This is the largest archaeological archive in the world. I don’t know what I expected; the only archives I’ve experienced are much smaller and, being related to Classical Archaeology 40 years ago, much more focussed on art history. More pots and inscriptions, fewer clay pipes and bones!
This is a warehouse. The Museum of London also has an Archaeology Unit which works on sites under development in London; that’s now a separate business, competing with a small number of other archaeological units offering excavation services to developers. But whoever does the digging, all finds from sites in London end up here. Everything is recorded by site and boxed by site, to preserve contexts as far as possible. Only very unusual finds get treated as individual items.
It’s all rather unromantic. Miles, literally miles, of shelves containing cardboard boxes. The largest box is big enough to contain all the bones of a human body.
Rather than draw any of the selection of finds set out for us, I looked at the shelving system, the boxes and the labels. I’m wondering how this could inform the presentation of my own work.
I am, of course, immediately drawn to the idea of my own archive system with boxes and labels and spreadsheets! But it’s the idea of archiving the past/present that’s key here.