“For some, discovering the secrets of the world is the only way to live”


After opening the first blog with an Indiana Jones quote this time it’s Lara Croft’s turn.

As mentioned in blog number one , one of our projects here at City Of York Council is investigating the possibilities around making the history within this great city of York more accessible.

Interestingly the QS World University Rankings recently ranked the University Of York’s Archaeology department 17th in the world (placing them 6th in the United Kingdom). Proving, not only do we have arguably the most fascinating history here in York, we also have one of the world’s leading university teams finding and dealing with this information.

Since the first workshop back in July we’ve continued to sketch out both, the persona of a team member, and the journey map which details the current request process for information from the HER (as a quick reminder, HER stands for Historic Environment Records):



Over the last few months we’ve heard some pretty insightful quotes on York, the HER system, and the process we’re using:

  • “I do have the best job in the world.”
  • “The heritage of York attracts the visitors and this information should be open to the public.”
  • “The current HER is fine for what it needs to do, maybe not for what we’d like it to do.”
  • “It’s complex and there are lots of ways of doing the same thing.”
  • “There is no single standard way of getting this information.”

We’ve also, since the first workshop, reworded the project vision slightly to the below:

“To enable any interested party unrestricted access to historic environment information held by both City Of York Council and other York organisations in understandable formats.”

I’m sure you’ll agree that the above is substantially clearer in what our ultimate goal is.

Due to uncovering that the HER system isn’t used by everyone in the team we’ve now split the project in to two stages. The first being to better share the data internally followed by a second stage concentrating on sharing externally with the general public.

To make this split nice and clear we’ve drawn up a roadmap so that we’ve got a forecast of intended timescales:


In preparation for the second workshop we composed a set of questions intending to capture how the current HER system is used and perceived using some metrics.

The results from asking each of the team to rate how they see the current system should then enable us to measure the success (or otherwise) of any changes we make going forward.

Workshop Two

Much like the first workshop we opened with a check-in where, as we had a couple of new team members in the room, we each shared what we anticipated getting out of the day.

The opening session was excitingly titled ‘3 words’. You’ll have to take my word that the room was all on tenterhooks as to what it meant us doing.

Reality was probably a tad less exciting, with the task consisting of each of us offering three different words to describe both the current HER system, and the current request process for information from the HER.


With words like ‘non-intuitive’ (twice) and ‘complex’ describing the current HER system, and words such as ‘mechanistic’ and ‘time consuming’ for the current request process, I think it shows there’s a lot of potential (actually one of the more positive words that popped up describing the system) for what we’re exploring with this project.

We then followed this with the metric questions where everyone rated certain aspects of the current HER system.


These show that it’s pretty unanimous across the team that the current system we’re using could be easier to use and that it doesn’t currently do everything the team would like it to. Reassuringly though, it does indicate they are happy with the quality of information held on the system.

The results from both these two sessions will go on to form a baseline of how the situation currently is.

In the afternoon we went through the persona we’d created highlighting touch points with the HER system. Unsurprisingly an awful lot of what they do is impacted by the HER and so it is imperative that this system is configured beneficially.

To close the workshop we went with a more informal check-out sharing what our first car had been. Where we learnt that not only was the Standard Eight a type of car but Master Oxley is a former proud owner of one.

What’s next

Since the second workshop we’ve negotiated a no-obligation trial of an alternative HER system, have had a webinar to look at a third potential option, and are currently arranging for our current supplier to come and see us to discuss what changes we could make with the present HER.

Talking of changes. The team have already made a couple of small alterations to make things better for both themselves and their customers;

We now have an eForm on our website to request information from the HER (which was previously a downloadable PDF).

Also a second layer of information has been added to the maps on our website. Which means, in addition to the information about sites and monuments, there are now downloadable reports relating to archaeological events held at certain areas.

We’ll continue to reference and update both the persona and journey map, to ensure they remain a fair reflection of the team and process, and we’re all looking forward to both hearing what improvements are available to the current system and testing our alternative.

I dare say I’ll be back with another update soon!

Matt Stroud, Technical Project Manager, @matticusstroud

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