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An archaeological project can take many forms. A weekend field-walking programme, diving on a wreck site, remote sensing survey, watching brief, a large excavation; all produce archive material, and it is the responsibility of project personnel to ensure that this is kept well-ordered and secure at all times.

This section considers the procedure of an archaeological project, identifies the personnel involved, and indicates where this document can inform those processes. It is not possible here to describe every type of archaeological project, but in general the same sequence of events will be followed and similar personnel involved. This section should therefore be relevant, at least in part, to all project personnel, and it is intended to show here how archive creation is a fundamental element at every stage of the archaeological process. The aim is to provide a framework, through the life of a project, for the use of this document and the application of appropriate standards. Appendix I ‘Archive procedures and archaeological project management’, and Appendix II ‘Individual responsibilities’, set out in more detail how particular personnel and actions relate to the creation and management of the archive. The following sections provide definitions for project personnel, activities and tasks that are couched in neutral terms that it is hoped can be applied to any type of project.


project executive
For a development-related project this would be the planning archaeologist, who identifies the scope of the project and monitors on behalf of the planning authority. In other projects this may be the same person as the project manager, or project leader, who oversees the whole enterprise from project design to dissemination.
Someone mediating on behalf of the client in a contracted project
project team
This may be a commercial archaeological organisation, group of volunteers, specialist surveyors, divers, etc. It may include all or any of the following
  • project manager
  • on-site data-gatherers (eg surveyors, excavators)
  • finds staff
  • specialist analysts (eg conservators, finds specialists)
  • illustrators
  • editors
  • archive manager
archive curator (curator)
Manager of the archive repository that will receive the project archive for long-term storage.


An archaeological archive is created, established and managed throughout the life of a project and beyond. One aim must be to make the final archive a resource that can be revisited, reinterpreted and republished.

A project can be separated into four stages, in each of which certain activities affect the quality, usefulness and longevity of the archive.


  • project proposal, brief or specification

  • detailed project design

  • data-gathering through the compilation of records (written, drawn, photographic, digital) and the collection of objects and samples
  • assessment of results from data-gathering
  • analysis and interpretation
  • report-writing and publication
  • preparation of records, data, objects and samples for archive transfer
  • deposition
  • managing the archive to ensure preservation and access

Specific project activities will usually be described in project designs, manuals and standards documents.

  • a project brief might stipulate application of certain methods of record creation, thus influencing the format of the archive
  • a field manual could influence record creation, eg by explaining the use of context record sheets, aspects of a context that are to be recorded (eg dimensions, stratigraphic relationships, deposit description) and the required scales for plans and section drawings
  • a finds manual may, for example, describe techniques of cleaning and marking, set out the terminology applicable in the recording of material and object types, and also explain how finds record sheets are compiled
  • a museum deposition standard might, for example, list the types of material to be used in packing particular objects, explain how drawings are to be labelled and packed or stipulate a particular box size for bulk finds
  • there are national and international standards for the management of various archive elements, eg long-term preservation of documents and objects; digital archives
  • national standards also exist for individual disciplines, eg recording and publication of prehistoric, Roman and medieval pottery assemblages.

The Guide should be used as a supplement to all those documents, informing the creation of local technical manuals or archive deposition standards, and ensuring that all aspects of the archaeological process are carried out with the future of the archive in mind. National and international standards must be recognised and used in association with this document, and by project personnel.

2.2.1 NB. This Guide, if it is to be applied successfully, must be referred to in pre-project documentation, including specifications, schedules of works and contracts. Reference must also be made to any other more detailed, specific or complementary manuals or standards. It is the responsibility of all monitoring agents, whether acting on behalf of the planning authority, the client, the project team or the archive repository, to apply comprehensive standards for archive management, as outlined below, at the beginning of a project. Monitoring agents must also ensure that standards are followed, and that the ultimate quality of the archive is not compromised.

2.3 TASKS#

The following tasks relate to the activities outlined above. Some are relevant to all types of project, others are more specific.

2.3.1 Start-up

  1. the Project Executive produces a project proposal that
    1. refers to the standards to which the project must adhere, including this Guide
    2. requires identification of a repository for every element of the project archive
    3. outlines requirements for transfer of title and copyright

2.3.2 Initiation

  1. the Project Team produces a project design that
    1. refers to standards that will be followed, including in-house technical manuals etc
    2. demonstrates commitment to maintaining the integrity and security of archive material during the course of the project
    3. identifies appropriate external specialists and outlines the standards to which they will be working
    4. identifies appropriate archive repositories
    5. states how transfer of title and copyright will be achieved
  2. the Project Executive monitors the project design against the brief and agrees the project design
  3. the Consultant ensures their client comprehends the project proposal, the project design and the requirement to produce a stable, ordered accessible archive.
  4. the Curator makes available local standards for the submission of an archaeological archive. It is recommended that they refer to this document

2.3.3 Execution

  • the Project Executive monitors the project to ensure that standards are being met and certifies completion
  • the Project Team ensures that standards are maintained by
    1. establishing systems for managing documents, drawings, film, photographs, digital material, finds and samples to protect from loss or damage, and to make them accessible
    2. establishing systems for collecting and managing finds and other materials, including selection, sorting, cleaning, marking, recording and packing
    3. using appropriate materials
    4. applying consistent terminology when making records
    5. documenting analytical and interpretative activities to ensure that all procedures and terminologies can be clearly understood
    6. arranging for creation of security copies of documents, drawings and digital material as appropriate
    7. preserving draft versions of reports for inclusion in the archive as appropriate
    8. consulting representatives of the archive repository as necessary
  • Prepares the project archive for transfer by
    1. marking archive storage materials appropriately
    2. packing archive material appropriately
    3. ensuring archive components are indexed
    4. compiling a contents list
  • Arranges transfer of title and copyright.
  • Arranges for the deposition of security copies of the archive as appropriate.
  • the Consultant maintains a balance between the requirements of their client and the aims of the project, ensuring that the quality of the archive is not compromised
  • the Curator monitors the project as appropriate, ensuring that the condition and security of archive material is maintained
  • Advises on retention and disposal strategies as necessary (See Appendix III).
  • Receives the archive and finalises transfer of title and copyright

2.3.4 Curation

  • the 'Curator' ensures correct standards of storage and care and makes the archive available for use