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Guidance for Archaeological Archiving#


During this stage, project documentation will be produced which will set out the aims and objectives of the project, and the personnel, strategies, timetable, tasks and resources necessary for the work to take place. This is the stage at which the archiving requirements of the project should be determined, as follows.

1.1. The structure and character of the future archive #

The structure and character of the future archive should be agreed on and understood by all concerned, including the expected final content of the archive and how it will be managed, see STANDARD for archaeological archiving Chapter 3. Principles.

  • Standards should be set for project records (e.g. context records, object records, site plans) including their creation in both digital and analogue formats; what media will be used and procedures followed to ensure a consistent record, including digital file formats, file naming and classification schemes, metadata protocols and storage media. Where they exist, standards or conventions set in international, national, regional, local or specialist guidelines should be followed.
  • The anticipated material (finds) assemblage and the archiving procedures to be followed during identification, recording, and management should be defined. This should detail the manuals to be used and any packaging, temporary storage, curation or movement requirements.
  • Wherever they exist, international, national, regional, local and/or repository standards for archaeological archives and collections management should be followed.

1.2. Selection for archive#

A selection strategy should be agreed at the project planning stage. This should set out the criteria for selecting records, documents, data files and materials (finds) for inclusion in the project archive. It should also set out how things that have not been selected for archive will be dispersed or discarded. This strategy should be devised in accordance with the project research aims or management questions (see STANDARD for archaeological archiving Chapter 5). Account should be taken of any national, regional or local research frameworks and also of the collecting policies of the recipient repository.

  • All components of the documentary record and the material assemblage should be subject to selection for retention in the archive at any time during the project lifecycle. Documents should be subject to version control and a clear digital management policy should be in place which enables the deletion of duplicate or superfluous digital files.
  • A selection strategy should be drawn up with input from all the relevant members of the project team, including specialists and the curator of the repository or repositories into which the final archive will be received.

1.3. The security of the archive and disaster management planning#

It is vital that security or disaster management plans are devised and implemented that safeguard the archive, and also potential archive components, from damage and loss (see STANDARD for archaeological archiving Chapter 5). Such plans, which could be a part of the disaster management plan for the project itself, should be included in the planning documentation.

  • Ensure the disaster management strategy includes the means of safeguarding the information that is contained in the archive, including the implementation of security copying or back up systems for both analogue and digital data. It should detail the standards which will be adhered to in order that the documentary and material archive will be created, collected and stored to ensure against damage, cross contamination, loss or theft.
  • Ensure the disaster management strategy covers the security of the archive whilst on site/in the field, during transportation or movement of material objects (finds) and information, during analysis in the office or laboratory and in store during temporary care. Disaster plans should also be in place at archive repositories.

1.4. Tasks and resources#

At the planning stage the tasks and resources required for the project will be identified and allocated and it is important that the needs of the archiving process are included in these plans (see STANDARD for archaeological archiving Chapter 4).

  • During the creation of the project plan, archiving activities and tasks should be programmed and timetabled. Important archiving milestones, for example obtaining landowner agreements, copyright and transfer of title agreements, or fulfilling deposition conditions, should be programmed in, and any scheduling issues which may affect these milestones should be noted.
  • Qualified and experienced specialists, including conservators, should be consulted to ensure sufficient resource is identified and allocated to make the project archive ordered, internally consistent, accessible, stable, secure and properly cared for from the beginning of the project until the archive is safely deposited in an approved repository.

1.5. Identification and involvement of the repository #

Unless national, regional or local laws or regulations dictate where the archive must go, the recipient repository, or repositories, should be identified and involved at the project outset so that the future of the final archive can be guaranteed, and the archive compiled in accordance with the repository’s specifications. It is important to ensure that any national, regional or local legal regulations which apply to the project archive are followed and are described in the project planning documentation.

  • Ensure that both the analogue documentary archive and the material (finds) archive are transferred to a repository, or repositories, approved in accordance with national, regional or local accreditation schemes (the Standard 4.3.6) and that the digital archive is deposited with a Trusted Digital Repository (the Standard 4.5.18). Any repository must provide nationally, regionally or locally recognised standards of curatorial care and good access to the archive for all future users.
  • Ensure that the repository curators participate in the project planning process from the outset.

1.6. Transfer of title and copyright#

The rights of title to the archive and issues over copyright are complex and it is not possible in the Guide to go into any specific detail, as this would involve discussing varying national laws and procedures for several European countries. However, general principles do hold.

  • Copyright and transfer of title, where appropriate, should be clarified and agreed during the project planning stage. If there are any copyright or transfer of title issues affecting the project archive, then it is important to ensure that these are resolved in accordance with national, regional or local legislation.