The introduction of digital data capture and management has transformed information practices in archaeology (Davidovic 2009) and digitisation provides numerous opportunities for the sector's development - stimulating effective information management, creating innovative methods in public dissemination and teaching, and offering transparency in governing processes, to name just a few. Widespread digitisation in the heritage sector followed the introduction of accessible and affordable personal computers in the 1990s (Zubrow 2006; Thwaites 2013) and if we include early pioneering work on systematic descriptions of archaeological materials (e.g. Gardin 1980), and digitisation of library and archive catalogues, the digital shift actually started decades earlier. But it is within the past decade that scholarly interest in digital techniques and production of digital information in archaeology has intensified e.g. contributions in the anthologies by Kansa et al. (2011); Ch'ng et al. (2013); Huvila (2014). After a number of early small-scale experiments, digitisation today influences the entire archaeological process, from fieldwork data recording and subsequent data processing and presentation to document preservation.
National institutions such as the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) in the UK, the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR) in the US, Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) in the Netherlands, and Swedish National Data Service (SND) assist archaeologists' digital archiving and digital curation (DANS and SND also serve other areas of the humanities and social sciences). Additionally, international initiatives support digital information management beyond national borders e.g. ARCHES and ARIADNE projects and the Europeana platform (which, together with the CARARE project, aims at improving pan-European digital access to archaeological monuments and historic sites.) (for a more extensive overview see Richards 2012).
Digitisation in archaeology is one part of the general digitisation of science and research. This new state is sometimes referred to as 'e-science', and in the case of humanities the 'digital humanities' (Borgman 2009). The emergence of digital information practices has raised questions about their quality and sustainability i.e. How can high-quality digital information be created and preserved? How can we enable information sharing and use through digitisation and avoid creating or reinforcing boundaries between systems, and between systems and users? How should we create and manage digital information not only for contemporary aims but for future purposes as well (Thwaites 2013)?
Note 1: We use the term development-led (DL) archaeology to denote what can also be described as 'contract archaeology,' 'commissioned archaeology,' and 'preventive archaeology' for example. The term denotes 'archaeological work prompted by land development' (Andersson et al. 2010, 56), but can be critiqued for unrightfully putting the focus on the land developer in lieu of the commissioning authority (Schlanger and Salas Rossenbach 2010).
One part of the challenge of digitisation is that it is only one of the ongoing change processes in archaeology. At about the same time as digitisation took off in the 1990s, the organisation of the archaeology sector changed in many European countries, including Sweden and the UK. A structure influenced by market logic with a large number of independent players, and a great variety of different types of organisations (such as incorporated businesses, sole proprietorship firms, foundations and member associations) have been introduced. As a consequence, the organisations currently operating in and with the archaeology sector are independent from centralised decision-making to a much greater extent than before. This transformation has been particularly noticeable in development-led (DL) archaeology (see Note 1), but also in the museum sector. In Sweden for example, the county administrative boards (CABs) (directing and overseeing DL archaeology work in counties) primarily negotiate with semi-private and private surveyors. In the museum sector state-funded and state-operated museums dominate, but many of the regional museums (with close connections to regional cultural heritage management) are organised as independent foundations.
The less centralised organisation of archaeology has affected the opportunities for any central government to control documentation and information management practices in the independent organisations. The quality of documentation and effective information-sharing via stable infrastructures are vital for the advancement of archaeological knowledge (Lucas 2012; Löwenborg 2014), but the coordination of information management practices has emerged as one of the major challenges of the reorganised archaeology sector.
Today information practices in cultural heritage and archaeology are regulated by a number of policies. On a global level, the UNESCO conventions on cultural heritage and intangible heritage (UNESCO 1972; 2003) set a common base line. On a European level the heritage conventions of the Council of Europe, including Valletta and Faro conventions, have an influential role in how national legislations and guidelines have been developed (Council of Europe 1992 - Valletta; 2005 - Faro). While the Valletta convention focuses on systems and regulations, the Faro agreement emphasises visions about and aims for heritage (e.g. Demoule 2012; Johansen and Mogren 2014). Nationally, cultural heritage legislations and subordinated regulations make up the framework (e.g. the British Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, the French Loi nº 2001-44 du 17 janvier 2001 relative à l'archéologie préventive) for local archaeological practices. Archaeology is also indirectly subjected to other political initiatives, such as environmental legislation and international, national, and regional agendas for digitisation (e.g. A Digital Agenda for Europe (European Commission 2010); the UK's Becoming Digital by Default (DCMS 2012); Sweden's ICT for Everyone (Regeringskansliet 2011)). Various types of direct and indirect prescriptions for mandatory and preferred information practices can be found throughout these texts.
While non-mandatory standards and 'best practices' have been frequently discussed in the studies of information management and digital information in archaeology, the policy perspective has been largely omitted (cf. Richards et al. 2013). This is striking, as this is an integral part of the context within which archaeological information is created and managed, and thus a central factor that is framing the emergence of new digital information practices.
In order to study the formal regulations of information practices in this field characterised by tensions between centralised control and self-governance, this article utilises the notion of information policies as an analytical lens. Swedish archaeology serves as a case study to explicate the role of information policy. We use development-led archaeology and the museum sector as two examples illustrating how information policies can have varied roles in different parts of archaeology. There are historical and local trajectories in the policy documents specific to Sweden, but the discussion shows that the emergence of Swedish policies have many parallels with processes in other countries. The aim of the article is to shed light on how information policy directs practices in archaeology and to emphasise the relevance of taking an information policy perspective into account in discussions about changes to information practices in archaeology (such as those brought about by digitisation).