The EAC Working Party and the ARCHES project
The EAC Symposium topic in Metz was on archaeological archives. The symposium was very successful and we managed to identify a number of shared concerns and a willingness to work together to find solutions. It was agreed to form a working party to establish common high level guidance for archaeological archives, and also to look at training, digital archiving, access, archive management and storage/curation issues.
The first task of the working party was to try and agree a definition and underlying principles of an archaeological archive, which were agreed as:
Archaeological archives are all moveable remains/heritage, data and documentation from any archaeological observation or intervention
- An archaeological archive should be permanently preserved in a recognised facility;
- Every archaeological activity should aim to produce a structured, complete, stable and accessible archive;
- Standards for the preparation and management of the archaeological archive must be understood and agreed at the beginning of any archaeological activity.
A methodology for achieving the common high level guidance has been agreed and a project outline for submission to the board is underway.
The members of the working party comprise:
Ann Degraeve, B (chair)
David Bibby, D (co-chair)
Duncan Brown, GB
Annika Carlsson, S
Kristin Huld, IS
Martin Kuna, CZ
Guus Lange, NL
Carla Schulte, NL
Bettina Stoll-Tucker, D
Claire Driver, GB (Secretariat)
Catherine Hardmann, ADS, GB
Kathy Perrin, GB
Sascha Schmidt, VS-Consulting, D
The activities of the working party have resulted in the European Union co-funded ARCHES project to establish common high level guidance and Standards and guidance for the creation, preparation and deposition of archaeological archives
The individual members of the ARCHES project are essentially the same as the working party. Still the working party and ARCHES are mot the same thing. ARCHES is structured in Working parties:
1 Project management and coordination (Baden-Württemberg, Germany)
2 Core Standard Production (English Heritage)
3 Organisation of Workshops (Archaeological Heritage Agency, Iceland)
4 Survey (Sachsen Anhalt, Germany)
5 Applied Standard Production (Archeologicky ustav AVCR Praha, v.v.i Czech Republic)
6 Dissemination (Brussels Capital Region, Belgium)
7 Sustainability measures (Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, Netherlands)
The Swedish: Riksantikvarieämbetet, RAÄ has a role in each working party, rather than organising one itself
Standards and guidance for the creation, preparation and deposition of archaeological archives
1. BACKGROUND - PROJECT NEED
In the last 20 years, the number of archaeological excavations has increased considerably, so have the standards of analysing and recording the sites. This has lead to the production of an exponentially growing volume of archaeological archives, including written or graphic documentation both analogue and digital, archaeological finds and samples of various natures.
All archaeologists agree that this heterogeneous collection is extremely precious being often the only testimony left of the past and are all concerned with its long term storage and conservation, but very often they have great difficulties finding the necessary resources to maintain these archives.
The EAC recognised and discussed the importance of these issues and addressed them through a dedicated symposium in March 2007. The symposium examined how this important issue is approached by various European countries and debated a series of the major aspects:
- The definition of the archaeological archive to be kept "forever" and whether there is a legal basis to that definition
- Legal issues, who is responsible for the conservation and curation of this archive
- Procedures of selection and retention
- Storage and standards of conservation
- Accessibility of the archive.
The symposium highlighted the fact that most of the member countries shared many common issues covered by these topics and there was unanimous agreement that the development of best practice guidance and an overarching standard for European archaeological archives was a desirable goal. To this end the EAC working party on archaeological archives was formed with the initial aim of producing this standard and guidance.
This aim will be addressed, at least at an advisory level, through the preparation of ‘A Standard for the Creation, Preparation and Deposition of Archaeological Archives', which will bring together the recommendations of existing standards and guidance documents, provide standards where none currently exist, and providing guidance for implementation.
It is most important that this project produces a single document that has the support of all areas of the archaeological profession within the EAC member countries, and is available to all practitioners.
The guidance will address all areas of archaeological archives - finds, samples, environmental material, written, drawn and photographic records, and digital material - and all areas of the process from archaeological intervention (whether invasive or non-invasive) to deposition.
The resulting document will be applicable to the compilation of new archives, and should, when possible, be regarded as a standard to be applied retrospectively.
It is intended that the guidance and overarching standard will be submitted to the EAC board for endorsement.
2. PROJECT AIM AND OBJECTIVES
The aims of the project will be to:
- Produce a definitive ‘standard for the compilation, preparation and deposition of archaeological archives', drawn from existing principles, guidelines and related documents that currently inform the archiving process.
- Produce ‘best practice guidance for the Compilation, Preparation and Deposition of Archaeological Archives', for adoption by the EAC.
To meet this aim, the project's objectives will be:
- To conduct a survey substantially derived from Chapter 3 of the AAF UK guidance looking in detail at the best practice used in each country.
- To hold local workshops in each of the ARCHES members' languages to encourage bidirectional information on local/national archiving practice and future visions as well as to elucidate the survey.
- To gather together all member countries guidance documentation, to ensure that the project's results are relevant and appropriate in all the constituent parts of the EAC member countries.
- To summarise their contents and combine with the survey results to produce the best practice guidance.
- To produce a draft Archive Standard
- To circulate the drafts for review by the EAC board and working party and produce and disseminate a final version
- To produce a publication design brief
- To produce an EAC ‘Standard and guidance for the Compilation, Preparation and Deposition of Archaeological Archives' for submission to the EAC Board for endorsement.
3. METHOD STATEMENT
The AAF UK guidance will be used as a basic template for constructing the EAC guidance, with sections relevant to EAC requirements (mainly chapter 3) mined to form the basis of survey questions. The survey will be circulated all member countries representatives with instructions to oversee its completion by the most relevant specialist or specialists. Some countries will obviously require more than one copy of the survey to be completed, most especially those with federal states. Alongside this exercise relevant documentation will be collected, organised and summarised according to its applicability to each stage of the archiving process.
Six principal activities were identified by the UK guidance in the compilation and preparation of an archive: collection, analysis, reporting, ordering, packing and transfer. These will form the structure of the Guide, with main areas to be covered as follows:
- project planning and the stipulation of archive standards
- the collection of data, the recording of information, the treatment of records, finds and digital data
- the processes of analysis and archiving the results
- the packing of records and finds, the presentation of digital data, the ordering and indexing of the archive
- transfer, and the long-term curation and management of archaeological archives.
Existing standards will be organised into groups according to which parts of the archiving process they impinge upon. These documents will also be summarised and, it is hoped, incorporated into a flow-chart, or similar diagram, the aim of which will be to elucidate the ways in which different standards can be applied throughout archiving.
A draft Standard will be prepared that provides a structure for the archiving process, and identifies best practice applicable to each stage.
A process of consultation on the project's report will be undertaken in two stages. The first will involve the members of the EAC working party commenting on the draft document, allowing the document to be brought to final draft stage. A final draft standard and guidance will be produced in line with comments received from members of the working party.
Wider consultation will involve the final draft document being made available electronically to the EAC board and members for comment.
The finished version of the Standard will be produced after collation and application, as appropriate, of the comments received through the stakeholder review.
The Standard will presented for final sign off by the EAC board.
4. FINANCIAL INFORMATION
The project, with a total financial volume of € 323,654.00 will run initially from June 2012- May 2014. It is jointly financed by the working group member input and a grant from the European Commission's Education, Audiovisual and Cultural Executive Agency under the Culture Programme 2007-2013.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.