Saturday 27th April 2013, 1.00PM at the Surrey History Centre, Woking followed by
2.00pm : The archaeological archives storage crisis
by Gail Boyle, chair of the Society of Museum Archaeologists
Admission free: all welcome
There are vacancies for ordinary members of Council and if you would like to offer yourself for nomination please contact the Membership Secretary or any of the Council members on the list below before the meeting.For further details of travel to the venue, please click here.
Trouble in store: the crisis facing archaeological archives
RESCUE has been aware of the problems surrounding the capacity of local museums in accepting archaeological archives for many years and has consistently sought to draw attention to it by highlighting specific cases1RESCUE NEWS 99 (Summer 2006) covered the case of Saffron Walden Museum in detail. Other cases cited in various letters and documents have included Northamptonshire, South Yorkshire and north Derbyshire (Weston Park Museum, Sheffield) as well as the numerous cases in which RESCUE has counselled against the closure of local and regional museums by local authorities on cost-cutting grounds. Letters on this issue have included those to Robert Key MP (25th April 2007), Tim Boswell MP, chair All Party Archives group (13th May 2008); David Miliband (April 2006), Mark Taylor (Museums Association; January 2005). and by raising the issue with central government2Documents prepared by RESCUE covering the archives issue include the following: Archaeological archives in the UK Briefing document for Robert Key MP (October 2007); Caring for our Collections: A response by RESCUE – The British Archaeological Trust (Submitted to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee September 2006); Protecting, preserving and making accessible our nation’s heritage: A response to the call for contributions to the work of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee by RESCUE – The British Archaeological Trust (January 2006); Understanding the future: museums and 21st century life: A response by RESCUE – The British Archaeological Trust (June 2005); Better places to live: Government, identity and the value of the historic and built environment: A response by RESCUE - The British Archaeological Trust (April 2005); Museums in crisis: an outline of the RESCUE position (June 2004).
Most recently RESCUE has highlighted the fact that the actions of both local and national government in respect of archaeological archives have placed the United Kingdom in breach of the Valetta Convention and has drawn the attention of the European Parliament to this state of affairs3Letter to Doris Pack MEP, Chair of the European Committee on Culture and Education (August 2011): .
The issue has come to a head, with the issue making the headlines very recently e.g. with Wiltshire Museum telling the council they have ‘no more space’.
A recent initiative between the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers (FAME), the Society of Museum Archaeologists (SMA) and the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO) has sought to foster a greater level of collaborative working within archaeology and the museums profession to resolve the issue and to establish a proper level of care for archaeological archives within the UK while at the same time maximising their value to both the professional and amateur/voluntary sectors alike by increasing access to them and encouraging innovative research based upon them.
The approach has included a survey of undeposited archaeological archives held by archaeological practices, conducted by FAME, and a report commissioned by the SMA to “to quantify and qualify the current picture, and produce a set of recommendations for future storage strategies”.
Gail Boyle, Chair of the SMA, will outline the work done so far, and incorporate the latest discussion from a meeting of the Archaeological Archives Forum to be held on 7th March.
Links to more information
- Rescue react to initial proposals to review situation (January 2012)
- FAME report on survey of undeposited archaeological archives (November 2012)
- SMA report on ‘Archaeological Archives and Museums 2012 (January 2013)
- Wiltshire Museum have ‘no more space’ and are no longer accepting archives (February 2013)
- Wessex Archaeology react to news of ‘no more space’ at Wiltshire Museum (February 2013)
- Museums Association react to SMA report (March 2013)