Following our joint meeting on undeposited archaeological archives with the Society of Museum Archaeologists, we have agreed with SMA and ALGAO a joint Statement of Intent to begin to address the issue.

Trouble in Store: facing up to the archives crisis

The next steps

FAME and the Society of Museum Archaeologists (SMA) held a successful joint meeting in July 2011 entitled Trouble in Store: facing up to the archives crisis. With speakers from FAME, the SMA, ALGAO, English Heritage and the Archaeology Data Service, it was clear that there were many common issues to all parties relating to archaeological archives arising principally from developer-funded projects.

At the forefront was the issue of archives that cannot be deposited because there is no suitable museum or store. Other significant issues included the absence of data on museum storage capacity, the number of undeposited archives, and who does or does not use which archives for what purpose. Wider issues included the content of archives, the management of digital data and ownership of the process of archive preparation and deposition within a planning context.

The joint meeting was successful, as a first step, in underlining the seriousness of the situation and in agreeing that many of the issues need to be addressed with some urgency.

The next step is to decide on a way forward and a pathway to identifying acceptable solutions. This note sets out some broad principles and provides a ‘statement of intent’.

FAME, the SMA and ALGAO have agreed the following objectives:

1. To support fully the SMA’s Evaluating the archaeological resource in store – informing the future survey and will encourage all their members to contribute to it, engage with it, and take on board its recommendations

2.  To work with the AAF to support the updating of existing guidance on the processes, preparation and content of archaeological archives that embraces all elements of the archive

3. To encourage, support and publicise initiatives that explore or pilot justifiable, co-ordinated, collaborative and accountable selection and retention policies on archaeological projects and work towards practical guidance for curators and archaeological practices

4. To promote and encourage improved communication and liaison between museum professionals, local authority historic environment advisors and archaeological practices

5. To provide collective and individual support to local authorities, museums or other appropriate organisations that seek to fund and create Archaeological Resource Centres

6. To achieve within a reasonable timeframe an agreed policy statement on the management of archives that cannot be deposited because there is no appropriate museum or store

        Society of Museum Archaeologists        

 December 2011