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Preparing your Archive#

Standards and guidelines for depositing digital archives in archaeology#

Some guidelines about archiving are already mandatory for certain sectors within the discipline of archaeology.

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.



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.

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.