Black friary field with the cuttings outlines 
As part of the Digital Humanities Practicum, I have undertaken an Internship in the ‘Photographic Archive of Black Friary’. The Blackfriary Community Heritage and Archaeology Project (BCHAP) involves a seven-year excavation programme conducted by the Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS) unearthing and investigating the burial remains of the Dominican Friary (13th century) located in Trim town, Co. Meath in Ireland. In the given practicum, my duties entailed searching for an image-based cataloguing system for more effective retrieval and searchability in the excavation photographic archive. Therefore, by conducting desk research for best-practices used in the archaeological domain while considering users needs my core deliverable is to create a conceptual database model through mapping data relations and justifying the structure. This will be proposed as an ideal database system design to facilitate both accurate data registry and effective retrieval of digitally archived images. Two crucial points should be considered before the creation of the conceptual model: a reappraisal of image content and quality and a proposal of metadata schema, capable of facilitating continuous archaeological information handling and reuse.
Archaeological photographs are considered to be a visual medium that records not only the excavation processes and the primary data they bring to the surface, but also objectively imprints (Shanks) their spatial and temporal dimensions, essential representations for the subsequent archaeological interpretation and for future surveys. Understanding of the techniques and principles inherent in photography is essential before we consider their storage. Consequently, a guide including techniques for field photography is about to be created; this intends to provide a comprehensive picture of how the connection between why (meaning) and how (choice) generates visual records that faithfully represent what the written and architecturally drawn records lack. As the specific excavation campaign is field-school based, by illustrating in a photographic guide the methods and the digital photography principles through which archaeological features in situ can be obtained, both students and traditionally-trained archaeologists would engage in archaeological photographic practice, paying more attention to a more precise and targeted photographic recording or publication and research purposes.
Diagram depicts the relationship between the steps in archival processing, the purpose of providing retrieval efficiency and the final product of representational artifacts (Benson).
Moving from a photographically thinking to another representational thinking that of cataloguing process, which refers to the creation of metadata representing the source information, things become more complicated. A quite enlightening definition of the metadata is that “… [it] may be seen as the extra information associated with any object or resource which allows a viewer to place it in context and make sense of it” (Miller). A triple-structured communication that metadata may include through ‘nature, location and grouping’ of the represented information resources (Miller and Wise) constitutes a valuable link which allows archaeologists to access information amassed over the years of excavations. Additionally, the annotation by developers and users, from an ever-growing type of structured descriptors giving information such as provenance, conditions, content, spatiotemporal context and content facilitate metadata initiatives to customise standards within a needs-driven framework.
Types of Heterogeneity and examples of heterogeneous data that can affect data integration (Drumm)
However, a guiding principle that a developer should consider when it comes to non-textual information retrieval is to ensure the structure and consistency of information. By implementing a metadata schema (i.e. well-assigned semantics definitions of metadata properties) while taking into account controlled vocabularies and naming conventions that is to say the set of values that these properties should have, the user community assures through such a standardization (language and behaviour) the issues related to their management and interoperability. The interoperability -which is the ability to exchange data between different sources- is not just a commonly-used technical term but instead as Snow et. al highlight refers to “a design strategy that also promotes effective cooperation between human and electronic components of the research process” (2006). This is a challenge in the archaeological domain wherein such a characteristic can be seen often marginalized and may be due to the absence of data integration concerns. In the above figure, the highest layer is populated by semantic heterogeneities i.e. different semantics of metadata elements that can be used in different contexts with non-controlled vocabularies and interpretations having an effect on the schema matching process. Since archaeological databases need to organize and record what afterward will be interpreted, the question arises as to whether such a standardization makes the observations and the subsequent interpretations standardized too?
Examining such aspects while observes the heterogeneous data that characterizes social sciences and humanities, Kansa points out, among others, the necessity for methodological, terminological, and theoretical underpinnings in order to “maximize interpretive possibilities and limit constraints” deriving from database design choices (2005). Therefore, he suggests no standard structures, taxonomies etc. encouraging digital dissemination and scalable Web databases in order for the queries to be flexible, analytic and allow synthesis. Huggett also emphasizes the impact on archaeological thinking and observation processes considering two key issues; firstly, the highly structured and formalized nature of database systems and secondly their instant ‘snapshots’ values that make uncertainties and more expressive entities to be significantly underestimated in such a representational context (2004).
A multitude of concerns has been generated by the given practicum. While I recognize the necessity of records curation and management provided by representational tools such as database applications, I observe, on the other hand, an ever-growing imperative towards such data manipulation to be regarded as a product of research rather than just a facilitator of the former. Following Gilliland’s voice (2011) and his archival understanding through Foucauldian lenses, such places of potential discourses and especially in humanities and social sciences due to their dialectical nature, should enable experimentation and a considerable degree of criticality.
 Green, Ashley. “Excavations at the Black Friary: A Unique Digging Experience in Ireland.” The Post Hole, vol. 45, York: University of York, 2015, pp. 27-34. theposthole.org/sites/theposthole.org/files/downloads/posthole_45_full.pdf. Accessed on 10/03/2017.
Benson, Allen C. “The Archival Photograph and Its Meaning: Formalisms for Modeling Images.” Journal of Archival Organization, vol.7, no. 4, Feb. 2010, pp. 148-187. tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/15332740903554770. Accessed on 08/04/2017.
Drumm, Christian. Improving Schema Mapping by Exploiting Domain Knowledge. Diss. University Fridericiana Karlsruhe, 2008. publikationen.bibliothek.kit.edu/1000009968/61422. Accessed on 08/04/2017.
Gilliland, Anne J. “Reflections on the Value of Metadata Archaeology for Recordkeeping in a Global, Digital Worl.” Journal of the Society of Archivists, vol. 32, no.1, June 2011, pp. 103-118. tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00379816.2011.563934. Accessed on 10/03/2017.
Huggett, J. “The past in bits: towards an archaeology of information technology.” Internet Archaeology, 15, 2004, intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue15/4/toc.html. Accessed on 08/04/2017.
Kansa, E. “A Community Approach to Data Integration: Authorship and Building Meaningful Links across Diverse Archaeological Data Sets.” Geosphere, vol. 1, no. 2, 2005, p. 97-109. geosphere.gsapubs.org/content/1/2/97.full. Accessed on 08/04/2017.
Miller, Paul. “The Importance of Metadata to Archaeology: One View from within the Archaeology Data Service.” Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology, 1997, pp. 133-136. proceedings.caaconference.org/files/1997/21_Miller_CAA_1997.pdf. Accessed on 10/03/2017.
Shanks, Michael. “Photography and Archaeology.” The Cultural Life of Images: Visual Representations in Archaeology, edited by Brian Leigh Molyneaux, London: Routledge, 1997, pp. 73–107. doi:10.4324/9781315888460.
Snow, Dean R. et al. “Cybertools and Archaeology.” Science, vol. 311, no. 5763, Feb. 2006, pp. 958-959. science.sciencemag.org/content/311/5763/958. Accessed on 08/04/2017.
Wise, Alicia and Paul Miller. “Why metadata matters in archaeology.” Internet Archaeology 2, Council for British Archaeology, 1997. intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue2/wise_index.html. Accessed on 10/03/2017.