Labelled archive boxes on shelves within an archives store

Archaeological archives store at Fort Cumberland © Historic England
Archaeological archives store at Fort Cumberland © Historic England

Archaeological Archives

An archaeological archive consists of the records and finds made during an archaeological project, including written or drawn documentation, digital files, and materials such as pottery, stone, metalwork, animal bone and wood.

The Archaeological Archives team cares for and compiles the archives produced during Historic England archaeology projects. Compilation involves documenting, packing and ordering the archive to facilitate the retrieval of information or objects. At the end of a project, the archive will be transferred to a museum, repository or digital archive where it will be curated and made accessible for further research, education or enjoyment.

Boxes of archaeological material ready to be transported.
An archaeological archive ready for transport

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 (known as ADAPt, see below), which is 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 Historic England's predecessor. 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’.

Archaeological Data Archiving Protocols (ADAPt)

ADAPt is a toolkit of templates, checklists, and pro-forma specifically designed to integrate archiving into the data creation process.

We create digital files in almost every area of our work, from collecting data to producing images or writing reports. It is essential that our data are managed to ensure they remain secure and accessible both now and into the future. That means planning for the digital archive at the beginning of a project and not leaving it all until the end.

Find out more about the ADAPt toolkit

Advice

The Historic England Archaeological Archives team are available for advice on all aspects of archaeological archiving.

We also engage with, or lead, national discussions on widely shared problems around archaeological archive practice and curation. These include the development of an Archaeological Archive Selection Toolkit; Guidance on the Rationalisation of Archaeology Collections; surveys of museum collecting and expertise; Planning for Archives; Digital Data in Archaeology.

We can also offer advice on the history of published research in Historic England and its predecessors, as well as how to publish current and future projects within this established series.

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.

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