Rationalising the Stonestore

Like many units our local archaeological contractor has acquired a backlog of stonework over the years from the many excavations that have occurred in the County of Worcestershire and City of Worcester.

Worked stone from Deansway, Worcester

These excavations have added colour and life to the evolving story of our villages, towns and city and the archaeological reports that the sites have produced are now available for the benefit of anyone who needs them.

The results of these excavations; the paperwork, the finds and the digital images and plans will finally end up with our shared city and county museums service for the benefit of the public and researchers. The most interesting finds will add to the exhibitions and displays that are curated by the joint service and the bulk archives that have further potential will be kept for further research. Every year our stores are visited by students, authors and specialists who wish to look at our archaeological material.

Inevitably, not every find that is picked up during an archaeological excavation has the same kind of display or research potential and it is now our role as custodians of these collections to ensure that we only retain material that has serious value. Even storage has a cost and especially in these days of austerity it would be irresponsible of the service to collect material that does not have future value.

Worked stone storage

Our local contractor will be moving to a new home at the Hive in Worcester in 2012 and so the time is right to deposit any archaeological finds and archive still held by the unit from any sites that have been reported upon and are no further use to the unit. There will be more work to come but our initial attention has fallen on the stonework that has been collecting at the unit over a number of years. The stone work collection includes both city and county finds. Material kept because of its rarity, stylistic value and excellent contextual information but also stonework retrieved just in case it may yield some importance on further analysis. Our job has been to sort the stonework which has display and research potential from that which has none.

The process has involved museum curators, planning archaeologists, field archaeologists and management. Each stakeholder has had the opportunity to comment on provenance, context and importance and all their opinions have been considered. Reports, context sheets, field archaeologists and project managers have all been consulted to extract as much information as possible to inform the process. All of the stonework that will not be collected will be recorded in full by the unit so that a permanent record can be kept. The stonework with real potential for further use will be acquired by the City and County collections for the benefit of future researchers and the public in general.

We have some way to go from here. We have finds, paper and digital archives to consider for rationalisation, discard or deposition with the museum but it is hoped that we have established a working practice and a partnership that enable the right decisions to be made about the future of our existing archives and that the knowledge and experience gained will form the basis of guidelines that will inform retention and selection in our collecting area for future archives.

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