis and his website.

The Internet has a very important role to play in the exchange of information and breaking down borders. While online translating tools such as Google translate are imperfect, they often let you get the jist of what’s going on and communicate to an extent. The only language I’m fluent in is English, which means a wealth of information about fascinating sites would otherwise be closed to me. Through books such as M W Thompson’s Rise of the Castle I can learn about trends in places such as France, or with Barker and Higham’s Timber Castles even further afield. But excavation reports about individual sites are rarely translated.

A castle on top of a hill

Marksburg Castle in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Image by Tomislav Medak CC-BY 2.0.

All this means that the other week I was able to email the European Castles Institute (Europäisches Burgeninstitut) to ask them a question relating to my research. They’ve been very helpful and have pointed me towards a few potentially useful sources, and brought my attention to a wonderful illustration from a medieval manuscript which I intend to use in my thesis.

I don’t think I was aware of the Institute until a couple of weeks ago, partly because they are based in Germany. In fairness, the website of both the Castle Studies Group and Castle Studies Trust link to the institution and promote other organisations. The CSG newsletter even includes news from across Europe. My interest was piqued by the scope of ECI so I started exploring their website a bit. Importantly they have a database which covers nine countries: Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Netherlands, and Slovakia. It looks to be fully searchable online, which potentially makes it a very powerful tool, and there’s a notice on the site saying that it is regularly updated. It’s interesting to see that France and the UK aren’t included. I don’t know what the reasons are; I sincerely hope that the database keeps expanding as the Gatehouse Gazetteer has been so useful. Collections of data can only be a benefit as it gives researchers hard facts and figures on which to base analysis.

Journals such as Chateau Gaillard do a fine job of drawing together papers from across Europe, as does their bi-annual conference. I hope to attend at some point, but the fact I’m not fluent in other languages limits how much I might get out of it. Hopefully the works found in Chateau Gaillard and the availability of the database of castles in nine European countries means there is scope for exchanging information and approaches between languages.

On the other hand, the European Castles Institute are based in Philippsburg Castle, and the German Castles Association which owns the ECI is itself based in Marksburg (pictured at the top of this page). I’m not jealous, I just don’t think it’s fair they get two castles and I don’t have even one yet.

Long Live the Monograph – archaeology and e-books

In the closing months of 2012 the Centre for Applied Archaeology at the University of Salford published a monograph on the excavations at Buckton Castle. I had been involved with several seasons of the digging there and was fascinated by the site. I wrote about it in a first-year essay, am still writing about it now in my post-graduate research, and in 2012 I was one of three authors of the final volume of the Archaeology of Tameside series. I was delighted to learn that not only was there an e-book, which is important in making the information accessible to a wide audience, but that the first chapter would be free to access. The post summarises the situation nearly two years ago. Progress is slow, and while English Heritage announced at the end of 2014 that they were making PDFs of 84 of their out-of-print monographs there is still a huge amount of information out there which can be difficult or expensive to access if your local library doesn’t have what you need. Digital copies of monographs and journals are integral to helping the spread of information.

archaeologyuos

From the 1st May 2013 the Centre for Applied Archaeology at the University of Salford will be offering publications such as this, on Buckton Castle, in e-book form. From the 1st May 2013 the Centre for Applied Archaeology at the University of Salford will be offering publications such as this, on Buckton Castle, in e-book form.

The rise of electronic publication is one of the more striking cultural shifts of the last decade. Supported by better quality screens and new personal data-devices such as smart phones, tablets, and e-book readers it is now normal to see commuters on trams, trains, and buses with their noses in the latest fiction e-book. Most universities have electronic data stores of academic research, whilst e-journals pioneered the introduction of this technology within academia.

Archaeology as a discipline has been slow to take up this technology, beyond the e-journal market and the pressures of the publishing houses. Thus, nearly a decade ago one of the period archaeology societies I have been involved with at a committee level for many years was approached by…

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