SMA  ‘Quantifying the use of museum archaeological collections’

The SMA has been awarded funding by Historic England to undertake a  research project ‘Quantifying the use of museum archaeological collections’.

The overarching aim of the project is to demonstrate the current range and level of use of archaeological collections held by museums. This type of data has not been comprehensively gathered
before but is required to better inform significant current debates and to support initiatives exploring the wide range of potential benefits that public access to archaeological heritage can deliver.

Museum archaeological collections (physical artefact and archive collections, both on display and in store, and digital collections) are a significant component of our national heritage and a primary point of engagement for the public with the results of archaeological fieldwork. While facilitating the engagement with, and use of archaeological collections remains a core function of most museums, very little research has been conducted to determine the nature and amount of use of archaeological collections by both individuals and groups.

A key recommendation of the Future for Archaeological Archives Programme Action Plan is that the access and use of archaeological archives and collections held by museums should be monitored and recorded. Therefore, Historic England is funding the Society for Museum Archaeology to undertake a survey which aims to quantify the use of archaeological collections using a small sample size of c. 20 partner organisations. The project will take place over the next two and a half years with the main survey conducted over a period of 18 months. The constrained sample size and the length of the survey will allow detailed data to be collected over real time. This will enable a more accurate picture of how archaeological collections are accessed and used to be developed.


To promote the interests of archaeology in museums throughout the United Kingdom