Options for Sustainable Archaeological Archives

Exploring the long-term storage of England's archaeological archives

Archaeological archives in England

Arts Council England (ACE) and Historic England (HE) are jointly funding a new project to assess strategic options for the ongoing issue of storing archaeological archives. The options appraisal will review existing and future capacity for archaeological archives within England, considering a full range of archive solutions and evaluating the potential of each to meet the needs of archive creators, managers and users.

The volumes of undeposited archives has dramatically increased as developer-funded excavations bring forward new discoveries on a previously unimagined scale, and access to this material for research is being hindered by a lack of suitable storage and access space. This crisis was recognised by the Mendoza Review of Museums (2017) resulting with a series of recommendations targeting the sustainability of archaeological archives. This project is a key part of the action plan led by Historic England with Arts Council England to address the long-standing challenges for archaeological archives identified by Mendoza. Further details of the Action Plan can be found here:

https://historicengland.org.uk/whats-new/news/new-plan-englands-archaeology-archives-challenge/

What will the project do?

The overarching aim of this new project is to understand how the museum and wider archaeological sector can be best supported to ensure a sustainable model for the long-term storage of archaeological archives. Specifically, this research and options appraisal will explore what capacity already exists, review its effectiveness, identify different potential models considering future needs and benefits. The project will estimate the level of resourcing required to ensure the sustainability of options presented, providing a comprehensive report to help inform next steps.

The ambition of this project is to

  • review current data about archaeological archives, and to fill in current knowledge gaps
  • review different options for the long-term storage of archaeological archives
  • provide an estimate on the resource requirement for different options explored
  • consult with stakeholders about options, discussing the needs and ambitions of the creators, managers and users of archaeological archives

Who has funded the project?

The project has been commissioned and funded by Arts Council England (ACE) and Historic England (HE).

This options appraisal will help national bodies such as HE and ACE work together in identifying a workable, sustainable solution to an important issue. Creating stable and accessible archives from archaeological work is often difficult, hampered by over-stretched resources and the limitations of physical space. If that problem is removed, there will be greater opportunity to ensure that projects are able to achieve more impact, increasing public benefit and value from work undertaken in development.

Contact us

Who is working on the project?

Manda Forster, DigVenture’s Director of Operations, is managing the project and undertaking some of research, joining the team of leading archive professionals and researchers. Manda has worked with archaeological archives throughout her professional life, from the various perspectives of research, post excavation management, education and standards.

Quinton Carroll, is the Historic Environment Team Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council, and is the project’s director. Quinton is the current chair of the Archaeological Archives Forum and of ALGAO: England. Also joining the research team from Cambridgeshire County Council, Sally Croft (Senior Archaeologist, Cambridgeshire HER) and Justin Wiles (Archaeological Officer) have both been involved in reviewing the management of archives in England, as well as being involved in implementing changes to the storage of archaeological archives from Cambridgeshire.

Last but not least, Samantha Paul is acting as a key researcher and comes from a background of working with museums to understand, rationalise and develop procedural guidelines for archive accession and deposition. Samantha is also just completing PhD research investigation the value of archaeological archives in wider research, education and social contexts.

 

Key contacts

If you have any questions about the project, you contact the project team directly via the Project Manager, Manda Forster (manda@digventures.com).

For further information about the project background and ambitions, please contact:

Project Director

Quinton Carroll – Quinton.Carroll@cambridgeshire.gov.uk

Assistant Director, Cambridgeshire County Council

Arts Council England

Zelina Garland-Rowan – zelina.garland-rowan@artscouncil.org.uk

Senior Manager, Collections and Museum Programmes, Arts Council England

Historic England

Barney Sloane – Barney.Sloane@HistoricEngland.org.uk

National Specialist Services Director, Historic England

How much archive material is there?

October 2020

We’ve had a lot of input so far from across the heritage sector, but have realised we are still a bit stumped about the question of volume. We know roughly how much archive material is out there now, how much is undepositable and what is consists of… but we are missing a key figure.

  • How much physical archive material is accumulated within an average year in English archaeology?

So, this super short survey is aimed at contracting organisations working across England. We are asking for an educated guess and not expecting exact figures. We know things are variable and you’re far more qualified to do the guessing than we are!

Here’s the link to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/YRR87TV

The survey will close on the 6th November…

 

Rethinking Archives - Summer 2020

August 2020

One of our project objectives is to understand how users of archaeological archives would like to access archaeological archive material. This sounds like a simple question but is often framed by how stores holding archaeological archives currently operate. If we were able to rethink how archaeological archives are stored nationally, would that change the response? That is the question we want to ask people who work with, use, research or create archaeological archives.

An invitation to rethink archaeological archives

Join us for an online discussion workshop with colleagues from various walks of heritage and archaeology life, to discuss a series of questions and challenges about how we use archives.

  • What’s the challenge? Discuss how we work with archaeological archives, identifying the things we need in place to be able to locate, access and use materials that are held in store for long term storage.
  • What’s the opportunity? In evaluating the way archaeological archives are managed at a regional and national level, we have an opportunity to rethink how changes could to the current system impact us both positively and negatively. What changes would you include?
  • What’s up for discussion? Lots, including… How do we use archaeological archives? Are there barriers or issues in accessing archaeological archives? Where should archives be stored? How do you want to be able to use and access materials? If we are rethinking access, use and space, can we present bigger opportunities to support sustainable access?

The OSAA project team will be running two online discussion workshops with a cross-sector audience. The workshops will take place on Thursday 27 August and Thursday 03 September, from 10 – 12. They  will include three facilitated breakout discussions and some shared group feedback, with an overall group of about 25 individuals at each workshop.

You can find more information and the link for registration below. Please only book to come to one workshop – they will include the same content, we just want to reach as many people as possible!

 

Archives Update 2020

July 2020

The overarching aim of this project is to understand how the museum and wider archaeological sector can be best supported to ensure a sustainable model for the long-term storage of archaeological archives. Specifically, this research and options appraisal will explore what capacity already exists across England, review its effectiveness, identify different potential models considering future needs and benefits. The project will estimate the level of resourcing required to ensure the sustainability of options presented, providing a comprehensive report to help inform next steps.

How many boxes?

The project will be delivered over the next few months and will involve the evaluation of various storage solutions, engaging with archive creators, managers and users in the process. To do that accurately, the data which currently exists about archives and archive creation needs to be updated.

The project team have been in touch to ask if CIfA Registered Organisations would contribute a response to the project by completing an online survey about archives held currently as well as thoughts on future solutions.

You can find the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/3RKRQ29

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