Prescot Street has given us a great opportunity to showcase one of L – P’s digital projects, ARK (the Archaeological Recording Kit). I have been working on a number of different ARKs that are being used on projects around the world – so it is very nice to be working on one that we are using for our own project.

One of the overriding aims of ARK is to allow projects to decide exactly what they want to record and the way in which they want to record. The recording system that we are using at Prescot Street is a very ‘standard’ recording system, and is based on the Museum of London single context recording system. What this means is that we have a sophisticated paper recording system – which is really a database in itself (and was developed before archaeological projects were even using computerised databases). This paper record will eventually get deposited with the Museum of London and if anyone is interested in following up the primary record – then they can go through all of the paper sheets and recreate the excavation.

However, it is much easier if this paper system is digitised – enabling the computer to take over the process of flicking through thousands of bits of paper. My job therefore is to transfer this paper recording system into ARK and to put it online so that the ‘paper’ record can be searched by anyone who is interested.

An essential reason for having the Prescot Street data online is that external specialists (such as the pottery or faunal specialists) can directly interact with the database and add their information as the analysis proceeds. Being web-based it means that specialists do not have to have direct access to the server and can do it from the comfort of their own PC – indeed I am writing this from our Cambridge office. The online data is continually being updated and changed and it is all happening real-time.

By using a internet-based system we can also do all sorts of fancy things with mapping and GIS and site photographs and pie-charts and Google Earth and RSS feeds and Web Services and Flickr and Facebook and YouTube… well, the possibilities are really endless… except that someone has to program it all!

We are really only just scraping the surface of the possibilities of ARK and if anyone has any feedback – or indeed is interested in using ARK for their own sites – then feel free to drop me a line.