Society for Museum Archaeology survey – Are Museums Running Out of Space …?

Are Museums Running out of space, stuff…and time? Historic England and the Society for Museum Archaeology need your help. The Society for Museum Archaeology (SMA) is the subject specialist network for museum archaeology in the UK and is looking for museums’ help with a survey.

This year the SMA has partnered with Historic England to conduct a survey aimed at identifying all museums in England that have archaeology collections, and to establish which are continuing to collect archives from archaeological projects. They are also looking at the level of archaeological expertise present in museums, and they aim to find out how much space is left in museum stores for archaeology.

If your museum holds any archaeology at all, even if it’s just a scattering of surface finds or a box of pottery sherds, they want to hear from you. Please follow the link below. The survey uses Survey Monkey, and has been designed to take no longer than 10 minutes.

This is a cause which they have been looking at for some time – an SMA report published in 2012 identified over 9000 un-deposited archives in England alone. However, the impact of austerity since 2012 is currently unknown. A number of organisations are all working to find sustainable and positive solutions to the problem. The project will support this collaborative approach, from funder to fieldworker to museum, by providing valuable and accurate data on which future responses to the crisis can be based.

The survey will be repeated each year for three years, with the findings presented towards the end of each year and a final report due in 2018. It is hoped that the intelligence gathered will inform discussions on the future of archaeological archive provision in England at a time when there is growing uncertainty over the role of museums and the ways they are resourced.


Screen Shot of all survey respondents mapped on Google maps. The Blue Icon represents museums who have given forwarded their collecting policies, red those who have yet to do so

The SMA is entirely membership run – all members of the committee volunteer their time to help run the society for its members. With almost 250 members across the UK and abroad they are one of the largest SSN’s in the UK.

The survey is led by team of three SMA committee members, and they are supported by team of 7 regional reps around England providing local knowledge and expertise. At the time of writing they have had 140 respondents, but they hope to reach 200 by the end of September.

Any questions or comments please contact Nick Booth, SMA Membership Secretary / Head of Collections at the ss Great Britain on


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