FAME undertook an extensive survey in 2012 of the problem for long-term storage of archives, and found there were 9000 homeless archives that had not been accepted by a museum or other repository (the report is available here). Since 2012 the problem has become worse, resulting in the potential value of archaeological archives being denied to the nation. FAME has now issued a position statement that makes clear its concerns around the value of archives and what it sees as the responsibilities and legal obligations of the local authority, developer, and their archaeological contractors. FAME will use this statement to guide collaboration with partners in seeking a solution, and to provide guidance to its members in their dealings.

FAME believes that:?

  • The majority of archaeological investigation is commissioned and undertaken as part of the planning process;
  • Requirements for archive deposition, including transfer of legal ownership, should be made an explicit and transparent condition of planning permission, enforced by the planning authority on the applicant;
  •  Standard wording for archaeological conditions should include a specific statement on archives, e.g. Confirmation by the owner of the finds from the investigation that they will transfer title of the finds to a suitable repository, or alternatively that they wish to retain title to the finds;
  • There is a fundamental flaw in the planning process as there is no legal requirement for museums or other repositories to accept archaeological archives, and it is therefore the responsibility of the planning authority’s archaeological advisor to ensure that what is included within their brief, is reasonable and deliverable by the applicant;
  • It is an ethical and professional duty for all archaeologists to ensure an appropriately prepared archive, compliant with national standards, has been generated as output from any investigation;
  •  Archaeological archives can no longer be stored by the organizations that have excavated them once studies have been completed, because they are not the legal owners, and do not have facilities for long-term curation and display;
  • Commercial archaeologists risk potential liability from the owners if the artefacts are damaged or lost; and
  •  To ensure public benefit is achieved as intended within planning policy, national agencies and government departments responsible for heritage within the constituent countries of the UK need to resolve the current situation, and to ensure for the future a specific requirement for museums and appropriate repositories to take these archives for an appropriate fee from the applicants.

The full statement can be downloaded here.