You are here: Home > News > News Story

HIAS on the Dais
HER Forum Winter Meeting 2017, Birmingham & Midland Institute, Birmingham, 6th December 2017

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

View from the Chair – Chris Webster (South West Heritage Trust)

The winter HER Forum meeting was held as last year in the lecture theatre at the Birmingham and Midland Institute with 74 attendees. The meeting was strongly flavoured by the Heritage Information Access Strategy with updates on progress from several speakers covering the work on the National Maritime Heritage Record and the HER work package. These were followed by a report on the Portable Antiquities Scheme’s forward plan with emphasis on cooperation with HERs. In the afternoon, the HistBEKE project was explained, with updates on the recent workshops, and then the work that was being done to define Apprenticeships in the historic environment sector was outlined. Finally, the good news that funding had been secured within Historic England to replace the Heritage Gateway was announced and work on HIAS summed-up. Many of the participants then continued the discussions in more sociable surroundings.

Heritage Information Access Strategy: Introduction and context – Sarah Poppy (Historic England)

The Heritage Information Access Strategy is a business and culture change programme for those involved in producing and handling heritage information, supported by a number of incremental IT developments.  The programme seeks to address a number of long standing issues in the handling of English historic environment data, and benefit a wide range of audiences.  The aspirations of HIAS are recognised in the Culture White Paper and Digital Strategy, and more recently in the Heritage Statement 2017.   Historic England submitted an ambitious bid for HIAS funding to DCMS this autumn, which despite receiving positive feedback, was not successful. 

While the programme is led and coordinated by Historic England, HIAS is very much a partnership initiative, with partner organisations leading on and contributing to individual projects and overall programme governance. 
Starting in 2013, the programme is currently in its third phase, which focusses on developing the systems and implementing the business changes needed to support improved access to heritage information.  Phase 3 comprises 12 work packages, and we’ll be hearing updates from a number which have the greatest relevance to HERs in today’s presentations. 

National Marine Heritage Record – Joe Flatman & Hefin Meara (Historic England)

As part of the Heritage Information Access Strategy (HIAS), Historic England is redeveloping the marine component of the National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE). The changing regulatory environment, such as the Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009, as well as increased public and industry expectations means that there is a need to improve and enhance the current dataset. In addition the records are held on an ageing platform, and as a result there is a risk of data loss.

The marine record currently comprises approximately 46,000 records, and its coverage extends out to 12 nautical miles. The bulk of the records are comprised of documented losses - shipwrecks identified from documentary sources whose physical remains have yet to be located. The remainder of the records are identified shipwreck sites, mostly derived from UKHO wreck records, as well as isolated findspots and records of obstructions and net fasteners reported by fishermen. The data is currently accessible to the public via the PastScape website ( 

Interviews with key stakeholders were undertaken in 2015, in order to inform the requirements for the improved record. These included representatives from commercial contractors, academics, government agencies and other home nations. Key feedback included the desire for the new record to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for desk based assessment work, that there should be a facility to allow the public enhancement of the records, and that there should be a review of the spatial recording of assets, including the approach to recording wrecks whose remains have not been located. It was noted that the enhanced marine record should cover the full extent of the Inshore and Offshore marine plan area, from mean high water to the seaward limit of the Exclusive Economic Zone.

In 2017 meetings were carried out with coastal HERs in order to explore the differences and similarities between the NRHE records, and those held by the HERs. Sample data were obtained from several HERs in order to compare the different datasets.

As part of a wider review of Historic England’s information processes, an exercise was undertaken to map the different sources of information that currently feed into the marine record, such as the UKHO, discoveries from voluntary reporting protocols in the aggregate and offshore wind industry, reports of salvage from the Receiver of Wreck, commercial fieldwork, and the results of projects funded by Historic England. The review documented how this information is currently incorporated and suggested improvements for how processes could work in future.

In addition, an audience mapping exercise was undertaken in order to capture the needs, goals and challenges facing the various users of the marine dataset, in order to assist with planning the enhanced dataset and its public facing access.

Data standards are currently under review, which will assist in ensuring further interoperability between alternative sources of marine data, such as the UKHO wreck records. We have also identified information that is currently missing from the records, such as indexing the place a ship was built, and its builder.

Next steps - We care currently building and testing models for the new record. There will then be a process of stakeholder engagement leading to a refinement of the approach.

Question (HER Officer 1) – Can you clarify, is there any exact dividing line between what the national record will record and what HERs will record?

Answer (HM) – The national record won’t be entirely confined to maritime sites. Things like submerged landscapes will also be recorded.

(JF) – There are a number of reasons why a complete and clear-cut division of responsibilities would be difficult to achieve: A national record would not be able to accommodate the vast bulk of high-resolution material which is being produced by remote sensing. A division based on the high/low water model doesn’t work in all cases, whilst national borders provide another example of potential complications. It has to be acknowledged that specific HERs have individual and particular requirements. In consequence there will inevitably be overlaps and HE has to be accepting of them.

Comment (Ben Wallace) – These issues have featured in discussions with ALGAO. In basic terms ‘terrestrial’ is to be taken as meaning everything down to the mean low water mark. However, there will be nothing to prevent an HER recording whatever it likes.

(JF) – The situation will present opportunities. Responsibilities will primarily lie with HE but the potential also exists to flag up good local resources. In other areas the new arrangements could serve as a buffer to absorb the reduced capacity of some HERs. 
(Sarah Poppy) – There may be some elements of duplication but comprehensive coverage wiil be assured.

Question (Chris Webster) – How are rivers and narrow estuaries to be dealt with?

Answer (JF) – There have been calls for a buffer zone, not only to accommodate rivers but also features like salt marshes. Ultimately, however, it was decided to adhere to known and accepted parameters.  

Question (HER Officer 1) – Internationally, are there any countries that do this type of recording particularly well?

Answer (HM) – Scotland have undertaken various recording programmes of a high quality, as have Wales.

(JF) The UK in general seems to be doing very well. Certainly countries like the US seem to be looking in our direction for ideas.

Question (HER Officer 2) – How will this inter-relate with maritime character and initiatives like Historic Seascapes Characterisation?

Answer (JF) – It may be possible at some future stage to carry out an exercise to combine and integrate the two datasets. However, at this stage it’s not clear as to how this would be done or the level integration that would be possible.

Question (Technical Director, exeGesIS) – Will HE be looking for partners in implementing this change? Is it likely that there will be a call to tender?

Answer (SP) – This is a corporate initiative and remains in-house at the moment. It is, however, possible that some elements may involve external contractors at a later stage.     

Historic Environment Records and HIAS – Ben Wallace (ALGAO)

HERs are a central part to HIAS not least enshrined in Principle One of HIAS that ‘…HERs should be the first point of call for and primary trusted source of investigative research data and knowledge.’ The HIAS HER Workpackage focusses on those elements more directly related to HERs within HIAS,  however, because most parts of HIAS will affect or interact with HERs at some point the HER Workpackage by its nature links to all the other HIAS Workpackages.

Now firmly embedded in Phase 3 of the HIAS programme there are a number of aspects of HIAS where it is becoming clearer what the implications will be for HERs in the future. Some of these are covered by the other presentations at the HER Forum such as the National Marine Heritage Record, Heritage Gateway and Historic Built Environment. This presentation covers the following aspects of HIAS and invites further debate and discussion about these to move HIAS onwards.

• HER Guidance Document, possible Historic England Advice Note?
• NRHE to HERs – an update
• OASIS – implications for HERs and development of an HER synching tool
• National Security Copy – agreement on the preferred option and further development.
• Heritage Reference Data – to be developed as a linked data service by Historic England
• HER Audit – implementation of new audit process
• HER Survey – proposal for a revised annual HER survey to link in to Key Indicators
• HER Backlogs – a scoping project in development
• Monument Recording App – a scoping project to consider this
• HIAS Indicators and Measures – a draft document has been produced
In conclusion there is a lot within the ongoing development of HIAS that will affect HERs into the future, some of this is dependent on significant external funding that has yet to be established and this is leading to uncertainties about timescales but the concepts are all there and the direction is clear and surely good for HERs.

Question HER Officer (3) – I understand that HIAS has not been passed for DCMS funding. How does this affect the current position?

Answer (Sarah Poppy) – This is clearly a difficult time to be looking for funding from government. HIAS has now submitted 3 bids to DCMS and, despite getting into the final round on each occasion, has yet to be successful. This is frustrating. Positive feedback has been received, but none of it particularly detailed. The biggest knock on impact of not getting additional funding is likely to be our ability to progress the NRHE to HERs initiative, so some creative thinking is definitely required in this area.   
We will go back with a more targeted bid at the next opportunity.  In addition to this we will be looking for internal opportunities within Historic England through existing budgets and programmes. 

 (BW) – There are many things which can be achieved, albeit in a slightly adapted form, over the course of the next few years. However, NRHE to HER is a major issue and would constitute a huge missed opportunity. If enacted it would allow everyone to be brought up to the same level and would be especially important in encouraging and facilitating 100% participation in HIAS. Taking this away would result in an altogether patchier picture which wouldn’t significantly advance on where we are now.
Question HER Officer (4) – The government’s Heritage Strategy was made public yesterday. Is this likely to have any impact on the situation?

Answer (BW) – As with the earlier White Paper the Strategy is indicative of general support at the government level. The strategy reaffirms this but doesn’t remove the underlying funding problems.

(SP) – HIAS directly responds to the principles expressed in the White Paper and represents a move to measure the benefits and impacts of HERs. These values are firmly embedded within its indicators.      

Portable Antiquities Scheme Strategies looking to 2020 – Michael Lewis (British Museum)

Michael Lewis is Head of the Portable Antiquities & Treasure at the British Museum His talk outlined the museum’s strategy for PAS and Treasure looking to 2020. The main themes of the strategy are to be ‘advancing knowledge’, ‘sharing knowledge’ ‘encouraging best practice’, ‘supporting museums’ and ‘sustaining the PAS’. The presentation highlighted progress on the strategy to date.

Question HER Officer (2) – Do you think there are any means of measuring the relationship between HERs and the Portable Antiquities Scheme?

Answer – This point covers two areas: Firstly, based on surveys and communication, it would be distinctly odd if FLOs weren’t looking at HERs. More conversations need to be taking place.
Secondly there is the question of how PAS data can be sensibly used by historic environment teams. Its implementation is known to differ from case to case. From my own point of view I would wish to see more use made of it.
Comment (Ben Wallace) – HERs do presently have links through the Database Group. The West Midlands HER meetings have a FLO in attendance at every meeting with an associated agenda item. This could be used as a model by other regional HER meetings.

Comment (Joe Flatman) – Some FLOs are based with HERs and thus have links strengthened by geographic proximity.

Comment (Chris Webster) – Stronger links seem to be developing in Somerset.

Response (ML) – Improvements in the south west may be resulting from improved resources specifically associated with lithics.

Historic Built Environment Knowledge Exchange – Stella Jackson (University of Liverpool & Historic England)

In the field of archaeology, research frameworks have been used for many years and are now an essential part of the professional and academic environment. However, although regional archaeological frameworks often include historic buildings, they do not always do so in ways that take account of the many and varied interests of all who are involved in the built historic environment. With this in mind, Historic England has commissioned the creation of a Knowledge Exchange framework for the Historic Built Environment (HistBEKE) from the University of Liverpool.

The objective of the project is to create a research agenda and framework for the historic built environment in England which aims to: enhance decision-making processes through wider access to current knowledge; set an agenda for knowledge enhancement through targeted projects and research; and enable more effective management and protection of the built historic environment. The aim is that this framework should be collaboratively constructed and maintained by its stakeholders.

This presentation will discuss the research undertaken for the project so far; our preliminary findings, including some outcomes from a baseline survey undertaken in the summer of 2017 and suggestions made by workshop attendees in the autumn; and how HER forum members can contribute to the next steps.

This presentation is based on original, primary, data and also makes use of information published on our web pages here:

Question (Listing Information Manager, Historic England) – Is the wiki system you’re using open or closed?

Answer – There was no dissent at any of the workshops against the principle of openness. The idea of editing being open to all though, was seen as more questionable. Knowledge Exchange users will not need to log in. In the case of the Research Agenda, however, the approval of the stakeholder forum will be required before additions can be made.    

Historic Environment Apprenticeships - Liz Long (Historic England)

Historic England’s participation in the Historic Environment Trailblazer group stems from the apprenticeship reform, and the government’s ambition to increase the quantity and quality of apprenticeships across all sectors to make them more focused on the needs of employers. An overall target of three million apprenticeships has been set for 2020. Specific requirements attached to these are that apprentices must be employed for 12 months or more and that their tenure will involve a substantial training element (80% of this being ‘on the job’, and the remaining 20%‘off the job’ which may involve attending courses or workshops, e-learning, industry visits or work shadowing). The initiative is supported by an Apprenticeship Levy introduced in May 2017, payable by all employers with a salary bill in excess of three million pounds PA.  Public sector organisations will be expected to reach a 2.3% ratio of apprentices amongst their workforce.

The Trailblazer aims to design apprenticeships for historic environment professions based on supporting apprenticeships standards. Benefits are seen as: attracting new talent to the sector, improving diversity and social mobility; providing new entry routes and clearer career pathways; developing quality training whilst also growing skills to fill significant gaps.  

At present over 50 employers are engaged in designing apprenticeships in the Historic Environment Trailblazer. These are following three strands:

Archaeology, developing two apprenticeships for fieldwork and specialist roles (addressing the demand from national infrastructure projects);

Conservation, developing two apprenticeships for Conservation Technicians and Conservators; and Historic Environment Advice, developing apprenticeships for roles that carry our research, analysis and provide advice on the historic environment.

Historic Environment Advice which is the category most likely to include HER work and is presently at a very early stage in its development. Current efforts are centred on going through a range of relevant job descriptions and producing a draft standard which will be sent out for wider sector consultation.

Question HER Officer (4) – Is the 20% ‘off the job’ training likely to be an issue?

Answer – Potentially yes but much will depend on individual circumstances. On the whole the benefits are likely to outweigh the drawbacks.    

Comment (Chris Webster) – Probably the difficulties will be proportionally greater in small teams.

Comment (LL) – A funding issue is emerging in that some organisations seem to be viewing the apprenticeships levy as an opportunity to reduce their training budgets. DCMS are pursuing this.

Question HER Officer (5) – Are there any ideas emerging as to how the transition to workplace from classroom training will be managed?

Answer – Over 70 universities are presently looking at potential adaptions of their degree programmes with a view to striking a balance between ‘on the job’ and classroom training. 

Question (Heritage IT Consultant, exeGesIS SDM) – How are the apprenticeship posts financed?

Answer – The employer will pay the apprentice’s salary and agree on a salary band for new apprentices. For existing staff salary levels won’t be changed. If the salary level is set at a very low level for new staff this may prove problematic. Historic England are offering a salary based on the living wage but other organisations may take a different stance.

Question (Heritage Information Strategy Advisor, Historic England) – Are there any opportunities for mentoring apprentices?

Answer – Opportunities exist to deliver expertise in training apprentices employed by other organisations. Historic England is also looking at shared apprenticeships with the sector.  
Comment (Ben Wallace) – ALGAO has been involved in this initiative at a number of levels. A specific call has been sent out to HERs for job descriptions and a total of 70 have been fed into the analysis. There seems to be no reason why HEROs and historic environment archaeologists shouldn’t participate in and benefit from the process. There is already evident interest within Warwickshire County Council and active approaches are being made to a variety of departments.

Comment HER Officer (6) – Within my own authority there seems to be a similar (possibly interlinked) trend involving NVQ2 Business Administration. The tendency is for these to be delegated down ‘from on high’ so it would be good to be able to respond to them from within the context of a structured and relevant programme.

Response – There are hundreds of Trailblazer initiatives and some employers are looking at them from a wide variety of different viewpoints. It is probably inevitable that some will try to ‘shoe-horn’ them into inappropriate areas.     

Heritage Gateway Update – Jane Golding (Historic England)

In July 2017 proposals for a project to build a new Heritage Gateway were accepted for inclusion within the Historic England digital programme going forward from 2018. The Heritage Gateway Partnership Board produced a Product Description for this exercise based on the findings from a range of background work which had included a technical trial carried out in autumn 2016 and an audience research study undertaken by ‘Webcredible’ in spring 2017.

This achieved, what do we need to do next? Well, in the immediate future there is a need to create a product ‘road map’ for the initiative which will break the project down into more detail and identify dependencies, and will enable the Historic England digital team to size the work and schedule it within the overall programme. The scoping exercise will be undertaken in Spring 2018 leading up to the commencement in October of a first tranche of projects drawn from nine in total within the programme.

And what are we doing now? The technical trial and audience research both highlighted a need to address data-consistency and currency issues and to determine a minimum basic standard for the Heritage Gateway. Before we can build a new Heritage Gateway we need to resolve the following:

• A need to develop and introduce a single style sheet.
• A requirement for a minimum basic standard for data.
• Exploring a framework for regular data uploads, underpinning this with signposting to indicate when data was last updated.
To help resolve these and other issues and to answer some of the current ‘unknowns’ (chiefly relating to time, money, people and responsibilities) the Partnership Board will initiate small number of pilots and case-studies. A workshop to explore a minimum basic is to kick-start the process and will be supported by consultation and review with the Gateway’s online resource providers.

Question (HER Officer 7) – Will there be another workshop?
Answer – The intention is to keep everyone informed. The initial (February) workshop will involve a small, selected group. After this a wider consultation will be invited.

Question (Technical Director, exeGesIS) – If IT work is planned for February/March it seems to imply that a fairly advanced and detailed picture will exist by then. Is it likely that you will need help quite soon?

Answer – At present things are developing at a quite high level. This achieved we’ll be in a position to consider the necessary dependencies and structure things in more detail.

Comment (Technical Director, exeGesIS) – The design work will need to work consistently with new web services now being employed by HERs. This is likely to represent a significant logistical challenge.  

Response – This certainly isn’t something we could hope to accomplish independently.

Comment (Technical Director, exeGesIS) – The new HBSMR API was discussed at the HBSMR User Group last month (28-11-17). This will be capable of supporting the new Gateway but, given the information presently available, the group was unsure of what would be entailed.

Question (HER Officer 2) – When will the end date be? Most HERs will have to talk to their IT people and will need to know what is required.

Answer (JG) – It isn’t yet known where this will slot into what is a 3-5 year programme. There will be both internal and external dependencies involved. It should be remembered, though, that this is underpinned by a HIAS requirement for 100% HER online coverage.

(Sarah Poppy) – We are presently working very hard at all levels. We don’t have full details at the moment but the work is on-going.     

Other Projects and Looking ahead – Sarah Poppy (Historic England)

One of the contributing drivers to HIAS has been the need to retire the AMIE system, which is now over 20 years old and on unsupported technology.  As part of HIAS, Historic England has been reviewing its own internal business processes and information flows to inform future requirements.  One of the core principles of this work, in accordance with HIAS principle 1, will be that Historic England generated research data should be accessible to HERs.  An internal working group is considering the recommendations from this piece of work, the results of which will feed into Historic England’s internal processes and IT programme.

HIAS phase 3 comprises a number of IT system enhancements that needed to deliver improved access to heritage information.  In the absence of additional funding from government, Historic England is looking in house to resource these developments.  In particular, we are exploring the opportunities afforded by Historic England’s partnership with the Getty Conservation Institute to consider the suitability of the Arches platform for our inventory requirements.  This will be progressed in FY2018/19 as part of Historic England’s IT programme. 

At the same time we will be progressing a number of initiatives to support and promote HIAS in 2018.  In collaboration with the ALGAO HER committee, we are defining a series of HIAS indicators, which will form part of an evaluation framework, to monitor the progress of the programme and measure its longer term benefits for the sector.  We are also promoting OASIS and HIAS to the built historic environment sector, through a concerted effort of communications and advocacy with the professional institutes.