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back to index Survey of SHPO Archeological Report Bibliographic Systems, 2002

Appendix A

One important result of the SHPO Survey was the discovery that 24 offices have never used the NADB-R application that was sent to all SHPOs in the late 1980s. A few individuals were not aware of the existence of NADB-R, mainly due to being new to their job. Many SHPOs offered observations about why they do not use NADB-R. These comments provide a forum for response by the Archeology Program (AEP). Each bolded statement below is the SHPO concern, which is followed by a brief answer.

The NADB-R application is too cumbersome.

The original DOS version of NADB-R was cumbersome, especially as off-the shelf, Windows-based database applications became available in the 1990s. Users of the new NADB-R version 3.0 in Access will find it easy to use, however.

The NADB-R application often crashes or times out with no technical service provided.

Occasionally, NADB-R does crash or time out, but technical service can be readily obtained by contacting Terry Childs (terry_childs@nps.gov) in the AEP. A network of regional NADB-R coordinators once existed to help with both technical and non-technical questions. After the reorganization of National Park Service staff in 1996, however, this active network was mostly disbanded.

NADB-R keywords are uncontrolled and not standardized.

This is true. A system of standardized keywords was highly desired during the development of NADB-R in the late 1980s. However, no adequate thesaurus of archeological terms existed that related to either cultural resources management (CRM) or the diversity of taxonomic terms for cultural areas, time periods, and artifact types across the United States. The NADB-R developers considered keywords offered in The History and Prehistory in the National Park System and the National Historic Landmarks Program (1987), produced by the History Division of the National Park Service. Several grant proposals were written by AEP in the mid-1990s to develop a thesaurus, but were not funded. More recently, AEP examined the possibility of using the Library of Congress’ subject index for archeological and CRM terms as a thesaurus, but it was not found to be adequately thorough or easy to use for NADB-R. The Art & Architecture Thesaurus created by the Getty Research Institute was also considered, but it is inadequate for terms related to CRM.

Although development of NADB-R proceeded without a thesaurus, some control over the entry of keywords into the database was attempted by using eight keyword categories:

  • Types of Resources and Features
  • Generic Terms/Research Questions/Specialized Studies
  • Archeological Taxonomic Names
  • Defined Artifact Types/Material Classes
  • Geographic Names or Locations
  • Time Periods
  • Project Name/Study Unit
  • Other

These categories provide some guidance concerning types of keywords to enter about an archeological report, but they may be discontinued in the Access version of NADB-R because they are a source of confusion for some.

The list of work types is too long.

This is true. When NADB-R was first launched, only seven primary work types existed. Eighty-four additional work types were added in the early 1990s as a result of the work by the Arkansas Archaeological Survey for the South-Central States Overview and the Central and Northern Plains Overview sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Legacy Program of the Department of Defense. Since the Arkansas Archaeological Survey was a partner in the development of NADB-R, AEP decided to offer the additional set of standardized work types to provide greater detail about the work described in an archeological report, if so desired. At this time, AEP encourages regular use of the seven primary work types and use of the additional terms only when greater detail is needed or appropriate.

Many fields either are not used or are redundant.

The primary bibliographic field in NADB-R follows the American Antiquity format. Each bibliographic record must contain the publication type, author(s), title, and date. Other fields contain information to help both the SHPO manager of the database and the user of the NADB-R online system find a report in the system. These fields include who submitted the report, to whom the report was submitted, where the report is filed, keywords, and work type. None of these fields are internally redundant.

NADB-R is duplicative.

If the concern is that the online version of NADB-R is duplicative of each state bibliographic database, then there is an element of truth in that statement. However, NADB-R is a national database designed to promote efficient sharing of archeological information from all states and territories rather than requiring that a researcher go to each state database to begin a research project. It is more than a sum of its parts. State boundaries were nonexistent prior to 1776 and have changed periodically since then, and archeological projects may cross state boundaries. For these reasons, archeologists, CRM firms, and students may need to find information relating to a particular subject from several SHPOs. The online NADB-R database offers an initial starting point to do that – to search for gray literature that otherwise might not be known. It provides researchers with a means to discover where reports are located that might otherwise be missed. NADB-R is definitely not meant to take the place of an on-site visit to a SHPO for detailed information. Again, NADB-R is a starting place. If we do not make information about the reports available, then it is as though the reports do not exist.

NADB-R is inadequate.

See the previous answer. The searchable NADB-R database serves as a starting point to search for gray literature that is largely unknown to the researcher. It is a useful tool to gather important information, such as publication dates, author’s names, titles, and where a report is located, prior to conducting research at one or more SHPO.

NADB-R is out of date.

This is true. However, NADB-R is a cumulative database that aims to capture records of all reports over time. As the database grows, it is an important historical resource as well as a compilation of relatively recent reports. The online version of NADB-R was last updated in 1998. Updates were scheduled for at least every two years, but a lack of funding and staff prevented this from happening. Beginning in 2002, a commitment was made to fix this situation. The current update of NADB-R will be followed by an update in one year and biannually thereafter.

NADB-R is poor in concept and execution.

This is not true. The concept of NADB was widely supported in the 1980s. Congress provided funding for its start-up and early years of development. The Society for American Archaeology has endorsed it on several occasions as a vital resource for researchers and CRM contractors and an important step for professional conduct in reporting on archeological work. Notably, the early concept to capture standardized data for system-wide use is now basic to most database development.

NADB-R, however, originated before the advent of many of the latest technological advances, which facilitate the use of such a database. The new version of NADB-R in Access will soon be ready for testing by SHPOs. AEP believes that it will better meet the needs of both SHPOs and researchers.

NADB-R is disruptive to the day-to-day work of SHPOs with limited staff and time.

This is not true. Data entry to any database is an important workload that requires careful attention to detail. NADB-R was conceived as a data system designed to help SHPOs manage and make accessible information about the archeological reports they approve. Unfortunately, since AEP did not upgrade the NADB-R data entry application over the years, many SHPOs developed their own database system and did not use the NADB-R standard fields. There is justified concern that NADB-R requires data entry into a duplicative system. This is not the intention of AEP and every effort will be made to prevent this from happening.

Another concern is that online use of NADB-R by researchers, CRM firms, and students will generate additional work for SHPOs if requests for reports or access to reports increase. On the other hand, there is concern that online use of NADB-R could reduce SHPO revenues because a researcher will not visit a SHPO for more detailed work. If the searchable NADB-R database is seen as only a starting point for research, as it should be, then staff time and energy is saved when a researcher arrives at the SHPO already armed with the bibliographic citations. Revenue will not be reduced because quality research requires a visit to the SHPO.

Regional versions of NADB-R are wanted by some SHPOs.

The new version of NADB-R in Access may be adapted for regional use. SHPOs who want to develop a regional database may take advantage of the standardized fields, but also may modify the picklists to include more tightly controlled values (e.g., a strict list of relevant keywords) and may add additional fields to the application. AEP is not able to help develop regional bibliographic databases, but it can provide the NADB-R records for a particular region.

Need a version of NADB-R that is tailored for the SHPOs specific requirements, rather than trying to fit data into one large national system.

The National Park Service cannot develop individualized versions of NADB-R tailored to each SHPOs specific needs. In fact, that is the antithesis of the goal of NADB-R, which is to standardize bibliographic data on the archeological gray literature in order to increase the likelihood of it being found, used, and valued nationwide. However, the new version of NADB-R in Access will be a flexible system that may be modified to link to other SHPO databases, use its data on a GIS platform, and add additional fields. Thus, an individual SHPO may tailor it to its specific needs and requirements.

NADB-R only records federal agency projects.

This is not true. The bibliographic records in NADB-R are not limited to reports of federal projects. NADB-R contains records of archeological investigations conducted on federal, state, territorial, tribal, local, and private lands. Some records even exist about work in adjacent countries, including Canada and Mexico. Final unpublished reports, books, reports in a series, book chapters, journal articles, dissertations, meeting papers, and letter reports all may be found in NADB-R. It is meant to be a comprehensive bibliographic reference tool.

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