Questions and Answers

We'll do our best to keep this page current with the sorts of queries we get most regularly. If you can't find your answer here, you are very welcome to contact us at

Isn’t this just yet another image annotation tool?

The key advantage of Archetype over other annotation tools is that it is designed specifically for the study of writing systems and graphic communication, and so it has a rich set of structured data associated with each annotation. With Archetype you can choose to define the structure of your letters (you may want to specify that the letter h has an ascender, for instance, as do b and k). After you have done this, then Archetype will allow you to search for all annotations of letters with ascenders: unlike other annotation systems you only have to specify this once as a general rule for all hs, not every time you add a new annotation. You can also search for annotations by date and place of writing, by writer, and other features as well, none of which is possible in a simple image annotation system. For some more possibilities see the section on Process.

I don't have access to institutional IT infrastructure. Can KDL host my instance of Archetype?

Not all of us are lucky enough to have the expertise or the institutional support to launch a distributed research platform like Archetype beyond the confines of our own desktops or laptops. KDL can discuss your hosting needs if you want your resource to be available to a community of researchers. The cost of doing so will depend partly on the volume of data you need, though an indicative cost will be in the region of £390 per year. This would include a distinctive domain name of your choosing, software updates and secure backups.

Can I work with colleagues on a project?

Working with a number colleagues on a central database is one of the main attractions of Archetype, when it is hosted on a web server. KDL can help you to secure a domain name and host your Archetype driven site on our servers, where access can be securely controlled until your team is ready to share your output.

Can I upgrade my Archetype from a personal installation?

Yes. Most people start using Archetype with a Docker installation which can be isolated and turned into a public website if you need to. KDL can discuss hosting, maintenance and service levels with you.

I have a large research project which needs a strong, identifiable presence. The default Archetype look is too generic for this project.

No problem. We have a team of dedicated UI/UX developers experienced in creating bold, ergonomic designs for digital research projects. Whether you simply need your own banner and colour scheme, or a complete brand identity developed through workshops and stakeholder feedback, we can work with you to give your research project impact.

Do I need permissions from libraries and other repositories to use their images in Archetype?

To work on images privately for your own research, you won't normally need any special permission. If you want to make your Archetype into a publicly available resource, you'll need to seek appropriate permissions from the copyright holders to display their images. 

Where will all my uploads go?

Your uploaded images will be generally be stored on the computer or server you are running Archetype on. We have set up Docker (the simplest deployment) so that your digital images are held externally from the Docker container. This makes upgrading Archetype more straightforward and minimises the risk of any data loss.

What alphabets can I use Archetype for?

In principle, Archetype can be used for any writing system or even any system of graphical communication (such as illustrations). Archetype has been used for Latin, Greek, Hebrew or Arabic letters, Chinese or Japanese characters, Cuneiform, hieroglyphs, or even elements of illustration such as heads and feet. The point is that it’s up to you to define the symbols in your system, whether they are letters, characters, or anything else. Once you have entered them into the system then Archetype will be able to work from there.

What is the connection between Archetype and DigiPal?

In short, Archetype is the software that powers DigiPal and numerous other websites (see Projects). DigiPal was a project that ran from 2010–14 and was funded by the EU. The software developed for this project has been freely available since then but never really had a name or distinct identity, and so there was a lot of confusion between the DigiPal project, the DigiPal website (at, and the underlying software which was often also referred to as DigiPal. Furthermore, the underlying software has received significant further funding since 2014, particularly from the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of the ‘Models of Authority’ and ‘Exon Domesday’ projects, none of which is reflected in the DigiPal name. For that reason we have decided to give Archetype the distinct identity that it deserves.

How much will it cost to customise Archetype?

The level of complexity of any modifications you want to implement will influence the cost of engaging a KDL Developer to work with you. Customising the framework to deal with a particular script or classification hierarchy is possible using the admin tools and you wouldn't need any specialist help.

More significant changes, such as changing the fundamental structure of the database, would require development and testing. As Archetype is an open source project, anyone with the appropriate skills can download the source code and make their own modifications. We want to grow the community of active contributors, so that there is a constant, high-quality stream of updates that address the most pressing needs of Archetype's users. We will be setting up a roadmap of changes and asking our users to vote for, and suggest improvements they'd most like to see.

If your project needs bespoke development though, KDL would be happy to discuss your requirements and produce a quotation for the changes you want. One of the most appealing aspects of Archetype is the opportunity to modify an established solution without having the expense of commissioning a completely new and untested suite of software tools.

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