How information is managed in archaeological work is the outcome of a complex process. In this process, both structural and material affordances are intertwined with individual decisions (cf. Cox 2012). An information policy perspective assumes information policy to be one of the aspects providing the conditions for decision-making within practices (Braman 2006). Information policy, i.e. the sum of principles guiding decisions about information, is integrated throughout the international, national, regional and local legislative and regulative texts (Wright 2011). Policy serves to allocate responsibilities and costs (Lynch 2013). As such, information policy in heritage and archaeology serves an important dual purpose. It articulates both the endorsement of public society, and importantly, also the limits to that endorsement. The extent and limits of the endorsement signals where the interest of the general society ceases and where in-field specific and vocational interests take over. The existence of policy does not in itself guarantee consistent and anticipatory decisions, but a lack of policy permits inconsistent and even conflicting information practices. However, the absence of policy can also be a strategic choice in order to allow for local practices (Buckley Owen et al. 2012).
Note 2: Other types of information and documentation with less direct connection to cultural heritage objects or sites, such as directions for metal detector certificates, are also covered in the Heritage Conservation Act (SFS 1988:950).
The method used here for the policy analysis is focused on what the policy texts articulate as 'interactions with information'. Here, we take information to mean documentation produced as a part of archaeology (maps, photos, 3D-scannings, drawings, field notes, analysis records, survey reports, materials prepared for museum display, etc.), and in related fields such as museum work and archival work in the context of archaeology (Note 2). Various aspects of information policy are discussed in relation to nine types of 'interactions with information' (create, modify, organise, preserve, disseminate/share, access, evaluate, use, comprehend) to assess which aspects of information interactions (practices) the information policy covers and omits (Huvila 2006; Talja and Hansen 2006; Shore and Wright 2011; cf. Cool and Belkin 2002). Because archaeological information policy is influenced by a number of organisations (e.g. the National Heritage Board) and other groups (e.g. museum professionals and archivists) we also strive to identify these agents and their interests reflected in the policies, and to identify those intended to execute policy in practices (cf. Huvila 2007).
Note 3: With a limitation to section 2. 'Goals and implementation' (Swed. 'Mål och genomförande'), pp. 4-6.
In the case study, the regulations for information management in Swedish archaeology and related contexts provide the starting point for the analysis. The analysis of the national level policies is based on the Heritage Conservation Act (SFS 1988:950), the Ordinance (2007:1184) with instructions for the Swedish National Heritage Board (Kulturdepartementet 2007), and the memorandum 'Digital Heritage - A national strategy for work on digitization, digital preservation and digital access to cultural heritage materials and cultural heritage information' (Note 3) for 2012-2015 (our translation, from now on called the 'DH strategy'). Two more specific contexts are chosen as examples of areas producing and managing archaeological information, but under different circumstances. The examples aim at exploring variations with implications for policy development. The DL archaeology context is to a great extent regulated by policy, while the museum sector is regulated to a lesser degree. The analysis of the DL archaeology situation is based on the Guidelines for implementation of the Heritage Conservation Act: Contract archaeology (2nd chapter, 10-13 §§) (Riksantikvarieämbetet 2012c, our translation). The analysis of the museum context is based on the DH strategy, but also on our (primarily Bodil Petersson's) previous research, which helps to explain the aspects influencing information practices in the museum sector in the absence of formal policies.
Information policies have varied effects in different areas of archaeology. Additionally, contextual factors such as economic subsidies to certain technological investments, or even discrepancies in terminology between policy makers and professionals, make policy impact evaluations a complex matter (Petersson 2014; cf. Huvila 2007). While an analysis of the constituent effects of policy interpretations and actions upon (or in the absence of) policy is equally important (cf. Braman 2006), this article is limited to an analysis of policy in legislative and regulative texts, and to guiding factors in the absence of policy (in the museum sector). The rationale behind this choice is to focus on a general-level discussion about policy for information in archaeology and related practices rather than on a micro-analysis of practices. Analysis of the Swedish case is related and compared to the situation in other countries. These comparisons are based on the literature comparing archaeology and related activities across national contexts (e.g. Harding 2009; Demoule 2012; Vander Linden and Webley 2012).
On the basis of the analysis and discussion, we make a set of recommendations for the development of information policy for archaeology and related areas. At the same time we would like to emphasise that we do not advocate an extension of information policy over professional decision-making (cf. Buckley Owen et al. 2012). Neither do we equate information policy (describing what should be done with information and why) with standards (explaining how it should be done).