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Reflect further (Optional)

Archiving and Ethics in Digital Reconstructions

As you create your project, you should keep in mind that at the end of the project, it should be archived. In the UK, this may be with an accredited digital repository like the Archaeology Data Service, or an institution-based archive. It’s important to note that an archive is not the same thing as a digital backup, nor have you archived your reconstruction by making it available online via Sketchfab or another webpage. An archival service ensures that your datasets are kept up-to-date, especially in terms of file formats. This service costs a certain amount of money, often dependant on the size of the dataset. Along with your dataset, archives expect both records of your digital files’ paradata and metadata.


As mentioned in Exercise 1 and described more fully in Exercise 2, alterations or decisions that are made in the process of creating a reconstruction need to be recorded as paradata. As a refresher, this should/could include the following:

The London Charter established internationally recognised principles for best practice on the use of computer-based visualisation by researchers, educators and cultural heritage organisations; paradata is emphasised in Principle 4: Documentation. While undoubtedly there are some research aims that require each deleted pixel to be justified, Watterson (2015, 120) makes the salient point that a certain amount of subjectivity is already an accepted and essential component of archaeological interpretation. With the recent push towards open access to original datasets, this may become less of a concern as the original dataset is available for direct comparison against the reconstruction, as long as paradata is still provided and the reconstruction is archived appropriately. Other resources provided below highlight other issues to keep in mind when justifying our reconstructions, including cultural relativism (Ross 2017, 146). While some would argue that ‘As long as the modeller is honest with the data used and the conclusions drawn, there can be no criticism of the process (Jones 2012, 108)’, we should go one step further and criticise our own processes throughout the creation of the reconstruction.

Think and respond (optional): How will you make your paradata available? Will you use a diary or blog format as Kastanis has, or simply list your sources as Plaskin has for the reconstruction of Nefertari’s tomb? Will you use a pro-forma report, providing only the basic information? Will you add attributes to the 3D item itself? What are the main benefits of the approach you have chosen?


As discussed in ‘Reading and Understanding the Metadata Report’, metadata is information that describes your data to ensure its reusability and preservation. While the information that you provide will differ from the Malthi Laser scan metadata report you examined in Exercise 1, you will find that there are many similarities in the types of information required. As you can see from the Archaeology Data Service’s Guides to Good Practice, they list three types of metadata that you will need to provide:

For your Project-Level Metadata, you may want to include contextual information about the site of Malthi and the ongoing work by Dr Rebecca Worsham and Dr Michael Lindblom, the purpose of the original laser scan data, and the aims of your reconstruction project. Your Resource-Level Metadata will include the source of the original laser scan data (note that Zenodo provides a DOI link for these), the map of the tiles you created to break up the original dataset, or the bibliographic references used in the project. Finally, the File-Level Metadata will include the technical information regarding what types of files are included in the project (including individual components, ie. the ‘archive’ versions of your laser scan tiles from the end of Exercise 1). The Archaeology Data Service, like most digital repositories, provides templates for broad data categories to guide the structure of your metadata before depositing the data with them. They also highlight the preferred archival format for 3D assets, OBJ.

You may notice that some of the Archaeology Data Service webpages mention ‘Linked Open Data’. While this resource will not get into the specifics about this, Linked Open Data involves publishing machine-readable data using shared terminology and structures online to link them to other related resources and datasets. This makes datasets more discoverable and more ‘Open’. Dublin Core has developed a standardised terminology that is used in metadata to ensure consistency and interoperability. Europeana, one of the European Commission’s Digital Service Infrastructures, is bringing together digitised collections from libraries, museums, and archives from across Europe ‘to make it easier for institutions to share their collections online effectively, to improve the quality of data and content shared with Europeana, and to empower cultural heritage institutions to build their capacity for digital transformation’ (Europeana 2021).

Try it yourself! Download the ‘3D Models, Visualisation and Virtual Reality’ template from the Archaeology Data Service. How much of the template is relevant to your project and its individual components? Try filling in the template with the information about each of your OBJ exports from Exercise 1 and the normal maps generated during Exercise 3. Did naming your files sensibly make this easier to describe and contextualise? Is there any metadata that you thought was important, but could not find a suitable category for it in the template? Have you utilised any of the Dublin Core terminology in your metadata? How does your metadata entry for the reconstruction itself differ from the OBJ component entries?

Further reading:

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