Successful archiving and management of paradata depends on your paradata-in-hand


Zanna and Isto are presenting at CAA 2023 conference in Amsterdam a paper on management and archiving of paradata.

The paper titled Successful archiving and management of paradata depends on your paradata-in-hand is a part of the session Archiving information on archaeological practices and knowledge work in the digital environment: workflows, paradata and beyond organised by Isto and Jessica.

Abstract of the presentation is below.


Earlier studies have pointed to the diversity of information that can be informative of the making, processing and use of archaeological data (Huvila, Sköld, and Börjesson 2021). Simultaneously, a comprehensive understanding of the making and processing of data has been highlighted as a key to their future usability (Huggett 2012). The heterogeneity and multiplicity of such information—often referred to in archaeological literature as paradata—poses a challenge to its consistent management and archiving. To overcome these challenges requires both empirical and theoretical understanding the nature of paradata, including, what is paradata and when a particular piece of information qualifies as such, what needs and requirements data creators and users have for paradata, how paradata is interacted with, and what is required to cater for such needs in the long run. In parallel, what is needed is to contextualise paradata and paradata-related needs and interactions in the framework of data management and archiving. 

The aim of this presentation is to provide insights into the premises of successful management and archiving of paradata. The presentation draws from an on-going study of mixed-methods study of archaeological paradata, paradata-related needs and practices in the context of the ERC-funded research project CAPTURE on paradata and process documentation for facilitating data reuse. The findings from the analysis of the empirical material are discussed in relation to a conceptual apparatus derived from archival theory to situate and explicate the nature and function of paradata and its relation to the data it describes.

Material and methods

The presentation draws from a series of studies in the context of the CAPTURE project to draw insights into what needs to be taken into account when planning for, ingesting, managing and preserving archaeology-related paradata. The studies have identified paradata needs and behaviours and paradata types through interviews (N=33) and a survey (N=92) with European and Northamerican archaeologists with experience of creating, managing and reusing data, and document analysis of a corpus of archaeological grey literature. 
Results and discussion
The findings so far from the studies of existing paradata, paradata needs and behaviours alike point to a need to develop comprehensive and diverse means for managing and archiving the heterogeneous body of paradata. A key premise of this is to base the management approach on the specific instances of paradata available on a given dataset, the dataset itself and other related data-on-data including formal and informal, structured and unstructured metadata. Rather than necessarily aiming at a scheme of archiving and managing paradata as a separate body of data-on-data, a more pertinent approach might be to consider a networked approach that aligns with the archival principle of respect des fonds (Duchein 1983). Keeping individual pieces of information capable of functioning as paradata in their ‘original’ contexts, but provide a meta-level map of where they can be found as a finding aid. This could be expected to also resolve some of the issues of not knowing what will be needed/used as paradata in the future, since the meta-level map could be a flexible enough tool to allow for new directions to be added without disturbing the original ones. Further, such a map does not need to be specific to individual institutions but could also function as an inter-institutional directory to paradata across management contexts (i.e. data repositories, traditional archives, museums etc).


Duchein, Michel. 1983. ‘Theoretical Principles and Practical Problems of Respect Des Fonds in Archival Science’. Archivaria 16 (1): 64–82. 
Huggett, Jeremy. 2012. ‘Promise and Paradox: Accessing Open Data in Archaeology’. In Proceedings of the Digital Humanities Congress 2012, Sheffield, 6–8th September 2012, edited by Clare Mills, Michael Pidd, and Esther Ward. Sheffield: Humanities Research Institute.
Huvila, Isto, Olle Sköld, and Lisa Börjesson. 2021. ‘Documenting Information Making in Archaeological Field Reports’. Journal of Documentation 77 (5): 1107–27.