Database

To enable the collation of and presentation of data gathered from different sources a project database was constructed using Microsoft Access linked to a Geographical Information System (GIS) using ArcView GIS 8.3.
 
The England’s Shipping database was designed to facilitate the transfer of data to and from the NMR and complies with the Monument Inventory Data Standard (MIDAS) developed by the Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH). The database structure, as well as the user interface, mirrors the Monument-Event-Source philosophy of MIDAS using NRHE word lists to ensure consistent terminology. The database was also constructed with a simple querying interface to enable the user to search the data. A set of guidelines were produced outlining best practice for entering data into the system.
 
The database is based upon four main forms:
  • Ship movements - including data on the journey, the characteristics of the vessel(s) and associated persons, the cargo types and quantities and any additional data concerning the ship movement;
  • Casualties - including descriptions and co-ordinates for all types of ‘losses’, including wrecks, prizes taken in battle, vessels running aground, fire damage, and scuttling. Although these events did not necessarily lead to the sinking of a vessel they may have led to the deposition of archaeological material on the seabed and were therefore important to record and map;
  • Battles - including data about the states and countries at war, the vessels, fleets and persons involved, and the vessels and human casualties;
  • Sources - including bibliographic information for the sources on which the records were based.
A further form was used specifically for recording the co-ordinates of ports and anchorages. Tables of summary data were also incorporated into the database. Such summary data has typically been compiled by various authors; providing statistics of numbers of voyages undertaken, vessels entering and exiting ports, levy costs, and quantities and types of cargo.
 
Secondary sources based on primary administrative records and historic narratives often contain numerous extracts from primary records. In order to deal with issues of reliability and quality of research, the England’s Shipping database was designed to record not only the data itself but also the different sources of information from which the datasets were drawn, where to find the source, and whether they were primary or secondary, thereby allowing the user to make a judgement on the quality of data.
 
During data entry it was also noted that there was high potential for the duplication of records within the database. For example, duplication may occur where the same voyage is referred to by more that one source. To avoid this, a duplicate record query was built into the database to enable individuals to check for duplication as the records were entered.