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HERs at Large: It’s time to meet in Margaret Street

HER Forum Winter Meeting, 5th December 2012, Birmingham and Midland Institute, Margaret Street, Birmingham

(Post presentation questions and comments – in italicised type following each abstract – based on notes taken at the meeting).

Welcome from the Chair
Chris Webster, Somerset County Council

Another successful meeting at the Birmingham and Midland Institute with 60 attendees, some of whom also attended the preceding update on the Heritage Gateway. The morning started with a presentation on a project to engage the public in recording WW1 heritage to take advantage of interest in the forthcoming centenary. There was significant discussion with Emily Glass afterwards stressing the advantages of involving HERs as useful local contacts, rather that just as a dump for the data at the end of the project. This was followed by updates on the Content and Computing Survey, the Group for Local Engagement and the Underrepresented Heritages Project.
The afternoon was dominated by a panel discussion on charging for HER services. Five panellists bravely explained their charging policies followed by a great deal of audience participation. The overall position that emerged was one of uncertainty about the legal positions of various charging schemes and VAT positions with several HERs having received contradictory advice from there host authorities. The final presentation covered the enhancement of the Peterborough HER where it covered the cathedral, and the methods of distributing the results. After the close of the formal meeting, discussion continued in The Wellington for several hours.


The First World War Heritage Project
Emily Glass (University of Bristol)

The success of the HLF-funded Defence of Britain Project (1995-2002), which focused on Second World War anti-invasion remains, has demonstrated the potential for involving large numbers of people to record the archaeology of a specific 20th century militarised landscape. The resulting records were then used to inform the relevant heritage agencies at local and national levels with a further view to the future preservation of surviving structures. It is with that project in mind that: ‘The Home Front (1914-1918) and its Legacies’ project was conceived; aiming to do for First World War material remains what was done for those of the Second World War. As demonstrated by recent press and political coverage this would be a timely project with the forthcoming Centenary, and one which we hope to capitalise on through partnerships with local and national bodies.

In advance of any national project, we proposed to undertake a nine month Pilot project to inform and support a future HLF application. This Pilot is being run through the Universities of Bristol and York, with funding from English Heritage. The intention of this Pilot is to develop a methodology by which volunteers can effectively research and record traces of the First World War across two test areas: the Lea Valley in Greater NE London and Staffordshire. Both of these places were transformed as a response to the conflict and it is these changes that we intend to document and map.

The types of site that we plan to investigate and record will include Military and Civilian areas, Industrial complexes, training and transport sites, temporary camps and hospitals, internment camps, requisitioned country estates, street-shrines and wartime graves / memorials. We will also be investigating ‘event’ sites – places where notable incidents took place during the First World War, such as air-crash sites, bombings and strikes or protests. It is also our intention to record places which have disappeared since the conflict but are evidenced through a mixture of documentary sources, photographs and any oral testimony. Where available, we will also attach names of people to places and enable the social historical element to be drawn out.

An effective documentation of these sites will allow us to map the home front landscape created as a direct consequence of the country being at war. These sites will be recorded using a ‘Site Report Form’ and the information inputted into a MIDAS standard database. One of the outcomes of this project is to provide the relevant HERs with clear copies of the data produced in their areas, thus complimenting and enhancing the existing HER resource. Through the recording of sites during the Pilot there will also be the potential to inform on the current preservation condition of sites. That information will also be available to those involved in designation and management of the Historic Environment for more informed decision making.

Overall, I welcome this opportunity to present this brief overview of our Pilot project to the HER forum, and welcome any feedback or suggestions that you may have for the future, as it is through a forum such as this that we need to create a dialogue for our national level plans to work effectively.


Comment: HLF funding has been gained for a similar project in County Durham.

Comment: Funding has also been arranged for a similar scheme in Suffolk/Essex.

Question: The Defence of Britain (DoB) project, whilst giving rise to a successful and popular resource, did have some flaws. Have these been taken into account when planning this new initiative? Archiving, for example, had been particularly problematic.

Answer: Whilst acknowledging its successes in raising the awareness of particularly Second World War monuments the recording mechanisms of DoB were certainly ‘of their time’.  We recognise the shortcomings of the 1990s paper based recording system and the difficulty of assimilating this into some HERs.  This project is designed to complement and assist local initiatives and to bring local work together to create a national picture of the effect of the First World War on the Home Front.

In terms of archiving, it had been noted that some residual material from DoB related to sites of FWW origin. We are discussing if there are any ways in which this material may be accessed and made available electronically.

Comment: Returning to the question of the DoB project, this initiative had functioned differently in different areas. In Somerset (in contrast to neighbouring Devon) it had not been possible for the HER to involve itself with the data gathering process at the outset. This had given rise to problems as the initiative developed. The importance of local knowledge should be clear from the first when planning schemes of this type.

Response: It can be freely acknowledged that the best sources of information will certainly be found at the local level. The intention is to quarry relevant material from a variety of areas and emphasis is already being given to the need to closely involve HERs in the process.

Question: Has any consultation taken place concerning the outcomes of the pilot projects?

Answer: This is currently in progress.

Question: Has consideration been given to potential audiences and users?

Answer: It is envisaged that one outcome will be a clickable online map of the UK through which data can be accessed. Attention is also being given to schools. A school in Staffordshire has been contacted with a view to their being involved, in the first instance as a recording group. Due to delays, however, the project has now got out of step with the timetable for the academic year which is likely to complicate this aspect of the pilots.

Question: Are the pilots to use data standards frameworks such as MIDAS Heritage and EH thesauri?

Answer: The project is being undertaken in conjunction with EH who would be ensuring compliance in these areas.  Advice is being given by the EH Data Standards team both on the design of the recording form and thesaurus terms.

Question: Are exeGesIS being involved in the process of data-exchange?

Answer: This can be considered and might be raised at a meeting scheduled for next week. (Further response received from EG subsequent to the Forum meeting – “The meeting was focused on the overarching concept of a national First World War recording project and did not discuss the specifics of data-exchange systems. But if funding was secured it would be likely that any complex software development would probably need to go out to commercial tender”).

Comment: The involvement of exeGesIS should be included as a recommendation for the final product.

Comment: In general, data interoperability from previous initiatives of similar type has been consistently problematic. There is, therefore, a definite need to have this clearly defined and built in to the end product.

Response: Assurances have been given by EH that efforts would be made to make the data interoperable. The current plan is that the completed database would be made available by EH Heritage Data Management (HDM) in CSV format.  Further response from EG follow up - The DSU will ensure that data is interoperable.

Comment: This is something that the EH Data Standards Unit should revisit. There seems to be an apparent role here for the MIDAS XML Schema.

Response: (from Gill Grayson. Head of Heritage Data Management, English Heritage). EH Heritage Data Management will certainly be taking these comments into account in relation to the use of the schema. EH is committed to interoperability and we will follow up the concerns expressed regarding the use of CSV. 


Content and Computing Survey: Moving Forward
Sarah MacLean, English Heritage

Earlier this year we conducted the 4th HER Content and Computing Survey. 87% of HERs responded, an increase on the 2009 response rate.  This was the first year we ran the survey online and included questions on Thesauri use, data from sources outside the planning process and GIS standards and schema. We also decided to convert as many of the question to multiple choice as possible to enable better analysis of the results.

The results of the survey threw up some interesting statistics. 51% of those surveyed are recording locally listed heritage assets in comparison to only 17% of those surveyed in 2009 recording locally listed buildings. 71% of HERs surveyed were available online. Two thirds of HERs surveyed consult with Conservation Officers on their HER needs.

Not all the results of the survey were as positive. Only 11% of those surveyed have a disposals policy and only 30% have a written policy for recording spatial data. 56% of those surveyed felt their IT service provision was adequate compared to 71% in 2009.

This results of the survey show changes in HER staffing. There has been a drop in HERs with no staff, although it could be argued that no staff means no ability to complete the survey. There has been an increase in HERs staffed by less that 1 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) and a decrease in those staffed by 1 FTE. However at the other end of the scale there has also been an increase in HERs staffed by 1-2 FTE. This shows how complex the situation is and the value of repeating this survey at regular intervals.

The statistics generated by the 2012 survey are already being used. The figures relating to if and how HERs were making their data available online was used as one of the sources for the figures in Heritage Counts 2012.  The survey results were not able to give us the complete figures but it was an excellent starting point.

Results from the survey are feeding into work to enhance the Informing the Future of the Past guidance. The Steering group are currently seeking funding for the next stage of major enhancement and have been using a ‘shopping list’ to identify priorities. The ‘shopping list’ consists of the results of the recent consultation as well items that had been identified through steering group meetings. The Content and Computing Survey results provided additional evidence for the necessity of some items e.g. enhancing Section E, the GIS portion of the guidance.

The statistics have been used in HER audit responses. I have also been asked by a researcher from UCL, whose thesis is on the use of Internet technologies in archaeological communities involved in public engagement and outreach work in the UK, if they can refer to some of the statistics in their PhD thesis. As yet I don’t know of any HERs who have used results from the survey, but would be interested to hear of any instances. 

Previously the Content and Computing Survey has been run every 3-4 years. With agreement from the ALGAO HER committee we will now be running the survey every 2 years. The next survey will be in 2014.
The survey will be online again, however this time we will make word document copies of the questions available in advance. We will also be including a question asking if you would like us to e-mail you a copy of your completed survey.

We will not be attempting to include more free text boxes. Whilst free text boxes allow HERs to explain their specific situations in great detail, this information cannot be used to paint an overall picture of HERs in England. Instead we would continue to encourage HERs to keep in contact with the HIPs team to discuss specific issues as they arise. We would also encourage HERs to consider undertaking a full audit if you would like the opportunity to explain in detail your HER’s specific circumstances.

Comment: In relation to the survey’s question regarding IT service providers, some HERs have two providers (for example HBSMR and in-house support). It would thus be useful if the question could be structured to reflect this possibility, thus allowing the statistic to be isolated.

Question: The survey’s questions tend to have a rather ‘tick box’ format which inevitably produces a rather ‘black and white’ picture overall. Would it be possible to introduce more subtlety into the format and questions to allow more good news to ‘shine through’? Could the use of drop down menus be explored in this context?

Answer: Whilst this would have obvious benefits care has to be taken to avoid the survey becoming excessively detailed and cumbersome. 

Comment: Circumstances dictate that some HERs will inevitably have to leave areas of the survey blank, for example where no Local Lists currently exist.

Response: The survey process wouldn’t assume that all HERs will be operating at the same level.

Question: Some of the figures retrieved make no account of the quality aspect. Would it be possible to enhance the detail in the questions to make the resulting data more useful in this respect?

Answer: We are open to ideas as to how the questions can be improved. Past experience has unfortunately not provided much information as to how data from the survey has been employed (or indeed, if it has been used at all). If HERs would like to make any suggestions in this respect they would be appreciatively received.


Update on the activities of the HER Local Engagement Group
Jane Golding, English Heritage

The HER Local Engagement Group is now a sub-group of the ALGAO UK HER Committee!

Initiated as an informal networking group at the Winter HER Forum 2009 meeting in Leamington Spa, the group aims to share experience, good practice, lessons learned and generally to support each other in making community engagement happen. Now reporting directly to ALGAO HER Committee, we are developing our Terms of Reference and looking at ideas for working collaboratively over the forthcoming year – such as, contributing to the revision of local engagement guidance within Informing the Future of the Past, and sharing ideas and experience around activities for 2014 projects commemorating the First World War.

The Summer Meeting reported how members of the Group came together as stakeholders in planning and delivering workshops in local engagement. Delegate feedback raised a number of recommendations including a call for good practice guidance in using social media. Funding for this is available through the National Heritage Protection Programme and, as a first step to develop the guide; a call for proposals for case studies in using social media has just gone out.

New members are very welcome and we would particularly like to see more representation from HERs in the north of the country. As distance travel to meetings can be difficult, we aim to make getting involved a bit easier by:
- incorporating a CPD element to the meetings so that it may be possible to justify attendance e.g. at our meeting in Bristol we had a look at mobile technology and a demonstration of Appfurnace software;
- sharing and supporting each other using online collaborative tools and platforms such as the Knowledge Hub. We hope to set a group where we can discuss issues and ideas, share documents and other files.

Next meeting: Wednesday 6 February 2013 in Stafford, hosted by Suzy Blake.

Contact: suzy.blake@staffordshire.gov.uk


Under Represented Heritage Project Update
Rachael McMillan, English Heritage

The final report for the under represented heritage project is now available on the English Heritage website at: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/responses-from-the-consultation-on-under-represented-heritages/ alongside the initial English Heritage response to the consultation: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/content/imported-docs/a-e/a-response-to-the-bop-consulting-report-from-english-heritage-on-under-represented-heritages.pdf

An update on the under represented heritage project was provided at the winter HER Forum, as a follow on from the presentation of the initial findings provided by Professor Heidi Mirza and Paul Owens (Burns Owens Partnership) at the summer HER Forum.

The National Heritage Protection Plan (NHPP) Equalities Impact Assessment committed English Heritage to actively seek the views of experts in under represented heritage, as well as the views of groups involved in caring for under represented heritage, to help support the protection of the historic environment and be reflected in updates and revisions to the NHPP.
Several seminars were undertaken, during May 2012, with representatives of under represented groups:

• African-Caribbean communities
• Asian communities
• Disabled people
• Faith groups (including Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Jewish, Seikh and Black Christian groups)
• Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people
• Women

An online consultation was also conducted for those who wanted to take part, but were unable to attend a seminar. In all, it was an incredibly positive consultation, with over 80 experts involved.

The consultation sought to identify which areas of heritage protection of relevance to under represented groups are currently overlooked. The participants identified two main elements for consideration under this question – tangible heritage (smaller sites; historic areas and multiple sites; common places) and intangible heritage. In addition to looking at areas of heritage that are currently under represented, the consultation also identified ways to improve heritage protection for under represented groups in the future. These suggestions were turned into 14 key recommendations for English Heritage, the wider heritage sector and community groups to consider:

1. Build community partnerships
2. Create an advisory network
3. Initiate a public call-out for information
4. Develop a process for revising or enhancing list description by drawing on user-generated knowledge
5. Draw on existing databases and catalogues for categorisation of NHLE list
6. Link in with specialist initiatives or anniversaries to raise profile of under-represented heritages.
7. Improve interpretation of multi-site heritage assets by developing trails
8. Improve interpretation of heritage sites by making increased use of EH website and new technology
9. Develop collaborative research projects
10. Raise greater awareness of heritage issues among younger generations by engaging more pro-actively with the National Curriculum
11. Provide guidance and support to local community organisations
12. Increase awareness and improve perceptions of English Heritage by reviewing promotional materials and improving lines of communication
13. Take pro-active steps to raise awareness of the importance of heritage issues within communities
14. Develop skills and capacity around heritage protection issues within communities by sharing good practice and linking in with local partners.

The initial English Heritage response to the report takes each of the recommendations in turn to highlight what is currently happening to address them, and areas where further work needs to occur.  Some of the recommendations are not within the remit of the NHPP, or even English Heritage. The report is being shared widely with the historic environment sector and English Heritage is looking for opportunities to take the recommendations forward with other partners.

HERs in particular have a key role to play in taking forward the recommendations of the report, especially after the enthusiasm for the initial findings shown at the summer HER Forum.   English Heritage will be developing some project proposals which we hope to discuss with the HER Local Engagement Group before final proposals and bids for funding are put forward.

The NHPP, and the NHPP Equalities Impact Assessment, will both be revised to take account of the results of the consultation, but, we certainly hope that this is just the start of a long term engagement process and we encourage everyone to read the report thoroughly and share it as widely as possible.

(This paper was read to the meeting by Nick Davis on behalf of Rachael McMillan who was unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances. Whilst this precluded the possibility of post-presentation questions, comments from the floor were noted and are presented below).

The question arises as to how HERs might include the material resulting from initiatives of this type. To what extent is an HER the natural home for social history? If a person of ethnic origin is known to have walked along a road, does this automatically confer a more general significance upon it? In some cases there seems to be a danger of over-expectation. For example ‘slave caves’ have been recorded in the Warwickshire record but on the basis of evidence which was, even after additional research, extremely slight. 

It was suggested that histories relating to, for instance the Huguenots or Bangladeshis in Brick Lane might fall within the recording methodologies of Historic Landscape Character or Extensive Urban Surveys. However, it was noted that these methodologies still involved being able to attach significance to specific geographical features. There didn’t appear to be a suitable degree of emphasis placed on events and people.

An interesting example was quoted to illustrate the shortcomings of the present recording practices. A known location existed at which, in accordance with Romany custom, a number of caravans had been ceremonially burned prior to their owners moving into built houses. This site and event had, however, so far defied any attempt to classify it according to thesauri terminologies.  

Whilst it has to be acknowledged that some of the links involved are very transient, these are issues with which HERs are already, to an extent, familiar. Moots, fairs, aircraft crash sites and battlefields are all established site types but often yield little or no tangible evidence. If the range of sites which can be identified and recorded is extended, however, are they ever likely to be seen as integral to the planning process?  It was agreed that the degree of cultural significance which might be attached to any such location or site was never going to be uniform and would inevitably vary from site to site (or event to event). 

Some thought also needs to be given to how far the tangible aspects of more general processes require acknowledgement. An example in this respect might be the port of Lancaster. This was nominally a ‘slave port’ but had actually only handled sugar. There was no dispute, however, that it had enjoyed benefits derived from slavery. Similarly nuanced evidence exists within a range of designated sites already within records. Almshouses, for instance, would seem to have obvious links with the disabled but these are not always reflected in their structure and, in consequence, are similarly fugitive in their listing particulars.

The observation was made that some of the social issues reflected in the evidence would probably be those of conflict and would need to be sensitively handled. Another delegate noted that useful analogies might be found through comparisons with recording practices in America and Canada. Here thousands of years of native American culture had left comparatively little by way of material remains. 

Other potential avenues for progress might exist were the UK government to sign up to the European Landscapes Convention or the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (which it had so far declined to do). 

The discussion concluded with the observations of one HER officer who was in favour of including a more eclectic a range of site categories with the provision that they could be meaningfully mapped,  “after all (she observed) who else is going to record these things”?  


HER Charging Policies – Panel presentation and discussion

Panel members: Nick Boldrini (County Durham HER); Lucie Dingwall (Herefordshire SMR); Tim Grubb (Gloucestershire HER); Ben Wallace (Warwickshire HER) and Julia Wise (Buckinghamshire HER).

The discussion was prefaced by a brief presentation from each panellist giving a ‘thumbnail’ outline of the policy employed by their respective HER/SMR and the rationale underpinning it. These appear below in the order of presentation at the meeting:

Tim Grubb

Gloucestershire HER began a two-tier charging policy in 1997 when it was realised that the record’s data had a commercial value and charges could be used to offset the time lost to maintaining and enhancing the database. In 2010, however, this was replaced by a flat rate advance payment by commercial users of £122. The changes were made because:

o It was disproportionately expensive to raise invoices
o It was disproportionately expensive to pursue those in arrears
o The previous scale of charges were not covering costs
o The council was raising charges across the board

The HER does charge VAT. It provides records and GIS plots and scanned reports where requested. (In practice shape files are rarely requested). Enquiries take on average 25 minutes to process.

Nick Boldrini

Durham HER’s charging framework had it’s origins in the council’s budget savings in 2007. This required all elements of the organisation to either generate income or reduce costs. The money raised by charging is, however, ring-fenced to the authority’s archaeology budget. Income from HER charging is set at targeted levels against that budget.      

Durham County Council HER currently charges commercial users according to two rates: one is for those visiting the HER and interrogating the system themselves, the other (higher) rate is for those who carry out remote searches ie HER staff carry out the computer search. The former category is charged at £100 for the first hour with a reduced hourly rate for searches which exceed this. The latter rate is £105 per hour, once again reduced after the first hour. Around 99% of enquiries take less than one hour to process by staff. HER visitors regularly take longer than an hour, but this is usually because they also consult the HER collections. Responses are provided within 10 working days, with a ‘rapid response’ service being available for £135. These rates are reviewed annually.   
 
These rates were based on what was viewed as a reasonable fee and reviewed by the authority’s legal team. When the HER moved Directorate to Planning (from Arts, Libraries and Museums) the fees were also checked by ‘market testing’ within the planning sector. 

Julia Wise

Buckinghamshire HER has charged commercial users since 1991. In the past this charge was based on staff time. From 2003 onwards the process was revisited to keep it in step with the county council’s Freedom of Information publication requirements. Data was now provided under licence and had been available on-line since 2006. Since 2009 the need to charge had been reinforced by a county council requirement that steps should be taken to recoup staff costs. Planning advice to districts is not covered by service level agreements.

There was early consultation with the Buckinghamshire CC legal team on the policy. They queried the content of the proposed policy on the basis of the findings of the Markinson Case. There was also involvement by the authority’s freedom of information officer which resulted in changes to bring the policy in step with the Reuse of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005. The resulting framework was based on the number of records involved. This allowed an estimate of costs to be made and a ‘product range’ to be offered to enquirers. On the basis of advice received no VAT was charged.

The policy had been substantially revised in December 2010 (a copy of the new document was distributed in printed form to the meeting).      

Ben Wallace

BW provided no detailed account of Warwickshire’s charging framework (which was, in essence, a flat-rate charge of £50 per hour). This was currently being reviewed and might be amended to adopt licensing, along the lines of the Buckinghamshire model.

The most significant recent development by the HER in relation to its charging had been the use of one-off service level agreements to cover specific projects. The two main examples of this were the HS2 rail link and an agreement reached with Thames Water.

The HS2 agreement was based on a buffered search of the Warwickshire and Solihull HERs and combined HER and biological data provided by the authorities. This was produced according to a standard template for the sum of £4000 per annum. The arrangement also included a lightening validation of data (which it was hoped would be made more detailed in the next phase of the process).

The Thames Water SLA had been based on the area of the county covered by this organisation. The first stage of the process involved the provision of data only. Advice based upon the data was, however, to be provided as part of the next stage of the agreement. The data was to be accompanied by metadata including the date of capture and the data standards employed by the record (MIDAS Heritage had not been proposed in this latter context).

Lucie Dingwall

Herefordshire SMR (which was to become an HER in early 2013) currently made no charges for data beyond a 10p per sheet tariff for photocopying. The right to charge for complex enquiries was reserved (although she was not aware that this was formally stated anywhere) but in any case this caveat had not been implemented since her time in post (May 2006) and had only ever been implemented once prior to that. No rapid response service was provided.

At the point at which the Herefordshire authority had switched to unitary status in 1998 a scale of charging had existed which limited external organisations to two free enquiries per year. This, however, had also never actually been implemented. At present the SMR was under no pressure from ‘the powers that be’ to charge, a situation that might, in part, have resulted from their data being amongst the first to be made available on-line. There was an underlying principle that nothing should be done that would discourage consultation with the SMR Officers and the DC archaeologist and consequently encourage use of the unmediated web data. The stipulation was made that contractors/consultants must consult the authority’s DC archaeologist before data was made available to them.


The individual summaries completed, a discussion of specific issues ensued (chaired by Chris Webster):

A delegate observed that his service didn’t charge utilities, such as the Forestry Commission, for data. This policy hinged on the provision of pre-planning advice within the council as a whole. Other departments provided this free and there was an expectation that everyone should conform to this approach. He enquired whether this was a general exemption.

A range of responses were given suggesting that the situation varied from authority to authority. Whilst several HERs did charge utilities one did not charge their principal water company since they were very likely to stop consulting the service if fees were levied. Another delegate suggested that in his experience, when a utility asked for ‘data’ what they actually required was archaeological advice. Thus his HER had effectively ceased to provide actual ‘data’ under these circumstances.  

BW felt that these disparities in approach were something to which ALGAO should give consideration. The development of individual single project SLAs was, he felt, a process which might inform the development of a model for SLAs which could be more generally applied.

The issue was then raised as to how on line access to data could be reconciled with charging. JW responded that, in the case of Buckinghamshire, it was specified that online data was for non-commercial use only. Commercial usage was viewed as being unlicensed and the HER had made it clear that action would be taken on the grounds of copyright if on-line data was found to have been misused. JW was asked whether all their HER data was available online. She replied that it was only partially accessible and did not include elements such as events and material relating to the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Another delegate observed that, in the case of her HER, the legal standpoint had been accepted that, under the terms of the Reuse of Public Sector Information Regulations, That the data itself could not be charged for. It was, however, possible to charge for its reuse.   

BW confirmed that online use of the HER in Warwickshire was also for the use of the general public and not commercial practitioners. LD said that no GIS data was made available for Herefordshire unless the HER was contacted directly. NB outlined the situation in Durham where their Keys to the Past website provided a selected range of data, presented in plain English and giving a lower level of detail (particularly in relation to NGRs). It was specified that this material was not to be used for investigations such as desk-based assessments.

It was observed that a change might be coming about now charging was being viewed in the context of licensing. Possibly most people would be happy with data being made freely accessible so long as licensing safeguards were in place? However, note of caution had to be sounded in this respect, in that this did not address the issue of consultation.    

The discussion then moved to contrasting the provision of data with that of archaeological advice. It was pointed out that the two fell into different categories and that not all HER officers dealt with both. In situations where the HER functioned in an authority with a planning officer archaeological advice would usually be dealt with by the latter. This was not uniformly the case, however.

It was suggested that national guidance should, nonetheless be developed to provide advice on some of the broad themes and issues that might present themselves to HERs. The question of charging VAT, for example, seemed to be a topic on which clarification might be immediately forthcoming. It was noted, however, that in the case of VAT there was presently insufficient case-law to provide a ‘right’ answer.

The point was also raised that if a shared HER service were to enter into an SLA the question would inevitably arise as to which of the host authorities the agreement was with. This would be especially significant in cases where one authority charged for pre-application advice whilst another did not.

The suspicion was voiced that any income generated from charging would result in a corresponding reduction in funding from the HER’s host authority. Several HER officers commented on their experiences in this respect: one was expected to raise a fixed amount of income per year with questions being asked if they failed to do so; a second observed that income expectations tended to rise to follow levels set in good years. NB noted that income levels in Durham had been based on benchmarks fixed in the pre-charging period. Now, however, the tendency was for other areas within the authority to be judged against the HER. Warwickshire’s levels, meanwhile, were assessed against the benchmark of an externally funded post.

A question was raised regarding the background research underpinning the various rates of charging.

o TG responded that market research had been undertaken which had been predicated with establishing ‘how much can we charge?’ When the resulting rates had been implemented most people had accepted a fee of £48 without demur. In addition administrative costs on finance transactions for the HER now stood at zero.   
o BW favoured a system where a range of variables were employed, thus enabling charges to cover a fairly wide spectrum. This was not necessarily easy or pretty but was, on the whole, practical.

Finally an officer from an HER that had followed the licensing model developed by Buckinghamshire outlined their recent experiences. Contractors now knew in advance that a fee was expected. No complaints had been received, however. These fees were factored into work tenders and passed on to the developers, an arrangement which seemed to work very well. TG agreed, saying that it seemed that contractors valued certainty and were prepared to pay for it.         


An HER within the Precinct (1) 
Dr Rebecca Casa Hatton, Peterborough City Council Archaeologist

Following the completion of the cathedral survey project, a standalone version of Peterborough City Council Historic Environment Record (PCCHER) was created to meet the needs of the cathedral archaeologist, Dr Jackie Hall (Leicester University), who had managed the survey project, in partnership with PCCHER. Dr Hall is still responsible for the main updates.

The cathedral standalone version is an editable copy of the current PCCHER databases in Microsoft Office Access, with images in jpg and png (thumbnail) formats. It is not geo-referenced.

At present, it is stored in a laptop computer located in the cathedral library, access to which is restricted to members of staff. It is updated quarterly by the cathedral archaeologist.

The standalone version is currently used by the cathedral archaeologist on a daily basis), by the cathedral education officer and by the cathedral appointed guides.

As the cathedral standalone version is already proving to be a very successful research tool, there are plans to promote its use by making it accessible to the members of the general public.

There are also plans to locate standalone versions at Peterborough Museum/Flag Fen and at the Central Library which, together with the cathedral, represent the main repositories of heritage-related archival information outside PCCHER.

Early in November 2012 a simple and informal survey questionnaire was emailed to Peterborough Cathedral, Peterborough Museum/Flag Fen and Peterborough Central Library in order to obtain preliminary feedback on the proposal.

The proposal was very well received.

The survey questionnaires were used to predict future users groups and research subjects per proposed location.

The emphasis was placed on curriculum-based research for schools at all locations, with more specialised subjects for the proposed standalone versions at the Cathedral (cathedral history and archaeology) and at the Central Library (social history, site/address specific). The museum response suggested broader users’ groups and search subjects.

Should the proposal go ahead, the standalone versions will be read-only, with clearly stated Terms and Conditions of Use (including signed written agreements) and Disclaimers. No commercial enquiries will be undertaken. All commercial enquiries will be dealt with by staff of PCCHER and will be charged according to the current applicable rates.

Should the proposal go ahead, the standalone versions will provide assistance at multiple locations and outside PCCHER office hours. However they will need regular updates, dedicated desk space and dedicated personnel.

Should the proposal go ahead, the standalone versions will be on trial for a minimum period of three months, with reviews to follow.

During the trial period feedback and statistics will be collected using customer satisfaction surveys and equalities monitoring information. Progress reposts will be available on PCCHER webpage


An HER within the Precinct (2)
Sarah Botfield, Peterborough City Council

The stand alone version of Peterborough City Council’s HER has its origins within the Peterborough Cathedral Precincts Project. Peterborough is one of the largest Cathedral cities in East Anglia without a detailed archaeological urban survey and the English Heritage funded Historic Environment Enabling Programme (HEEP) provided the opportunity to enhance Peterborough’s HER for the area of the historic precincts located within Peterborough City centre.

A crucial part of the project was a digital survey of the historic precincts focusing on both extant and lost buildings and on archaeological remains so that it was possible to map the many changes the precincts have undergone in their 900 year history. By the end of the project over 300 HER records, 600 images and 300 documents had been created, and these are continuing to grow in number as more are added.  

The project aimed to collect information from a wide range of different sources and bring all the information together within the HER. Primary and secondary sources included archaeological and architectural plans, notes and drawings, academic articles, local journals, images, maps, letters, memoirs, medieval documents and grey literature amongst others. The images and documents were recorded within the image and document database and were linked to each relevant HER record.
A major source of information was the Irvine Papers, a collection of over 1000 folios of archaeological and architectural drawings, notes and personal letters made by James Thomas Irvine, Clerk of Works to architect John Loughborough Pearson during the restoration of parts of the cathedral in the 1880’s.

Many archaeological discoveries were made during this time and Irvine recorded these in meticulous detail. The main discovery were the remains of the foundations of the early medieval church (north and south transepts and choir), vaulted over in the late 19th century following the rebuilding of the central tower and thereby preserved in-situ beneath the present cathedral. A hand measured survey of these remains during the project also provided the opportunity for re-evaluation and an assessment as to the accuracy of the earlier surveys. Two interesting features noted were a ‘revetment’ of sorts around the outside of the church and the large blocks of stone used within the north gable wall of the north transept. Irvine believed these came from an earlier structure, possibly the former Roman town to the west. Interestingly, they bore some similarity to other large blocks of stone recently found on a Roman site within the unitary authority.

The project also brought out some unusual elements. The rebuilding of the central tower prompted a proposal that a lofty spire should adorn its top as befitted an important cathedral. A photograph of the cathedral at the time has Lichfield Cathedral spire super-imposed on to the tower and provides quite a sight! The proposal was unsurprisingly rejected. 

The historian translated many medieval Latin documents throughout the course of the project and was able to re-evaluate particular theories such as the location of the medieval deer park. Previous suggestions placed it to the north of the cathedral precincts although he believed it lay to the east instead. He also identified instances where particular words could be translated in several ways thereby causing possible misunderstanding of the original text. For example, in describing the building of the new gate to the abbacy Sparke transcribed the word 'profund' as 'profunditate', implying depth; however it can alternatively be transcribed as 'profundo', meaning either depth or height. The Cathedral Archaeologist believed the latter is perhaps more likely given the much shallower depth of medieval foundations elsewhere in the precincts, and also the probable two phase construction of the gatehouse.

To conclude, the amalgamation of the Cathedral Precincts Project into the HER has meant that it has not become a white elephant, rather it is maintained and updated and continues to be an excellent resource. ‘It has already demonstrated the value of the analysis and interpretation of detailed historical, archaeological and architectural information for the identification and assessment of heritage assets, also providing an accessible research resource’ (Hall, 2011)


References:
Hall, J, 2011 Cathedral Survey [Online]. Peterborough City Council. Available at: http://www.peterborough.gov.uk/environment/archaeology/cathedral_survey.aspx