MAA Elements

MAA Elements

Securing a Future for Maritime Archaeological Archives

The project was undertaken in three phases:

Element One

Element One - Mapping Maritime Collection Areas

The aim of this element of the project was to understand how museum and archive repository collection policies address maritime archaeological archives and to quantify the areas that do not have facilities that accept such archives. This was a desk based exersize that focused on the zone between the high water mark and the limit of terrestrial waters (12 nautical miles). A questionnaire was developed to assess whether museums and archive centres:

It was distributed to all public museums in England and Scotland.


The full project report is available from the Reports and Publications page 
Survey responses indicated that:

Issues - Policy

Issues - Practice

Actions required - Developing Policy, Guidance and Best Practice

Actions required - Developing Capacity: potential solutions


Element Two

Element Two - Review of Maritime Archaeological Archives and Access

The aim of this part of the project was to establish where maritime archaeological archives are currently held and determine their accessibility. This substantial project element required a combination of desk based research, questionnaire development and direct contact with archive holders. Six key sectors of 'archive holders' were targeted public museums, private collections, exhibitions and non-public museums, archaeological contractors, research and societies sector, Designated Wreck Site licensees and archaeologists, and other individuals such as those reporting recovery through the Receiver of Wreck.

The questionnaires sought to establish:

This was supplemented by meetings with respondents from the sectors to further quantify archives and collections.


The full project report is available from the 'Reports and Publications' page  Analysis of the results demonstrated a range of issues that have a direct impact on access and security. A number of recommendations for action to improve this situation have been put forward.

Quantity of undeposited archives

Key Facts: Detailed responses to the online survey revealed the following numbers of type of archive not currently residing within public museums or archives: Objects - 48,864; Paper - 172,168; Photographs - 153,191; Video - 1,420; Sample - 4,358; Digital - 191,145. Additional summary information included thousands more archive elements, as well as over 30,000 artefacts from the RoW Amnesty report that are held in private collections. 
Action: Use results to underpin enhancement of maritime archaeological archiving capacity

Accessibility and security

Key Facts:


Storage and curation:

Key Facts


Actions: Improving storage and curation

Actions: Curatorial and management framework


Guidance, support and training

There is a need for a range of measures to develop guidance, support and training in relation to marine archives across the sectors. Again, the lack of clarity over responsibility means that no single organisation has promoted maritime archaeological archives and issues specifically related to them. Hence, it is now appropriate for all organisations and agencies involved with archaeology, museums and archives to review this situation.


Ownership, disposal and attrition of the seabed archive

Key Facts


Research potential and developing coordination

Key Facts


While it is not claimed that this survey was comprehensive of every archive it does provide a detailed snap-shot of the situation facing maritime archives and further underlines the urgency for action. The survey results have provided qualitative and quantitative data which highlight a wide range of issues affecting maritime archives.

Element Three

Element Three - Analysing Present and Assessing Future Archive Creation

This project element aimed to establish the composition and level of archive creation now and in the future, in order to gauge curation needs. This involved desk-based research and interviews with a wide range of archive creators, curators and marine industry sector representatives.

The key archive creating sectors were surveyed to characterise:

To examine the main mechanisms through which archives are being created, the types of project generating archives and to review future levels of archives creation interviews were undertaken with curators, regulators, marine industry sectors and seabed owners. This sought to establish:

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