Historic Environment Information Resources Network


FISHEN consultation on contact and co-operation

What FISHEN is

The Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (England) - FISHEN - was established in January 1998 to provide a forum for the development and maintenance of data standards and associated terminology lists for the historic environment, including the built and buried heritage, historic areas and landscapes, in England. Membership includes the Archaeology Data Service, the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers, English Heritage, the MDA, the Museum of London, the National Trust and the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.

Corresponding membership allows other organisations to keep informed about the work of FISHEN, and to provide advice and comment without the need to commit staff time to attending meetings. Corresponding members include representatives from the Council for British Archaeology and the British and Irish Archaeological Bibliography.

The Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England currently provides a Chair and Secretary for the forum. Four meetings have been planned for 1998.

What FISHEN is doing

FISHEN is currently working on the development of a set of indexing terminology tools for use by heritage inventories, under the banner heading of the National Heritage Reference Data Set (NHRDS). The starting point for this work is the MIDAS data standard published in January 1998. MIDAS defined the concepts and individual units of information that should be included in a heritage inventory. The NHRDS extends the standard to provide appropriate terminology for recording, for instance, Monument Type, Event Type and Archive/Source Type, three units of information from the MIDAS standard. When adopted, the NHRDS is intended to extend the MIDAS standard to produce inventories that are compatible at the level of indexing terminology used. This will facilitate the sharing of knowledge that is the driving force behind standards development. It is envisaged that work on the NHRDS, and the experiences of heritage inventories adopting the standard, will feed back into future editions of MIDAS.

Contact and Co-operation with other UK regions

'England' was deliberately added to the name of the new forum when it was established to acknowledge that the majority of organisations represented on FISHEN have an English sphere of interest. Within this framework it is not the role of the forum to define standards at a UK wide level. However, given the wider remits of both the MDA and the Archaeology Data Service, for example, and a general recognition by the forum that there would be clear advantages for users of heritage records if all UK regions were to work towards shared standards for information, the forum has been debating ways in which it could collaborate effectively with colleagues across the UK. To this end FISHEN invites comments from representatives of organisations operating outside of England on how shared standards can best be developed. In particular contact and discussion is sought with groups currently working on information standards.

Work on the NHDRS is due for completion in April 1999. At that date FISHEN will have the opportunity to review its terms of reference, membership, name, chairing and secretariat provision, and to launch any new arrangements.

Comments on how the vision of shared standards can best be achieved are invited, and should be sent to the Chair of FISHEN, Dr Gillian Grayson, RCHME, National Monuments Record Centre, Kemble Drive, Swindon SN6 6BL. Alternatively comments may be emailed to gillian.grayson@rchme.co.uk. FISHEN will prepare and circulate a more detailed proposal in January 1999 once comments have been received from all interested parties.


Document last revised: 30 October 1998 by Mike Heyworth


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