A woman working on a computer with two screens in front of her.
Creating digital records at a Historic Environment Record (HER). © Lauren Golding
Creating digital records at a Historic Environment Record (HER). © Lauren Golding

Research on HER Backlogs: Identifying How Much Still Needs to be Recorded

A five-month research project on the backlog of material across all 83 Historic Environment Records (HERs) in England that still needs to be added to the records, has recently concluded.

HER Backlogs consist of a variety of sources from unpublished excavation reports to new historic sites found through aerial mapping projects. These backlogs are still not recorded on local HERs and thus historic sites and buildings might be missed when HERs are consulted for planning decisions. Currently, 91% of HERs report having a backlog.

The first principle of HIAS is that Local Authority HERs should be the primary source for data on the historic environment, but backlogs mean that some HER databases can be missing information.

The most common types of backlog are grey literature (reports produced by specialists such as archaeology units) and local research. These two are also the highest priority items to accession for HERs, followed by built heritage information generated through the planning system.

Quantifying the backlog is a vital step for working towards simplified access to all heritage information.

The research findings made it possible to propose recommendations to address these backlogs and pre-empt further backlog creation. How these can be taken forward will be explored by Historic England and partners.