Powered by
JSPWiki v2.8.2
g2gp 17-01-2009
View PDF
This is version . It is not the current version, and thus it cannot be edited.
[Back to current version]   [Restore this version]
  • Needs variation for US

Preparing your Archive#

Standards and guidelines for depositing digital archives in archaeology#

Requires updating with relevant new publications

Within the UK and US, a number of archiving guidelines are already mandatory for certain sectors within the discipline of archaeology.

  • Museum curators working in UK museums that are accredited by the Museums and Galleries Commission should adhere to the Museums and Galleries Commission (1992) and Society of Museum Archaeologists (1993; 1995) guidelines for archive access, deposition, recording, and storage
  • Archaeologists funded by Historic Scotland must adhere to Publication and Archiving of Archaeological Projects (1996a) and the Guidelines for Archiving of Archaeological Projects (1996b)
  • Projects funded by English Heritage must conform to the Guidelines known as MAP2 (English Heritage (1991)
  • Projects in Wales should be aware of the developing strategy for archaeology in Wales (Cadw and RCAHMW 1998)
  • Archaeologists creating digital data with funds received from research councils or other funding bodies should be aware that many require the deposition of a digital archive with a suitable (often designated) digital archive.

Archiving requirements in project designs or specifications#

Special reporting and archiving requirements are often included in project designs or specifications and can vary on a case-by-case basis. For many UK-based projects, and in particular those undertaken as part of the development process, a requirement is often made by the Historic Environmant Record or Sites and Monuments Record that the work is reported via the OASIS[1] system. For projects with specific funding streams, particular requirements or archives may be specified. In the case of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), for example, the provision for archiving data is ensured through their support of six specialist data centres. For science-based archaeology projects, however, NERC recommend that datasets are deposited with the ADS[2].

  • EH example
  • US examples

Repositories for archaeological digital archives#

Although the general awareness of the issues involved in collecting and curating digital archives has been raised significantly over the last ten years through the work of organisations like the Digital Preservation Coalition, the conclusion of the Swain Report (1998) that 'most museums do not have the correct technology to store, access and curate in the long-term those archives for which computer files play an important part' still largely stands as evidenced by recents reports by

It should be the responsibility of those managing archaeological resources in a region to liaise over how best to manage the digital resource for their area (whether locally or through an agency such as the ADS) and then articulate this to contractors. The ADS recommends that fieldworkers should consult with the museum, national monuments record, SMR, or other archive repository that will receive the rest of the project archive about their digital archiving policies. If, following this consultation, there is doubt about what to do with digital archives, fieldworkers are recommended to contact the ADS for information.

Basic guidelines for organisations contemplating the preservation of their own digital data are provided in Section 2, but the provision of digital archiving services is not a decision to be taken lightly. Strategies for Digital Data, the ADS's user-needs survey, found that only 50% of the digital archives held by local government bodies are copied to new media or migrated and that digital archives held in museums are in many cases left unmodified (Condron et al. 1999, 38) and are thus at risk of becoming irretrievable as technology advances. The survey also found that many digital archives held by museums and local government departments were also not being held in protected storage conditions (Condron et al. 1999, 38).

Some system of designating secure digital archiving facilities is required and, although the National Preservation Office and other national agencies are currently examining strategies for implementing such a designation system, there is currently nothing in place. Strategies for Digital Data recommended that

there is a need for a document that details the appropriate standards and facilities for digital archives. Included in this document should also be a list of digital archives that conform to these standards. An accreditation scheme for digital archives should be devised

(Condron et al. 1999, 5).

Without formal registration or definition of what constitutes a digital archiving facility, there is no effective mechanism requiring archive curators to take digital records only if they can adequately care for them. Until such a designation system is in place, organisations are encouraged to contact the ADS for up to date information and/or for the provision of professional digital archiving services.

Strategies for Digital Data calculated that there are between 9,600 and 12,200 extensively digitised projects held by archaeological bodies in Britain and Ireland (Condron et al. 1999, 41). Although there is a need to archive this valuable and fragile resource, it inevitably raises the issue of the long-term funding implications of digital archive migration strategies.

[1] http://www.oasis.ac.uk [2] http://www.nerc.ac.uk/research/sites/data/archaeology.asp


Cadw and RCAHMW (1998) Strategy for Recording and Preserving the Archaeology of Wales.

English Heritage (1991) Management of Archaeological Projects, 2nd edition.

Museums and Galleries Commission (1992) Standards in the Museum Care of Archaeological Collections.

Ottaway, P. (2010) 'Assessment Of Archaeological Collecting: A Project Report'. PJO Archaeology & MLA Renaissance Yorkshire. http://www.mla.gov.uk/~/media/Yorkshire/Files/Assessment%20of%20Archaeological%20Collecting%20Renaissance%20Yorkshire%202010

Society of Museum Archaeologists (1993) Selection, Retention and Dispersal of Archaeological Collections. Guidelines for use in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Society of Museum Archaeologists (1995) Towards an Accessible Archive. The Transfer of Archaeological Archives to Museums: Guidelines for Use in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

RCAHMS (1996a) Publication and Archiving of Archaeological Projects

RCAHMS (1996b) Guidelines for Archiving of Archaeological Projects.

Swain, H. (1998) 'A Survey of Archaeological Archives in England'. English Heritage and Museums & Galleries Commission, London