UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Unearthing archives : an examination of documents generated in the course of archaeological fieldwork in Canada McManus, Elizabeth Caitrin


Archaeology is a science that destroys the very evidence it wishes to study. Archaeologists must therefore clearly document all stages of their work. In Canada, legislation dictates that all artefacts recovered from archaeological activity must be deposited in an archaeological repository. In most cases only copies of a final report are required to be submitted to the provincial government department responsible for archaeology. This thesis sought to discover what happens to the documents generated from archaeological activity and whether they are of value to archaeologists. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews and surveys, and a review of current literature on archaeological practice. It was found that archaeologists place a high value on the documents they generate during an archaeological project and wish that they be kept in perpetuity; however, a lack of recordkeeping standards and of a relationship based on trust between archaeologists and archaeological repositories has led to poor record keeping practices amongst archaeologists in both academic and consulting environments and few transfers to repositories. The few documents that are transferred to repositories are rarely processed according to archival methodology for preservation and they are not easily accessible to researchers or the public. Thus, this thesis is concluded by a series of recommendations aimed to ensure that the documentary by-products of archaeological activity be maintained and preserved as reliable and authentic evidence of the projects to which they relate.

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