The archive, whether finds, documentation or both, is a key product of archaeological investigation and it may be the only record of a historical site destroyed by development. However the field of archaeological archives is one beset by many challenges, some of which are proving difficult to overcome, such as a lack of storage facilities and good public access to the resource.
New minutes for October 2011 meeting now available
Minutes from the October 2011 meeting are now available for download – see Minutes section below.
New minutes for January 2011 meeting now available
Minutes from the 17th Forum Meeting now available for download – see Minutes section below.
Sep 2011: New edition of 'Archaeological Archives' now available
The revised edition of 'Archaeological Archives: A guide to best practice in creation, compilation, transfer and curation' is now available for download - see Initiatves and Projects section below.
Feb 2011: New minutes for October 2010 meeting now available
Minutes from the 2nd Annual Meeting and 16th Forum Meeting now available for download – see Minutes section below.
New Chair and Secretary of the Forum
Quinton Carroll has taken over the Chair from Philip Wise and Claire Driver has taken over as Secretary from Jesse Ransley. The Forum sincerely thank Philip and Jesse for their massive contributions over the years.
Nov 2010: New minutes for October 2009 meeting now available
Minutes from the 1st Annual Meeting and 15th Forum Meeting now available for download – see Minutes section below.
June 2010: Policy Statement on the case for the development of Archaeological Resource Centres within England
This policy statement sets out the current background and argues the case for the development of a network of archaeological resource centres throughout England in response to the current archaeological archive capacity and management crisis. The statement is supported by all the Forum member organisations and is available for download: DOC | PDF
Developing an Archaeological Resource Centre: Guidance for Sustainable Storage and Access to Museum Collections
AAF supports the development of Archaeological Resource Centres (ARC) and has therefore produced a guidance document to help those seeking to create one. The Guidance document defines what an ARC is and sets out recommended procedures that should be followed in developing one, from preparatory work, through planning to execution. These guidelines have been developed to support any project designed to create an ARC. Reference to this document should satisfy stakeholders that the project will proceed within a nationally accepted framework. The Guidance can be downloaded: PDF (185KB)
The Forum was established in 2002 to:
Philip Wise of the Society of Museum Archaeologists chairs the Forum. Julie Satchell and Jesse Ransley jointly fulfil the role of the Secretary.
The starting point for the work of the Forum was a report prepared by Kathy Perrin which presents the results of a rapid survey undertaken across the archaeological resource management sector, identifying the issues involved and noting ideas for progress. It discusses the options for the future and recommends an action plan for a way forward. From this the Forum's forward plan was established, which is renewed every three to four years in response to specific archaeological archive issues. The Forum is task-driven, and now meets annually in October. Its membership consists of designated representatives of all the major stakeholder organisations involved in archaeological archives in the UK.
Terms of reference for the Forum: DOC | PDF.
2011: Archaeological Archives: A guide to best practice in creation, compilation, transfer and curation (revised edition)
Archaeological archives are an essential element of the archaeological resource providing the raw material for further research, informing museum displays and teaching collections and giving every member of our society access to the evidence for our shared past.
The 2003 AAF report, 'A Review of Standards in England for the Creation, Preparation and Deposition of Archaeological Archives' highlighted considerable inconsistencies in approaches to the archiving process and recommended the publication of a guidance document or standard.
In 2007 the AAF published 'Archaeological Archives: a guide to best practice in creation, compilation, transfer and curation'. This is a comprehensive guide to the process of archaeological archiving for both material and documentary archives, from project planning through to final deposition and curation.
'Archaeological Archives' subsequently informed the development of the IfA 'Standard and Guidance for Archaeological Archives', adopted by the Institute in 2009.
English Heritage has now supported the production of a revised edition that includes an expanded section on Selection and Retention (Section 4). Written by Duncan H Brown and Claire Tsang of English Heritage, the revised section sets out the principles and procedures that should be followed when selecting for the documentary and material archive. A hard copy will be available for insertion into the existing publication while the downloadable version also includes an updated bibliography with additional links to web editions. This revision accords with Recommendation 14 of the Southport Report (Southport Group 2011) but it is recognised as 'high level' guidance that it is hoped will inform other, more detailed documents that engage with specific selection issues.
Download the 2011 version of 'Archaeological Archives. A guide to best practice in creation, compilation, transfer and curation' (PDF 868KB).
2009: Securing a Future for Maritime Archaeological Archives Project
There is a critical lack of long-term, accessible and secure homes for maritime archaeological archives (the artefacts, samples and documentary and digital records from the many investigations undertaken in the marine zone around the UK). There is an acknowledged lack of capacity in our museums and archives to curate maritime archaeological archives and a lack of clarity over roles and responsibility for archives from the marine zone. This project has provided baseline information on the scale and extent of the problem to inform future solutions to the current situation, by gathering data on three key areas:
The project was undertaken in three stages and the individual project reports are now available for download as PDFs
2007: Archaeological Archives: A guide to best practice in creation, compilation, transfer and curation.
Archaeological archives are an essential element of the archaeological resource. That mass of collected paper, drawings, photographs, objects and digital data, is a resource that enables not only the reinterpretation of original findings, but also provides the raw material for further research, informs museum displays and teaching collections and gives every member of our society access to the evidence for our shared past.
In May 2004, 'A Review Of Standards In England For The Creation, Preparation And Deposition Of Archaeological Archives' was received by the Archaeological Archives Forum (AAF). This report highlighted major inconsistencies in the ways various types of archaeological practitioner perceive their role within the archaeological archiving process. Planning archaeologists, contracting units, specialists and museum curators were all consulted, together with as much documentation as possible.
The AAF asked the Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) to manage the preparation of a best practice guidance document that brings together procedures in all stages of the archive process, that has the support of all areas of the archaeological profession, and is available to all practitioners. The final version of the document, written by Duncan H. Brown of Southampton Museums, is now available to download (PDF 1MB). It is a comprehensive, practical and exhaustive guide to the whole process of archaeological archiving for both material and documentary archives, from project planning through to final deposition and the archive's subsequent curation. The document will also inform the IfA in the preparation of a Standard and guidance for the creation, preparation, transfer and curation of archaeological archives.
In addition, the Archaeological Archives Forum endorses and supports the OASIS project as a means of enhancing access to archaeological archives. For more information about the project please go to ads.ahds.ac.uk/project/oasis.
Annual meeting minutes from 2009–2012:
For further information about the work of the Forum please contact Claire Driver.
Last Updated: 26 April 2012 by Seren Langley, Assistant Information Officer, CBA with content from Claire Tsang, Englaish Heriatge, Portsmouth.