The networking and internationalisation of existing academic resources,historical and cultural achievements, as well as the research efforts of the academic community in the field of Archaeology using computer, information and communication technologies is a recent trend with a rapidly growing impact on archaeological research, management and education. In recent years, Internet services have completely changed the way scientists work: e-mail, usenet, FTP and finally WWW architecture now allow scientists to collaborate on distributed resources, e.g. databases and exhibitions over the WWW. Although the countries of Eastern Europe have an important place in the historical and cultural development of Europe, they do not currently have substantial participation in this process of intensifying information exchange, due to their past closedness and current economic problems. There is thus the spectre of an ever widening 'information gap' between the affluent countries of north-western Europe and those countries struggling at the margins.
ArchTerra aims to help redress the current imbalances in access to European networking facilities for professional archaeologists from Bulgaria, Romania and Poland, and to provide the impetus for an active expansion of archaeological Internet communication and information services both within CEC and between EU and CEC. The project is implemented as a research network bringing together computer scientists and archaeologists from five EU countries (the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany) and three CEC (Bulgaria, Romania and Poland), and encompasses tasks and objectives in four areas:
· technical installation (computer hardware and software, networking infrastructure)
· transfer of expertise (technical workshops, extended visits, discussion lists)
· creation of new content (WWW database and exhibition) and tools for the management of that content
· dissemination (international conference, printed guides, WWW hosts)
The ArchTerra workplan assumes a runtime of 2 years and consists of 6 work packages subdivided into 18 tasks and organised in a goal driven workflow which fully exploits the complementary nature of the partners' expertise. The project is controlled through a series of meetings and workshops intended to review tasks and deliverables, monitor progress and resolve technical problems.
ArchTerra will establish and/or expand local networks at the partnering organisations in Bulgaria, Romania and Poland. Several popular Internet services will be started and/or extended, new free software products will be developed in order to connect catalogues of archaeological museums to the Internet using the modern Internet/Intranet technologies, many of the actual holdings will be digitised and put into an electronic form to demonstrate the feasibility of conducting research in a supra-national field from multiple distributed workplaces. In the course of these activities the project furthers professional development of the CEC researchers during study visits to western partners, technical workshops, and an international conference.
Although targeted mainly at safeguarding the scientific potential and inclusion of the CEC academic community in the European context of the emerging Global Information Society, ArchTerra is expected also to produce some technical solutions of wider significance to the problems associated with international scientific collaboration, specifically:
· how to implement multilingual interfaces to dynamically generated hypertext databases, and
· how to provide meaningful access to museum catalogues over the WWW, generated as hypertext interface to relational databases.
While the former addresses the problem of making information accessible, the latter will demonstrate to the international scientific community and to the general public alike the treasures that currently remain hidden in museums across eastern Europe, and which are highly relevant to our common past.
ArchTerra will therefore achieve, in addition to a direct improvement in the availability of archaeological information and means of communication within the partnering CEC, a lasting impact on the public and scientific perception of archaeology as shared heritage and as a non-renewable resource across Europe.