Archiving and archaeological archives

The Swedish partner of the ARCHES project, the Swedish National Heritage Board (RAÄ) organised today a workshop on archaeological archives and archiving in Stockholm. The workshop gathered 25'ish participants from the heritage board, National Historical Museums, county administrations and museums and universities -- in the last group me and a colleague from Umeå. The aim of the workshop was to discuss a draft of a core standard for archaeological archives in Europe and its application and applicability in Sweden.

Even if the crowd was undoubtedly highly biassed in its interest in the management of archaeological data and documentation, it was still somewhat surprising how unanimous we were on the central challenges, problems and strengths of current archaeological practice in Sweden. The draft proposal we discussed was not entirely unproblematic. Its level of abstraction varied from overarching formulations to highly detailed instructions that were largely based on current, and in some cases, past practices. Also, especially in the sections on digital documentation, it was apparent that the proposed measures were based rather heavily on analog archival practices, and in general, the division of sections to analog documentation, finds and digital documentation can be seen as somewhat outdated.

At the same time, however, the draft served clearly as a good propeller of discussion and helped to articulate both current issues and possible measures to counter them. The unclarity of administrative responsibility between different authorities and the lack of digital infrastructure for the management of digital archaeological data were two apparent challenges together with a bunch of other things that would need to be solved in the near future, or as some of the participants noted, around 15 years ago. As a whole, the workshop was an excellent event and I am already waiting for the updates on the ARCHES project and continuation of today's discussion in Sweden in general. 

As a researcher of information work, it was impossible not to remark that many of the current problems go back to the clash of tacit conceptualisations of archaeological work in terms of analogue and public authorities' driven practices and the contemporary realities of public management and the digital technology. Therefore, it was not at all surprising that doing something would probably require an extensive discussion on concepts and how they could and should be defined today. At the end of the workshop, Britta Rosborg and Marcus Smith presented two on-going efforts to do some work on revisiting and redefining, Britta on the deposition procedures of archaeological finds in Sweden, and Marcus on the RAÄ's year old ambitious project on the Digital Archaeological Production Chain (DAP).

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