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Archive deposition with Museums
I've no doubt this topic will be of interest to many excavations units, curators and others. I know many other museum services are in a similar position to us and we would welcome constructive feedback on possible solutions. I'm well aware that excavating units are also labouring under severe financial and storage difficulties, so it's a problem with no simple solution. Below is the letter we have sent out today:

East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Museum Service HQ, 10 Lord Roberts Road, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 9BE. Telephone 01482 392771 Fax 01482 392778 E-mail:

Re: Storage charge for deposition of Archaeological material with East Riding of Yorkshire Council?s Museums Service

Dear Sir/Madam

The purpose of this letter is to advise you of a proposed increase of our current box deposition fee and review of deposition guidelines. This proposal, which is currently being considered within ERYC?s Department of Environment & Neighbourhood Services -which contains the Museums Service ? has arisen due to an increasingly difficult storage situation:

- Despite the creation of the new store at the Treasure House in Beverley, all of the Museum Service?s stores are coming under increasing pressure, due to very active collecting, not only of archaeological material, but also geology, social history and art. Prior to 1996, there was no professional museums service in this area and collecting by the various museums now run by ERYC was sporadic. Much archaeological material went to Hull Museums Service, the Yorkshire Museum or the British Museum. A considerable quantity was never deposited with any museum at all. ERYMS now collects material from all over the East Riding, including the majority of archaeological material from this region, but the available storage has not kept pace with this collecting practice.
- The deposition fee for archaeological material (currently ?14.48 per 18x12x6? box) has remained at much the same level since the creation of the Museums Service in 1996, being based on the English Heritage rate. It only reflects the cost of a single year of storage, whereas in reality the material is a permanent addition to the collections. Nor have inflation rates over the past 12 years been taken into account. Neighbouring museum services have significantly higher charges for the deposition of archaeological archives ? for example Hull Museums Service currently charges ?80 per box and the Yorkshire Museum in York has a sliding scale, with a fee of ?50 for commercial excavations.
- We are also aware that there is a significant ?backlog? of excavated material from the East Riding held by numerous different excavation units, in some cases dating back 5-10 years. This includes very large archives from various pipeline projects. Additionally there are older archives for which no storage grant is available. This unquantified, but undoubtedly large amount of material, presents a significant storage problem for the future.

Taking all these factors together, we feel there may be little alternative to raising the level of deposition charge. This will help cover the considerable cost of renting additional storage space (an extensive search has failed to identify any suitable space within existing Council properties). No definite decision has yet been reached, but we are minded to set a fee somewhere in the range ?50-?80 per box, in line with our neighbours. Entirely paper archives would perhaps be charged at a lower rate, whilst unfunded community archaeology projects could be deposited for free. The bulk of existing archives at the Treasure House would be transferred to the new store, leaving sensitive material and paperwork here.

We understand that this decision has considerable financial and resource implications for the many excavation units that deposit material with us. That is why we are consulting widely with neighbouring museum services, the Sites & Monuments Record and with field archaeologists. Another factor that needs discussion is the type of material currently being deposited. It may be that we need to work more closely with excavation units before archives are deposited, to see whether archives can be further reduced before deposition, which will mitigate to some extent the increase in charges.

It is clear to us that the current situation is not sustainable and that if additional storage/funding is not available within the next year or so, we will have to suspend the deposition of archives with ERYMS until a solution can be found. Rather than simply imposing a new charge, we are taking this opportunity to explain the situation and consult with you. If you would like to offer any comments, you can contact me at the above address. I will also be starting a discussion thread on the British Archaeological Jobs and Resources discussion Forum, so contributions there are also welcome.

Yours sincerely

Dr. DJ Marchant
Museums Registrar, ERYC

Seems both sensible and entirely reasonable to me...but what do I know.
Storage.... the perennial bugbear. I have to say your terms seem to be reasonable and justifiable. IT affects different people in different ways.. where I am sure the YAT have their own secure archive storage facilities .. while others will not... allowing community to deposit for free is a good move, but perhaps even they could factor in a 'small charge' even if just to feel they are contributing to the safe storage after the work is over.

"I don't have an archaeological imagination.."
While storage is a never ending head ache, I have to say that your charges, reasoning and the fact that you would like to consult more with units all appear very reasonable in comparision with many museums I have had the (dis) pleasure of dealing with. Do not feel giulty for creating a budget and resource that can maintain archives. Too many archives are kept under conditions which allow them to deteriorate or be dispersed, before somebody makes the decision to scrap them years down the line. Make sure any changes are not 'instant' to allow the units you deal with to budget in additional archiving costs to their projects, so the developer pays. Keep up the good work!
Thanks for the positive comments so far.

It's going to be quite a long process, given the need in a local authority structure to create a report (probably my job) circulate it around various Council departments for consultation and then get a decision from elected members. Then identify appropriate store and get rental agreement set up. Weeks, more likely months. There is obviously a big issue about archives which we have already accepted in principle (i.e. allocated accession numbers to), where the units will have budgeted for our current storage charge and also what to do about further offers of archives in the interim period before (if) the new charge is imposed. A complex problem.
Your proposed charge does seem to be very reasonable. Have you considered it along side strict guidelines for what you consider would make up an archaeological archive, including controls over the deposition of CBM to try and reduce volume a bit.
In my experience when a museum or archive ups its charges (fairly or not), then the units have to pay the going rate whether its what was originally budgetted for or not. As the larger projects can span several years this often leaves a considerable discrepancy. So, hardline and unpleasant as it may be the units that have pending archives already accepted in principle will ahve to accept this and bite the bullet. But it does highlight why giving them as much notice of forthcoming charge increases is so very important.
Historic Building,
Excellent point on CBM, even for larger sites I generally find 2-4 decent size archive boxes (at most) are sufficient to retain, unless you have a series of complete Roman roof tiles/Medieval floor tiles etc. Retention/discard policies may seem savage but in the long term make sense provided recording has been undertaken thoroughly.
To update, following useful points posted here, some e-mail traffic and a face-to-face meeting with one local unit, we are hoping to devote space to this issue at the next Humber Archaeology Forum. This will likely be at the Treasure House in Beverley in September. If you have / are likely to do work in the East Riding of Yorkshire, let me know if you would like to attend and I'll post details here when I get them. Comments from units not able to attend can of course be submitted to me (e-mail

Many thanks!


thanks David

"I don't have an archaeological imagination.."
Humber Archaeology Forum now set for Wednesday 17th September, 10.00-12.00 at The Treasure House, Champney Road, Beverley. Unfortunately we could only get a small meeting room (10-12 people) so it could be very cosy. If you are not on the usual invite list, best let me know if you are likely to attend.

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