A survey by the Society of Museum Archaeologists (SMA) has exposed a lack of storage space and curatorial expertise in English museums dealing with archaeological archives. The survey of 134 museums found that 36 could not accept archaeological archives because of lack of space. It also revealed that museums in 47 local authorities were no longer collecting, while 70% of museums had no specialist archaeology curator.
According to SMA chairwoman Gail Boyle archaeological field units are having to store their work, as there is nowhere for them to deposit it. “The underlying problem is the lack of space and funding to administer space. The bottom line is that if there was enough money, we could solve the problem quickly.”
Adrian Tindall, chief executive of the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers (FAME), said he thought the numbers in the survey were conservative. Tindall added that the federation would like a more rigorous disposal policy, with disposal as the default option unless there were good reasons for retaining material, alongside funding for more storage space around the country.
Just a thought: if the archives, including the objects, would be digitized properly, they could be handed over to the public under the mandatory condition of careful management and availability for exhibitions. Only a few (voluntary) curators are needed to provide information on preservation and performing some random checks now and than. In this way storage, adding (and editing) of metadata and connecting the archives with the actuality would be organized. Even more important is the added value from the commitment of (many) individual enthusiasts.