Professional and public access

Upon completion, project archives must be made available for research and public access to a feasible extent. Wide dissemination and publication of the research results constitutes the main purpose of the research process. To facilitate access, the project archives should be deposited at recognized archive repositories. Recognition or authorization of the repository by the competent authorities that are responsible for underwater cultural heritage is in this regard preferable. Any such recognition or authorization of a repository that accepts an archaeological archive must take into account its suitability for providing both long-term care and public access. Examples of repositories include accredited museums, local record offices and national monument archives.  Specialized centres or institutes can also be accredited as such.

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Regulations for access


A central reason for archiving the project archives with an appropriate repository is to make them available for professional and public access. As a consequence, the management or governing body should organize the best way to provide this service. Access to the documentary parts should conform to the official requirements that exist for public archive repositories. This equally applies to the material archive. Access to some items may be more cumbersome than to others, especially if their storage is away from the archival institution, or needs special preparation and overseeing by staff. Nevertheless, access needs to be organized and regulations should govern decisions relating to the following issues:

  • Regulations for access to the archives should be made public. 
  • Any restrictions on access, if applicable, should be explained. 
  • Details of regular opening hours should be given. 
  • Conditions for consulting material should be clearly stated.

It may be wise to require written proof of identity from those consulting the material, before giving them access to unique pieces. Users of the archive should be made aware of rules, regulations and other codes of conduct which apply to the use of the archive service. Collection items should be protected from theft or damage during public inspection and unauthorized access to the records should be prevented. Obviously, the health and safety of the public should also be ensured.

In order to facilitate users’ access to the service, several specific measures can be taken. These include:

  • Providing a catalogue with a short description of all items held and available for consultation in publicly available finding aids, for instance through the internet. 
  • Providing a designated study area sufficient to satisfy normal demand for public access to the records; it should be suitable for inspection and easy to control.
  • Providing technical facilities necessary for consulting the records that are appropriate for the type and quantity of archives, and ensuring proper maintenance of such equipment. 
  • Providing facilities for making photos or photocopies of records, with due regard to copyright restrictions.
  • Taking reasonable measures to meet the special needs of disabled users.
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International standards

Several international norms are relevant to the process of professional archiving:

  • Norm ISO 63936 for identifying and describing the language of the document archives; this norm is also important for the international transmission of data over the internet. 
  • Norm ISO 5963 for examining documents, determining their subject, and selecting indexing terms.
  • Norm ISO 2788 for establishing and developing monolingual thesauri.
  • Norm ISO 999, which includes guidelines for the content, organization and presentation of indexes.
  • ISAD(G) (www.ica.org/en/node/30000) General International Standard Archival Description (2nd ed.), adopted by the Committee on Descriptive Standards, Stockholm, Sweden, 19-22 September 1999.
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