University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Marine Digital Data Archiving with MEDIN : Measure once, use many times
Tom Dommett

Last modified: 2011-12-19


A significant issue currently facing the field of marine archaeology is that of archiving.  Over recent years Wessex Archaeology has played an important role in developing the methodologies applied to marine archaeological investigations, and marine archaeology now routinely generates substantial quantities of digital data in various forms: bathymetric, geophysical (sidescan sonar; magnetometer; sub-bottom profiler); photographic (video; stills), interpretive and so on.  Archiving strategies have not developed to accommodate either the expansion of the sector or the changing nature of the digital products, and the long-term preservation of these large datasets in a sustainable and discoverable format remains problematic, often reliant on local or county archives and museums with variable requirements and storage capacities and whose remit only extends to mean low water.


Meanwhile, growth in the Marine sector as a whole presents considerable opportunities in terms of data sharing.  A wide range of commercial, institutional and government organisations – Marine Scotland, CEFAS, JNCC, Natural England, BGS and the UKHO to name a few – are actively involved in acquiring seabed and sub-seabed data around the UK for non-archaeological purposes such as navigation or biological monitoring.  These data are capable recycled for use by marine surveyors and scientists from a variety of different fields, including archaeologists, but the lack of a reliable approach to data archiving and absence of facilities for data discovery and acquisition hamper their re-use


The creation of the Marine Environment Data Information Network (MEDIN) promises to offer both a solution to the issues of marine data archiving, and an opportunity to open up access to a range of datasets and coordinate data acquisition.  Wessex Archaeology has been involved in a number of projects contributing towards the development of MEDIN, which focuses on the principle of “measure once, use many times”.  MEDIN has established a network of data archiving centres (DACs) to provide secure, long-term storage for marine data from all sectors, and data discovery facilities based on the MEDIN Discovery Metadata Standard to support ease of access and re-use of the data. This paper will outline the evolution and future trajectory of MEDIN; its implications for marine archaeology investigations and data archiving strategies throughout the UK; and the practicalities of preparing, archiving and accessing large marine datasets with DACs.