Archaeological Archives

An archaeological archive is all the material produced by an archaeological excavation. This is not only the objects which are found but also the documentation, such as correspondence, photographs and plans, which record the instigation, progress and results of an excavation.

Why does the museum hold archaeological archives?

Archaeological archives are important. Once an excavation has happened it cannot be repeated. The soil has been removed and the original locations of the finds have been destroyed. As such, the archive is the primary record of what the excavation discovered.

Over the years, ways of excavating have changed enormously and will continue to do so. The original archaeological archive can be can be looked at in the future and reinterpreted in the light of current knowledge.

Using the archives for research

Photograph showing a display of archaeological shards of ceramics objects which are pinned on metal rods.Archaeological archives also provide researchers with the primary material they need for developing new ideas and testing new theories. They also inform museum displays and teaching collections. They are a resource which gives all society access to the evidence for our shared past.

Many researchers have used the archaeological archives for research and you can see some case studies in our research page. If you have a bone fide research question and wish to access an archive, please get in touch. We normally request around two weeks’ notice and access is on the basis of availability of staff time and working space.

To request access to the collections, please complete the researcher form below.

Researcher form [PDF]