The current crisis in museum storage space is an issue which has been widely debated across the heritage industry for some years – developer-funded archaeological work has produced, and continues to produce, a steady stream of archives (finds and records) that require storage. The space available is finite, and is rapidly filling up. Archaeological contractors are sitting on large numbers of undepositable archives.
A meeting held last week, convened by Devon County Council and held at the Bristol offices of Wessex Archaeology, aimed to address this issue for the south-west region. Representatives from planning authorities, museums and archaeological contractors were invited to hear a proposal by Stephen Reed of Devon CC, involving a greater emphasis on the digitisation of site records, and the use of off-site ‘deep storage’. Quinton Carroll from Cambridgeshire County Council gave his positive experience of working with deep storage (the DeepStore facility in Cheshire), and Lorraine Mepham from Wessex Archaeology summed up the contractors’ point of view. Lively discussion amongst the delegates focused on the financing and accessibility of such a scheme, but a consensus was reached that this might be a possible way forward, and plans were made to flesh out the scheme and build a business case. Watch this space for further developments!