In 2010 the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the eResearch Office, in partnership with Victorian eResearch Strategic Initiative (VeRSI), received funding from the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) to build a national online database, the Australian Historical Archaeology Database (AHAD), for historical archaeological catalogue data and associated stratigraphic and historical records.
Each year archaeologists (both academic and private consultants) excavate tens of thousands of artefacts from historical archaeological sites across Australia. While some states (e.g. Victoria) require catalogues to be prepared in a standard format, the majority of catalogue data are stored in small, standalone spreadsheets or custom-built databases, and few are made freely available. There is no central register of these individual datasets, and many significant collections are simply unknown to archaeological researchers.
Between 2001 and 2004, the La Trobe led ARC-Linkage project Exploring the Archaeology of the Modern City (EAMC) created two research databases which offered, for the first time, a central database of 700,000 artefacts from multiple historical archaeological sites and a companion dataset of historical occupancy data relating to 2,200 individuals who occupied those sites. While extensive in their data content, the databases themselves are limited in their structure and require significant design input to make them truly effective tools for managing and sharing historical archaeological data.
Funding has been provided by the Seeding the Commons program of the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) to redevelop these two EAMC databases into an online platform and storage house for searching, entering and managing historical archaeological data; and seek new datasets from the private, public and tertiary sectors. The final product, the Australian Historical Archaeology Database (AHAD) will enable researchers to access a vast dataset that is currently unavailable to them, and provide the platform for future datasets to be made freely available in a standardised fashion. In addition, it will enable automated registration of datasets in Research Data Australia.