The function and value of archaeological archives
My research concerns the function and value of archaeological archives – why they are being collected and stored and does their preservation commensurate to a viable public benefit? In order to examine these issues I focus primarily on the factors which limit the function of archaeological archives, with an emphasis on issues of ownership of the material and curatorial responsibility. The conventional wisdom is that the value of archives lies in their potential to provide public benefit, but in order to realise this potential benefit it is important to clarify who holds title to the material so it can be put to better use. One of the main limiting factors on the use of archaeological archives is the perception that archaeology units do not own the archived material that they store. This perception then prevents the units from making the material readily available for public use or academic research. The problem is exacerbated because the sparse use of archaeological archives could negate the notion that they are collected and stored, as a cultural resource, for a specific public benefit – because such a function needs to be demonstrated. The legal question of who holds title to archaeological archives has direct implications on the function of archives in terms of the potential public benefit which can be derived from them. Establishing what is the public benefit of collecting and storing archaeological archives can help determining who holds title to them and who is responsible for curating them. In the course of doing this research I have examined the function of archaeological archives, clarified the legal uncertainties regarding title to the archived material and I have ascertained the factors which limit their use in terms of public benefit and how these factors can be overcome.
- BSc, Archaeology, UCL Institute of Archaeology
- MA, Artefacts Studies, UCL Institute of Archaeology
- Publication: British Archaeology magazine. Issue 114. September/October 2010 – The obscure ownership of archaeological material. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba114/feat2.shtml
- Seminar: Legal issues relating to ownership of finds from archaeological sites. July 14th 2010. Museum of London.