Sites and Monuments Records and Historic Environment Records in England: is Cinderella finally going to the Ball?

Paul Gilman*


In the past, SMRs have all too often been cast as the Cinderellas of British Archaeology — underfunded, inconsistent, unreliable and difficult to use. Recent events indicate that this picture is changing, and changing fast. The paper discusses the recent changes and how these are affecting SMRs' use of computing, and concludes by an attempt to chart some trends for the future, notably the impending change of SMRs to broader-based Historic Environment Records (HERs).

The most recent assessment of SMRs in England by David Baker (1999) has shown that, since the first SMRs emerged in the 1970s, their development across the country has been uneven and often on an ad hoc basis. However, recent years have seen rapid development in the field of SMRs and there are some encouraging signs that the future progress of SMRs may be different. SMRs are aspiring to cover a wide range of material, from artefacts to landscapes, and there are increasing moves towards providing greater access to this information in more creative ways. The article examines the current trend towards greater integration of information about the historic environment, through widening the scope of SMRs or linking them to other systems. Finally, the article looks at the need for more academic use of SMRs and provides some suggestions how this might be achieved.

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Paul Gilman
Heritage Conservation
Waste, Recycling and Environment
Essex County Council
County Hall
CM1 1QH, UK.