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The Survey: Use of archives

Fig 16
Figure 16: Graph showing frequency with which respondents follow up use of fieldwork reports by consulting project archives (Q3.6a)

The survey found that within the previous year 52% of respondents had not followed up the use of a fieldwork publication by consulting its paper/ digital/film/microfiche records ('paper archives') and that 56% had made no use of the collected physical remains (artefacts/ecofacts). Only 10% had used either paper records or the collected remains on more than six occasions. These rather low figures confirm a perception that project archives are not widely used (Fig 16). However, the survey did not uphold the assumption that archives are underused because they do not provide information that is needed, or that they are difficult to use.

On average, 44% made use of archives (Fig 17). Higher than average were contractors (55%), local government archaeologists (67%), postgraduates (50%) and artefact/ecofact specialists (55%). Museum and local government archaeologists made most use of collected remains. Undergraduate students and local society archaeologists made the least use of archives.

Those who had consulted archives were asked about the categories of material they had used. Survey reports were used by 63% of those who had used archives, archive reports by 60%, photographs and drawings by 83%, artefact/ecofact summary reports by 62%, and the artefacts themselves by 74%. In sharp contrast, site matrices were only used by 26%, notebooks/diaries by 39%, conservation records by 18%, and ecofacts by 18%.

Fig 17
Figure 17: Graph comparing extent to which different constituencies follow up use of fieldwork publications with consultation of the archives (Q3.6a)

Archive users were asked to rate the categories of material in terms of ease of use. Only 9% had difficulty with paper records; 12% with computer records; 21% with microfiche records; and 11% with the artefacts/ecofacts. It would appear from these figures that archive users have less difficulty than rumour suggests. Furthermore, 81% of those who used archives were able to obtain all the information they needed, with only 24% of the entire survey sample stating that they had ever been obstructed in the use of all or part of a project archive which they wished to consult. The main reasons for obstruction were listed as commercial confidentiality, ignorance as to the archive's whereabouts, and unwillingness on the part of the archive holder.

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