Neal Ascherson (2002) has argued that some nations are ‘tidy with their past’, while others leave theirs ‘unsorted’ for ‘scavengers [to] wander, pulling up interesting fragments’ (Ibid., vii). Ascherson reassures us that the latter attitude is nothing to be ashamed of, given that the lack of a ‘commanding ‘story’ which dictates how the past should be understood allows space for imagination and originality’ (Ibid., viii). But there is arguably a productive tension to be found in Ascherson’s duality: a means of disrupting traditional approaches by constructing original ‘stories’ that are both grounded in data and open to a democracy of voices; enabling small, individual discoveries and large-scale data-led analyses/interpretations (typically by professional archaeologists). This requires databases that are both ordered and open. Online datasets of this type are increasingly popular through resources such as the UK Archaeology Data Service (ADS), the UK Data Archive, Open Context, and The Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR). The importance, potential and conceptual challenges of making these datasets available digitally is the topic of considerable, productive discussion (e.g. Onsrud and Campbell 2007; Newman 2011; Bevan 2012; Hole 2012; Cooper & Green forthcoming).
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