England’s museums are running out of space for ancient artefacts

England’s museums are running out of space to house ancient artefacts discovered during building and infrastructure works, the BBC reports.

The ancient artefacts, which range from Roman metalwork to bronze age pottery, are being stored in warehouses after being unearthed by archaeological contractors.

Museums could soon run out of room for these objects, according to a report commissioned by Historic England and Arts Council England.

“The clock is ticking – we have four or five years before we really do start seeing massive problems,” said Barney Sloane, national specialist services director at Historic England.

“The potential of archaeological archives is really rich. It would be a massive shame if we couldn’t find a way of making sure they are protected for the future.”

Objects stored in warehouses

“There’s literally nowhere to put them,” added Tom Booth, a researcher at the Crick Institute.

“If there’s not an archaeological curator at a museum, they might not be as keen to take it on because they don’t feel they could look after [the finds] properly.”

Fewer than half of England’s museums have an archaeological curator, according to the Society of Museum Archaeologists.

Historic England and Arts Council England found that at least a quarter of the excavations done by archaeological contractors in England produce collections that never end up in a museum.

As a result, archaeological contractors are storing the objects. However, many of them don’t have the necessary resources to display them to the public.

National archive for storage

“We have a small visitor centre at our office where people can come and view some of the archival material,” said Victoria Sands from the Colchester Archaeology Trust, which also does contract work.

“But obviously we’re not a museum, it’s not on permanent display or anything like that.”

With the National Trust, Historic England and Arts Council England are in early talks with the government on the development of a national archive to solve the storage issue.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also reported similar problems with storage.

Meanwhile, the V&A museum is building a new collection and research centre called V&A East Storehouse in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Image: V&A

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England’s museums are running out of space for ancient artefacts