'Unpath'd Waters': Marine and Maritime Collections in the UK

Lead Research Organisation: Historic England
Department Name: Research Group


The UK Marine Area extends over some 867,400 km2, an area equivalent to around 3.5 times the UK terrestrial extent. The UK's marine heritage is extraordinarily rich and exciting. Wrecks on the sea bed range in date from the Bronze Age to the World Wars and bear testimony to Britain as an island nation, a destination for trade and conquest, and in past times, the heart of a global empire. Communities along the coast have been shaped by their maritime heritage and monuments and stories recall losses and heroes. Much further back in time, before the Bronze Age, a great deal of what is now the North Sea was dry land, peopled by prehistoric communities who lived in lowland landscapes, some on very different coastlines. The British Isles would have been distant uplands above hills and plains and rivers.

This arc of heritage, stretching over 23,000 years, is represented by an abundance of collections. Charts and maps, documents, images, film, oral histories, sonar surveys, seismic data, bathymetry, archaeological investigations, artefacts and objects, artworks and palaeoenvironmental cores all tell us different things about our marine legacy. But they can't
easily be brought together. They are dispersed, held in archives, unconnected and inaccessible.

This matters because it is clear that the story of our seas is of huge interest to the UK public. In 2019 alone, there were 2.9m visits to Royal Museums Greenwich, home of the National Maritime Museum; 1.1m visits to National Museum Royal Navy; 837,000 visits to Merseyside Maritime Museum, and 327,000 visits to HMS Belfast. It is also clear that our exploitation of our seas is increasing dramatically. Windfarms, mining, dredging for aggregates, port expansions, leisure and fishing are all placing tensions on the survival of our heritage. If we are to unlock new stories and manage our past effectively and sustainably, we need to join up all our marine collections and get the most of them.

UNPATH will bring together first class universities, heritage agencies, museums, charitable trusts and marine experts to work out how to join these collections up. It will use Artificial Intelligence to devise new ways of searching across newly linked collections, simulations to help visualise the wrecks and landscapes, and science to help identify wrecks and find out more about the artefacts and objects from them. It will deliver integrated management tools to help protect our most significant heritage. And it will invite the public to help co-design new ways of interacting with the collections and to help enhance them from their own private collections. The methods, code and resources created will be published openly so they can used to shape the future of UK marine heritage.



Barney Sloane (Principal Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4100-6084
Wes Forsythe (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3322-4196
Michael James Roberts (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4101-9256
Tom Dawson (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9229-7942
Antony Julian Firth (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3977-3417
Andrew Choong (Co-Investigator)
Julian Richards (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3938-899X
Paul Philip Jeffery (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3912-4038
Fraser Sturt (Co-Investigator)
Sara Elizabeth Perry (Co-Investigator)
Vincent Lawrence Gaffney (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7918-0494
Ann Veronica Coats (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5793-6809
Adriane Chapman (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3814-2587
Rory Quinn (Co-Investigator)
Peter McKeague (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4968-7192
Caroline Barrie-Smith (Co-Investigator)
Stuart Jeffrey (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2084-4174
Clare Florence Postlethwaite (Co-Investigator)
Robert John Inkpen (Researcher)
Holly Wright (Researcher)
Therese Kearns (Researcher)
Tarek Teba (Researcher) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7742-9951
Simon Edward Fitch (Researcher) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0133-2678
Claire Bailey-Ross (Researcher) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6952-6308
Garry Paul Scarlett (Researcher)
Philip Scott Murgatroyd (Researcher) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3021-4283
Karen Mary McBride (Researcher) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0923-8061


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Title UO-CAT ontology 
Description To be able to search the wide range of digital collections as part of Work Package 1, Julian Richards and his team at Archaeology Data Service have developed an agreed way of describing all the different digital resources, or 'ontology'. This builds on work done by ADS and their involvement in ARIADNE, which makes it possible to search over 3 million archaeological data resources from over 20 countries. The Unpath ontology is a further step creating their own 'ontology'. 
Type Of Material Data handling & control 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This has already allowed the import of metadata about Unpath'd Waters resources into the catalogue. We want anyone with the right skillset to be able to build websites and interfaces to investigate any aspect of the UNPATH catalogue they are interested in. They should also be able to link it to other datasets, such as information about the natural environment. To allow this, the catalogue is held as Linked Open Data in an RDF triplestore. The catalogued data will be shared to existing online portals, including ARIADNE and MEDIN. This includes creating a version of the ARIADNE portal which gives a UK-only view of marine data for Unpath'd Waters. It's already clear that it will allow researchers to ask an entirely new set of research questions and give the public more access to the UK's rich maritime heritage. 
URL https://unpathdwaters.org.uk/data-catalogue-launched/
Description British Geological Survey partnership 
Organisation British Geological Survey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The work we are doing (via University of Bradford) on creating a dynamic model of the southern north sea from various data collections will be of considerable interest to the BGS
Collaborator Contribution BGS are providing additional collections to the Unpath'd Waters project to help make the digital map of Doggerland's prehistoric land surfaces more accurate. These include borehole data. This is being provided gratis.
Impact None yet
Start Year 2022
Description Archaeology of Wales presentation 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact As part of Work Package 3.2 Science & the Sea, presentations were offered by M Roberts (Bangor University) and Julian Whitewright (Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments (Wales) to inform the Research Framework for the Archaeology of Wales mini-conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://m.facebook.com/ArchReFWales/events/?ref=page_internal&mt_nav=0
Description Naval Dockyards Society Conference 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact As part of Work Package 3.1 People & the Sea, a presentation by Antony Firth (Historic England): 'Placing Warships: Reconnecting vessels and dockyards', at Naval Dockyards Society Conference, National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth. The objective was to link vessels (and thus sometimes their wrecks) to their places of construction or berthing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjCyoSCocT6AhVholwKHcdGCEYQ...
Description Pilot student hackathon 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Led by Tarek Teba and the University of Portsmouth Team as part of Work Package 3.1 (People and the Sea), the task was to visualise biological research data, creating a visual immersive/interactive using genetic data from the Mary Rose
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
Description Public lecture U3A 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact WP3.2 Science & the Sea (University of Bangor): public lecture by M Roberts at a Bangor U3A group meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
Description Unpath'd Waters project values presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Led by Sara Perry of MOLA, a presentation to other researchers in the Towards a National Collection projects of the living values developed for Unpath'd Waters to support audience engagement (ensuring equity; connecting with people on their own terms; empowering through collaboration; being reliable and sustainable; being constructive; and being adventurous).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://unpathdwaters.org.uk/about/