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Archaeological Archives Forum

The archive, whether finds, documentation or both, is a key product of archaeological investigation and it may be the only record of a historical site destroyed by development. However the field of archaeological archives is one beset by many challenges, some of which are proving difficult to overcome, such as a lack of storage facilities and good public access to the resource.

Latest News

Standard and Guide to Best Practice for Archaeological Archiving in Europe has been produced, using 'Archaeological Archives' as model. Developed by the ARCHES project (Archaeological Resources in Cultural Heritage, a European Standard), this a collaboration between nine different political entities, including Belgium, the Czech Republic, the German states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Saxony-Anhalt, Iceland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Funded by the European Union Culture Fund and supported by the Europae Archaeologiae Consilium (EAC), aims to produce a common standard for the creation and management of archaeological discoveries and associated documentation.

The Forum

The Forum was established in 2002 to:

Quinton Carroll of ALGAO chairs the Forum. The Secretary is Claire Tsang.

The starting point for the work of the Forum was a report prepared by Kathy Perrin which presents the results of a rapid survey undertaken across the archaeological resource management sector, identifying the issues involved and noting ideas for progress. It discusses the options for the future and recommends an action plan for a way forward. From this the Forum's forward plan was established, which is renewed every three to four years in response to specific archaeological archive issues. The Forum is task-driven, and now meets annually in October. Its membership consists of designated representatives of all the major stakeholder organisations involved in archaeological archives in the UK.

Terms of reference for the Forum: DOC | PDF.

Forum Initiatives and Projects:

In 2012 using 'Archaeological Archives' as a model, A Standard and Guide to Best Practice for Archaeological Archiving in Europe was produced.

In 2011 'Archaeological Archives: A guide to best practice in creation, compilation, transfer and curation (revised edition)' was produced with the support of Historic England (was English Heritage) that includes an expanded section on Selection and Retention (Section 4). Download the 2011 version of Archaeological Archives. A guide to best practice in creation, compilation, transfer and curation (PDF 868KB).

Written by Duncan H Brown and Claire Tsang of Historic England, the revised section sets out the principles and procedures that should be followed when selecting for the documentary and material archive. A hard copy will be available for insertion into the existing publication while the downloadable version also includes an updated bibliography with additional links to web editions. This revision accords with Recommendation 14 of the Southport Report (Southport Group 2011) but it is recognised as 'high level' guidance that it is hoped will inform other, more detailed documents that engage with specific selection issues.

In 2010 the AAF released ‘a Policy Statement on the case for the development of Archaeological Resource Centres within England’. This policy statement sets out the current background and argues the case for the development of a network of archaeological resource centres throughout England in response to the current archaeological archive capacity and management crisis. The statement is supported by all the Forum member organisations and is available for download: DOC | PDF

To compliment the policy statement the AAF has produced a guidance document to help those seeking to create a resource centre: ‘Developing an Archaeological Resource Centre: Guidance for Sustainable Storage and Access to Museum Collections.’ The Guidance document defines what an ARC is and sets out recommended procedures that should be followed in developing one, from preparatory work, through planning to execution. These guidelines have been developed to support any project designed to create an ARC. Reference to this document should satisfy stakeholders that the project will proceed within a nationally accepted framework. The Guidance can be downloaded: PDF (185KB)

2009: Securing a Future for Maritime Archaeological Archives Project
There is a critical lack of long-term, accessible and secure homes for maritime archaeological archives (the artefacts, samples and documentary and digital records from the many investigations undertaken in the marine zone around the UK). There is an acknowledged lack of capacity in our museums and archives to curate maritime archaeological archives and a lack of clarity over roles and responsibility for archives from the marine zone. This project has provided baseline information on the scale and extent of the problem to inform future solutions to the current situation, by gathering data on three key areas:

The project was undertaken in three stages and the individual project reports are now available for download as PDFs

In 2007 the AAF published 'Archaeological Archives: a guide to best practice in creation, compilation, transfer and curation'. This is a comprehensive guide to the process of archaeological archiving for both material and documentary archives, from project planning through to final deposition and curation.

Archaeological archives are an essential element of the archaeological resource. That mass of collected paper, drawings, photographs, objects and digital data, is a resource that enables not only the reinterpretation of original findings, but also provides the raw material for further research, informs museum displays and teaching collections and gives every member of our society access to the evidence for our shared past.

'Archaeological Archives' subsequently informed the development of the IfA 'Standard and Guidance for Archaeological Archives', adopted by the Institute in 2009.

In May 2004, 'A Review Of Standards In England For The Creation, Preparation And Deposition Of Archaeological Archives' was received by the Archaeological Archives Forum (AAF). This report highlighted major inconsistencies in the ways various types of archaeological practitioner perceive their role within the archaeological archiving process. Planning archaeologists, contracting units, specialists and museum curators were all consulted, together with as much documentation as possible. The 2003 AAF report, 'A Review of Standards in England for the Creation, Preparation and Deposition of Archaeological Archives' highlighted considerable inconsistencies in approaches to the archiving process and recommended the publication of a guidance document or standard.

The AAF asked the Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) to manage the preparation of a best practice guidance document that brings together procedures in all stages of the archive process, that has the support of all areas of the archaeological profession, and is available to all practitioners. The final version of the document, written by Duncan H. Brown of Southampton Museums, is now available to download (PDF 1MB). It is a comprehensive, practical and exhaustive guide to the whole process of archaeological archiving for both material and documentary archives, from project planning through to final deposition and the archive's subsequent curation. The document will also inform the IfA in the preparation of a Standard and guidance for the creation, preparation, transfer and curation of archaeological archives.

Before 2007:

In addition, the Archaeological Archives Forum endorses and supports the OASIS project as a means of enhancing access to archaeological archives. For more information about the project please go to

Forward Agenda and Meeting Minutes:

Forward Agenda

The current forward agenda is driven by the recommendations set out in the SMA and Fame 2012 report: ‘Evaluating the archaeological resource in store – informing the future’.

Meeting Minutes:

  1. Minutes of the 1st Forum meeting, 27 May 2002 (DOC 27KB)
  2. Minutes of the 2nd Forum meeting, 7 Oct 2002 (DOC 32KB)
  3. Minutes of the 3rd Forum meeting, 24 March 2003 (DOC 33KB)
  4. Minutes of the 4th Forum meeting, 13 Oct 2003 (DOC 27KB)
  5. Minutes of the 5th Forum meeting, 30 March 2004 (DOC 40KB)
  6. Minutes of the 6th Forum meeting, 19 Oct 2004 (DOC 48KB)
  7. Minutes of the 7th Forum meeting, 15 March 2005 (DOC 45KB)
  8. Minutes of the 8th Forum meeting, 30 Nov 2005 (DOC 32KB)
  9. Minutes of the 9th Forum meeting, 22 March 2006 (DOC 36KB)
  10. Minutes of the 10th Forum meeting, 20 Feb 2007 (DOC | PDF)
  11. Minutes of the 11th Forum meeting, 25 Sept 2007 (DOC | PDF)
  12. Minutes of the 12th Forum meeting, 5 Feb 2008 (DOC | PDF)
  13. Minutes of the 13th Forum meeting, 2 Sept 2008 (DOC | PDF)
  14. Minutes of the 14th Forum meeting, 5 May 2009 (DOC | PDF)
  15. Minutes of the 15th Forum meeting, 14 Oct 2009 (DOC | PDF)
  16. Minutes of the 16th Forum meeting, 13 Oct 2010 (DOC | PDF)
  17. Minutes of the 17th Forum meeting, 24 January 2011 (DOC | PDF)
  18. Minutes of the 18th Forum meeting, 12 October 2011 (DOC | PDF)
  19. Minutes of the 19th Forum meeting, 14 March 2012 (DOC | PDF)
  20. Minutes of the 20th Forum meeting, 12 October 2012 (DOC | PDF)
  21. Minutes of the 21st Forum meeting, 21 March 2013 (DOC | PDF)
  22. Minutes of the 22nd Forum meeting, 17 October 2013 (DOC | PDF)
  23. Minutes of the 23rd Forum meeting, 6 March 2014 (DOC | PDF)
  24. Minutes of the 24th Forum meeting, 22 October 2014 (DOC | PDF)
  25. Minutes of the 25th Forum meeting, March 2015 (DOC | PDF)
  26. Minutes of the 26th Forum Meeting, October 2015 (DOC | PDF)
  27. Minutes of the 27th Forum meeting, March 2016 (DOC | PDF)
  28. Minutes of the 28th Forum meeting, October 2016 (DOC | PDF)

Previous Agendas and summary reports

For further information about the work of the Forum please contact Claire Tsang.

Last Updated: 11 September 2017 by CBA staff with content from Claire Tsang, Historic England, Portsmouth.