Archaeological archives consist of the records and finds made during an archaeological project. The documentary archive includes written records, drawings, photographs and digital data. The material archive includes artefacts such as pottery and metalwork, or environmental remains such as animal bone.
All those parts of an archaeological archive need to be kept safe and made accessible for further research. The Archaeological Archives team compiles and maintains the archives produced during Historic England archaeology projects. Compilation involves cataloguing, packing and ordering the archive so that it is easy to find any record or object in our stores. Maintenance is the management of our storage areas to ensure the safety and preservation of the archive. Metal, for instance, requires much drier storage conditions than animal bone or wood.
The archive from each project is managed by the Archaeological Archives team until the project has been completed. The archive is then transferred to a museum or English Heritage collections store for long-term curation.
Standards for archiving
The Archaeological Archives Team develops internal standards for the creation, compilation and transfer for archaeological archives. This includes a protocol for the archiving of digital data, which we are hoping to make accessible for reference and use by anyone who creates or manages digital material in archaeology.
All our standards are developed in line with existing guidance and standards. These include ‘A guide to best practice in the creation, compilation, transfer and curation of archaeological archives’, which was produced by the Archaeological Archives Forum with support from English Heritage. Historic England is also represented on the Archaeological Archives Working Party of the Europae Archaeologia Consilium, which has produced ‘A Standard and Guide to Best Practice for Archaeological Archiving in Europe’.
The Historic England Archaeological Archives team are available for advice on archiving methods and problems. We have expertise in cataloguing and packing, choosing what to include in an archive and the best conditions for storage.
We also engage with national discussions on widely shared problems such as the shortage of storage space or the lack of expertise in archaeological archives.
Who we are
The Historic England Archaeological Archives team works within Analysis and Intervention and includes:
Duncan H. Brown, Head of Archaeological Archives
Claire Tsang, Archaeological Archives Curator
Hugh Corley, Archaeological Information Systems Manager
Kirsty Stonell Walker, Reports Administrator.