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Sustainable Archaeology's Collections Procedures and Practices

Version 1.0 (June 1, 2014)

Welcome to Sustainable Archaeology's online guide for collections management and transfer procedures.

These procedures and standards of collection management ensure that all collections transferred to, held, and managed by Sustainable Archaeology can be effectively and efficiently cared for over the long term. It is critical that all collections entering the facility either adhere to the same requirements for processing, packaging, documentation, and curation, or can be processed and repurposed to meet those requirements. Likewise, Sustainable Archaeology provides standards to be met for accepting digital datasets, in order to ensure the long term viability and preservation of this digital data.

These procedures are primarily intended to provide direction to transferees with respect to proposing a collection for transfer, preparing those collections for transfer, and the fee schedules for transferring collections.

These procedures derive from and are shaped by Sustainable Archaeology's Mission Statement, Aims, and Operational Policies. Transferees and users of Sustainable Archaeology should be familiar with these documents, as they will provide much of the background information for commonly asked questions.

For Sustainable Archaeology's Mission Statement and Aims, click here.

For Sustainable Archaeology's Operational Policies, click here.

Sustainable Archaeology's Mission Statement and Aims

Sustainable Archaeology - Our Mission Statement

Sustainable Archaeology is dedicated to advancing a transformative practice of archaeology that integrates the many forms of the discipline - commercial, academic, avocational - by consolidating the extensively recovered archaeological record from a region of the world and converting that material and contextual data into broadly accessible and integrated digital information. This compiled and converted record will allow for ongoing and innovative research advancing the knowledge, conception, appreciation, and engagement of this compiled and rich archaeological heritage left by the countless previous generations of those who loved, lived, and died in this place, by all those today who draw awareness, meaning, value, and identity from the human heritage of this place.

The Aims of Sustainable Archaeology

Sustainable Archaeology aims to ensure that the continually amassed record of archaeological practice is fully accessible and continually used to undertake innovative research that advances our understanding of this archaeological heritage. Sustainable Archaeology also advances a transformative practice that recognizes, facilitates, and is responsive to the broader relevance archaeology must have in valuing our collective past and heritage in Ontario and Canadian society today. This is how archaeological practice, long term, becomes viable, valuable, relevant and, ultimately, sustainable.

Sustainable Archaeology aims to ensure that First Nations and Descendant communities are integral partners in the operation of Sustainable Archaeology. Sustainable Archaeology is committed to collaboration with these communities in order to ensure that decisions regarding the use, care and management of collections are consistent with both archaeological and Descendant community values. Sustainable Archaeology maintains an Advisory board, with members representing a broad spectrum of archaeological interests and representatives of Descendant communities. The role of this board is to provide direction to Sustainable Archaeology on matters related to the good care, accessibility, research, and documentation of Ontario's rich archaeological heritage.

Sustainable Archaeology aims to ensure that its Informational Platform contains the compiled digital record of the artifacts, remains, contexts and features documented through the survey and excavation of archaeological sites primarily from the Province of Ontario. This documentation arises from the fieldwork undertaken and reports generated by licensed archaeologists who have transferred collections to this facility. Collections formerly held by private individuals or museums are also held at Sustainable Archaeology.

Sustainable Archaeology aims to ensure that all collections, and the digital information generated through conversion, are fully accessible for research or public information purposes. However, some particular classes of artifact may be considered to contain culturally sensitive information, as identified by Sustainable Archaeology's Advisory Board. In those specific circumstances a person seeking access to culturally sensitive object data will need to provide a Request to Access form, which will be reviewed by the Advisory Board.

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Operational Policies

Sustainable Archaeology relies on the following policy statements to inform operations and decision making. The policies set general level expectations of operation and procedure. Details are provided in Sustainable Archaeology's Procedures and Policies, as well as the various forms facilitating transfers, access, and use of Sustainable Archaeology's Informational Platform. Transferees, users, and visitors should ensure they are familiar with these policies:

  1. Sustainable Archaeology documents, curates, and holds in-trust collections and associated records generated by land-based archaeological fieldwork and associated studies undertaken in the Province of Ontario. These collections will form the basis of innovative research, educational, cultural and public engagement with this compiled archaeological heritage. Collection(s) shall be understood to encompass all material generated by the documentation, survey or excavation of archaeological objects and remains, sites, and landscapes. A collection includes, but is not limited to: artifacts, organic remains, environmental samples, all associated field records, images, reports and documents, and any other relevant materials, studies or research generated from the study and analysis of those archaeological objects and remains, sites or landscapes.
  2. Sustainable Archaeology will care for all archaeological collections housed in its repositories in order to ensure the preservation and accessibility of those collections entrusted to the facility. Standards of care and operation ensure all collections can be continuously tracked, that materials will be housed in a setting and by a method to ensure the long term stability of objects and remains, that contextual and field data are preserved and linked to relevant objects and remains, and that digital datasets are archived for the long term and migrated as technologies and programming warrants.
  3. Sustainable Archaeology will incorporate all available data, distinct datasets and documentation provided with a transferred collection within its informational platform. This includes all information about archaeological collections received from transferees, project reporting and information, site and survey data, mapping and images, as well as all subsequent, value added studies undertaken on these holdings and data as part of Sustainable Archaeology's mandate.
  4. Sustainable Archaeology will ensure collections, and/or digital information about collections held are accessible to researchers, Descendant communities, and the public for research, cultural, educational, or other suitable purposes. Access procedures, including a Request to Access Form , will govern the request to access, nature of access, and duration of access.
  5. All transferees submitting collections and related documentation to Sustainable Archaeology will be required to sign a Collection Transfer Agreement . This form will set out the terms and conditions of the transfer, including waiving any continuing restrictive control over the collection or any other form of exclusivity on the part of the transferee to the collections transferred. This form also confirms Sustainable Archaeology may provide full access to reporting and other documentation provided with the collection, and confirms any fees assigned to the transfer. This form also commits Sustainable Archaeology to care for the collections long term, and to ensure the original transferee is fully and clearly acknowledged and cited when digital information pertaining to the transferred collections and associated documentation are accessed.
  6. Any prospective transferee not wishing a collection, associated documentation, and reporting to be made accessible through the Sustainable Archaeology Informational Platform, or preferring to retain unique constraints or control over the use and management of a collection, or who otherwise may wish to request back or order the transfer of a collection previously turned over to Sustainable Archaeology, cannot be accommodated within the facility's mandate and should not seek to transfer their collection to the facility.
  7. All researchers undertaking work on Sustainable Archaeology collections and its Informational Platform will be registered users of the facility. By logging in to the Sustainable Archaeology site, registered users agree to the facility's terms and conditions, including acknowledging Sustainable Archaeology and original transferees in any resulting publication or work, and sharing the results of any research conducted on the holdings (post publication/exhibit/animation/completion of degree).
  8. Sustainable Archaeology reserves the right, under direction from its Advisory Board or when agreeing to hold collections from a First Nation territory, to establish more limited access to objects that have been identified as containing culturally sensitive information. Access can still be provided based on the submission of a Request to Access form, and where the Advisory Board collectively agrees that the merits of the request warrant access. Sustainable Archaeology also recognizes that culturally sensitive materials may require special and/or separate storage treatment, as directed by the Sustainable Archaeology Advisory Board
  9. Collections transferred to Sustainable Archaeology will adhere to Sustainable Archaeology's Procedures and Practices for preparing collections and digital data for transfer.
  10. Collections transferred to Sustainable Archaeology will be the Transferee's complete assemblage. If portions of a collection are still subject to analysis or research, the transfer should not occur until after that has been completed. Likewise, if a third party (e.g., museum, other researcher, etc.) has items from a collection on loan, those items need to be returned at the time of transfer. The third party is free to request to loan the items subsequently and directly from Sustainable Archaeology.
  11. Objects in a collection beyond the scope of Sustainable Archaeology to store or conserve, including those demanding special or oversized storage, conservation against active degradation, or technical expertise to handle, may need to be excluded from the collection transferred to the Sustainable Archaeology repository. Items that have been subject to conservation prior to transfer or have otherwise been stabilized can be accepted.
  12. Collections transferred to Sustainable Archaeology will be subject to one-time per-box fees. The "per-box" fee is based on the standardized size of Sustainable Archaeology boxes, to a maximum content weight of 30 lbs. (13.6 kgs). Additional charges for processing collections and for digital data archiving may also apply, depending on the particulars of a proposed transfer. Sustainable Archaeology also has a fee schedule for use of its specialized equipment. Fees collected go to the support of the ongoing operations of Sustainable Archaeology, and the costs for ensuring the long term care of collections held in trust
  13. Sustainable Archaeology reserves the right to waive or alter fees and the terms of a transfer in cases where pro bono acquisition is deemed of merit for the circumstances and content of a particular collection. A decision to do so will be reviewed by the Sustainable Archaeology Director, and, where appropriate, in consultation with the Sustainable Archaeology Advisory Board.
  14. Collections held by Sustainable Archaeology can be temporarily loaned for research, display, cultural, educational, or other purposes, as deemed appropriate, subject to the terms of the Sustainable Archaeology Loan Agreement
  15. Sustainable Archaeology is not responsible for the treatment or culling of collections that occurred prior to the transfer of those collections to the facility. Likewise, while Sustainable Archaeology aims to ensure information, reporting, and other documentation in its Informational Platform is accurate and complete, it is not responsible for errors or omissions in documentation provided by transferees and third parties.
  16. Sustainable Archaeology may take measures to stabilize, preserve or restore materials in its care in accordance with accepted conservation/stabilization methods and standards.
  17. Sustainable Archaeology may de-accession collections or selected items from a collection in accordance with established standards of practice, and for reasons including but not limited to: transfer to another suitable repository or research facility is deemed appropriate for a particular collection; an item has deteriorated, is damaged, or is at risk of causing deterioration or damage to other items in the collection; an item or collection poses a health risk or hazard; where there is the recognized potential to advance research and knowledge through controlled and limited destructive analyses (e.g., thin sectioning, isotope, chemical analyses, radiocarbon dating, etc.). All de-accessioned material will be documented in the facility's database, including the basis for the de-accession. De-accessions will be informed by Sustainable Archaeology's de-accessioning policies, and will be reviewed by Sustainable Archaeology's Advisory Board. Documentation and information about the de-accessioned object or collection will remain in Sustainable Archaeology's Informational Platform.
  18. Sustainable Archaeology may review or revise its policies, standards, procedures, and forms as needed. Fee schedules will be reviewed and revised or maintained with the start of the fiscal year (April 1). Updated draft versions of policies, standards and guidelines, forms, and fee schedules will be advertised on the facility's webpage prior to finalization. All documentation about Sustainable Archaeology and its operations, procedures, and standards will be accessible online as they become available.
  19. The collections held at Sustainable Archaeology that originate from licensed field activities are held in trust and subject to Provincial Ministerial direction, as per the provisions of Part VI of the Ontario Heritage Act. We also hold in trust for specific First Nations those collections recovered from their territory, and those holdings are exclusively subject to the direction from those particular First Nations.
  20. Sustainable Archaeology recognises that archaeological practices in Ontario, and the long term care of archaeological collections generated by archaeological practice, are subject to the Ontario Heritage Act, regulations, policies, and Standards and Guidelines set out by the Province of Ontario. Sustainable Archaeology's own policies, practices, procedures, and standards are intended to augment or enhance already existing standards of practice in Ontario, and provide for research and documentation beyond the limit of licensing obligations and minimal levels of documentation.

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Transferring Archaeological Collections to Sustainable Archaeology


A central aim of Sustainable Archaeology is the consolidation of archaeological collections primarily from Ontario, in order to integrate and make available that compiled record for research, education and cultural purposes. To achieve this aim, Sustainable Archaeology seeks collections from present and past field activities, in particular the extensive collections of commercial consultant fieldwork, often referred to as Cultural Resource Management (CRM) or Archaeological Resource Management, as this applied form of practice represents the most extensive type of archaeology - and greatest contributor of new collections - ongoing today.

Transferring collections to Sustainable Archaeology ensures that the work of the investigating field archaeologist/research institution/government agency/commercial firm/First Nation will contribute directly to the accessible record of Ontario's archaeological heritage. This accessible record is made available for research, cultural heritage, and educational purposes, allowing advancements in and appreciation of our understanding of Ontario archaeology to be built from those compiled, transferred collections and related documentation. In addition, by overtly making accessible the results of CRM documentation, Sustainable Archaeology provides transferees, clients and regulatory agencies with the tangible justification to the cost and value in preserving the archaeological record from development impact, by ensuring that this documented record sustains ongoing research into the past. Transferring collections to Sustainable Archaeology also ensures for the long term care, tracking and preservation of those objects and documents generated during fieldwork, while alleviating the transferee of the ongoing statutory obligation and cost of maintaining and caring for those collections.

Collections Transferred to Sustainable Archaeology

"Transferring a collection to Sustainable Archaeology" typically will refer to a transferee transferring one or more boxes containing archaeological objects and remains, along with associated field records, images, reporting, and other relevant documentation related to the contextual recording and recovery of that material. A "collection" can consist of materials recovered from a single site location, or the assembled materials and documentation from many site locations. Likewise, the collection may relate to a single project or field season, or consist of many individual projects (or stages of a project), or is a collection of material amassed over several field seasons from a specific locale. The particulars of the transfer will be reflected in the Collection Transfer Agreement between the transferee and Sustainable Archaeology, confirming the materials and documentation needed for the transfer to proceed.

At the time of proposing to transfer a collection to Sustainable Archaeology, a prospective transferee will be proposing to transfer one of two types of collection: either a Legacy Collection, or an Anticipated Collection.

An Anticipated Collection is one where the transferee is anticipating generating a collection as a result of planned fieldwork, either already scheduled and budgeted for, or subject to being successfully awarded the project. In those cases, the proposed transfer will estimate the number of Sustainable Archaeology storage boxes the resulting fieldwork will generate, with processing, transfer and long term care costs all accommodated and accounted for in the budgeting of the undertaking.

A Legacy Collection is one that already exists due to past field or artifact collecting activities. These may or may not be collections already processed to Sustainable Archaeology standards, and may in fact still require extensive processing work, re-sorting and re-packaging in order to meet Sustainable Archaeology standards and to be incorporated into the Repository and Informational Platform. It will also be the case, as a Legacy Collection, that the costs for processing and ongoing long term care tied to transferring the collection to Sustainable Archaeology cannot be recovered as part of anticipatory project budgeting.

Transferee Types

Sustainable Archaeology receives collections from research, commercial, and avocational archaeologists, public institutions, companies, regulatory agencies, and Descendant communities. Private collector holdings may also be considered provided that contextual information and the ongoing research value of those collections is evident.

Transferees will typically fall within one of two categories: Continuing Contributors or One-Time Contributors. One-Time Contributors are transferees who propose transferring a specific collection of material and records, regardless of size. Transfers from such transferees will generally be of Legacy Collections, and may not or may only partially be prepared to Sustainable Archaeology standards. Continuing Contributors are transferees who more typically are continuously making transfers to Sustainable Archaeology. Such transferees are usually partnered with Sustainable Archaeology, which allows those transferees to input collections data directly into the Sustainable Archaeology Informational Platform as part of their normal process of analysing and reporting on newly made collections. Likewise Continuing Contributors will be packaging collections to Sustainable Archaeology standards, and providing digital information in Sustainable Archaeology formats, for both Legacy and Anticipatory Collections. Typically Continuing Contributors will be from the Commercial Consultant sector, or a development or regulatory agency.

Becoming a Sustainable Archaeology Transferee

All prospective transferees will need to create a profile with Sustainable Archaeology on our Transfree Profile page, which will generate a unique transferee designation and profile within the Sustainable Archaeology Informational Platform, one that will be assigned to every collection transfered to Sustainable Archaeology by that distinct transferee. As such, it is important for transferees to be certain how they wish to be identified by Sustainable Archaeology, especially if they anticipate making multiple transfers. For some transferees, a personal identity will be preferred, while for others an institutional or corporate affiliation will be more appropriate. For institutional or corporate transferees it will be critical that the authorized representative making the transfer to Sustainable Archaeology can confirm that the individual who created the collection under their license has consented to the transfer, and that the transfer is in accordance with Ministry notification provisions. All prospective transferees will need to generate a Transfree Profile prior to Sustainable Archaeology being able to accept their collections.

Transfer Agreement

The Collection Transfer Agreement that a transferee enters into with Sustainable Archaeology stipulates the terms and conditions of the transfer, and provides Sustainable Archaeology with the consent to incorporate the collection and associated documentation into the Informational Platform, and provide broad access to that collection and information. Every collection transfer requires a Collection Transfer Agreement , and no transfer can occur without that agreement being entered into with the transferee - either a duly authorized representative of the institution making the transfer, individual archaeologist directly transferring a collection made under their license, or individual transferring a personal collection.

All transferees transfer over the care and accessibility responsibilities for a designated collection to Sustainable Archaeology. For collections generated under license, this transfer facilitates the transferring of a collection to a public institution as provided for under the terms and conditions of that license.

The Collection Transfer Agreement facilitates the transfer by providing the Transferee with:

  • Confirmation that Sustainable Archaeology will provide for the long term care, preservation and accessibility of collections and associated documentation transferred to the facility
  • Acknowledgement of the transferee's original authorship in creating, analyzing, and documenting the collection, including proper citation required of records and other documentation made available to users of the facility

The Collection Transfer Agreement facilitates the transfer by providing Sustainable Archaeology with:

  • Confirmation that the transferee is transferring their collection to Sustainable Archaeology in accordance with Sustainable Archaeology's operational policies, procedures and standards; confirming the number of boxes, condition and completeness of the collection to be transferred; confirming the extent and size of reporting and digital documentation included in the transfer; and the terms of payment and delivery
  • Confirmation that the transferee, at the point of transfer, waives any assertion of a continuing control over the collection transferred; is providing Sustainable Archaeology with consent to allow full access to the collections, reporting and other documentation provided as part of the collection; and agrees to the fees assigned to the transfer. The agreement also allows Sustainable Archaeology the ability to incorporate or repurpose any of this information for research, cultural, educational and promotional purposes, subject to the facility's operational policies.
  • Confirmation that the transferee, whether direct licensee, prior owner, or formally authorized representative of the institution of organization transferring the collection, has consent to make the transfer. Likewise the transferee confirms they are not aware of any outstanding 3rd party claims to the collections, reporting, documentation and associated information that would otherwise prohibit incorporation of the collection into Sustainable Archaeology's Repository and Informational Platform.

Proposing to Transfer a Collection to Sustainable Archaeology

How does a transferee go about transferring a collection to Sustainable Archaeology? In the first instance, we recommend new prospective transferees contact the Sustainable Archaeology Manager or Director in order to review the particulars of the transfer being contemplated. This will lead to a discussion of Sustainable Archaeology expectations and needs, the nature and current condition of the collection, and generally will help the prospective transferee determine whether transferring to the facility is the right option for them.

Following that discussion, the prospective transferee will be asked to create a Transferee Profile on the Sustainable Archaeology website, and fill in a Collection Transfer Request form. This form will detail the specific collection(s) that are to be part of a proposed transfer, size and condition of the collection, and whether the collection is a Legacy or Anticipated Collection. This will allow Sustainable Archaeology to estimate the fees for the collection, as well as any fees for archiving digital data, possible collections processing fees, and proposed date of transfer.

Continuing Contributors will be familiar with Sustainable Archaeology expectations and needs, as well as our procedures and standards, and thus will directly submit a Collection Transfer Request to initiate the transfer process.

For further information about the processes associated with transferring collections please go to Sustainable Archaeology Procedures and Standards for Transferring Collections

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Sustainable Archaeology Fees

Collections transferred to Sustainable Archaeology are subject to a one-time box fee. This fee has been calculated based on the facility's standard box size of 15" wide x 12" deep x 10" high and containing no more than 30 lbs. or 13.6 kg of content. This fee is charged to assist in the integration of the collection and documentation into the Sustainable Archaeology repository and digital Informational Platform, and to ensure the long term costs of operating the facility are covered, in order to provide ongoing access and ongoing care for the collections housed at the facility.

The one-time per box fee is variable and based on the assumption that there has been adherence to general processing procedures and standards for artifacts and documents set forth in this document. Additional fees are charged per gigabyte (Gb) of digital data to be archived as part of the collection. For some Legacy Collections where processing and digitization of information is substantial and labour intensive, that work can be undertaken by Sustainable Archaeology on behalf of - and at the cost of - the transferee. Calculating the length of time required to process such a collection, as well as the labour and materials needed for processing, is determined on a per box estimate during discussions between the prospective transferee and Sustainable Archaeology staff. These processing fees are due at the same time the transfer fee is due, or over a defined project timeline, in cases where processing will be an ongoing and long term requirement.

An invoice will be issued at the time the Collection Transfer Agreement is signed. Unless otherwise stipulated, payment is due at the time the collection is delivered to the Sustainable Archaeology facility.

Sustainable Archaeology Fee Schedule

The following are the 2014 fee schedules for Sustainable Archaeology (exclusive of HST):

Anticipatory Collections

For Anticipatory Collections (i.e., for budgeting the long term care of collections and associated documentation for planned field projects), it is assumed these collections will be generated by Continuing Contributor Transferees undertaking primarily CRM projects. Such transferees will be documenting and packaging their collections to Sustainable Archaeology standards and procedures, including using Sustainable Archaeology archival quality storage boxes and bags. This would also include using the Sustainable Archaeology Informational Platform to generate catalogues and other analytical data for the purposes of reporting.

Fees for Anticipatory Collections:

Per Sustainable Archaeology Storage Box: $400

(15" wide by 12" deep by 10" high; to a maximum weight of 30 lbs./ 13.6 kg)

Note: box fee is for the footprint per box added to the Repository. Partially full boxes thus will still need to be charged at a per box fee.

Note: Should a transferee choose not to process an Anticipatory Collection to Sustainable Archaeology procedures and standards before transfer, the per box fee will be: $900.

Fees for Legacy Collections:

For Legacy Collections it is assumed these collections represent materials amassed at some point in the past, that they will require some or a great deal of work to process to Sustainable Archaeology standards, and that there are limited available funds for facilitating the transfer to Sustainable Archaeology. It is also assumed that, for such collections coming from Continuing Contributors who are working to Sustainable Archaeology procedures and standards and have the capacity to directly input data into the Informational Platform, they will be able to undertake the processing and repackaging of collections directly. As well, in some circumstances it is assumed contributors will be able to undertake some re-packaging and digitization prior to transfer, while other Legacy Collections will need to be transferred without meeting any Sustainable Archaeology procedures and standards. As such, Sustainable Archaeology employs a sliding scale for per box fees that reflects the condition of the collection at transfer, and the degree to which Sustainable Archaeology staff will need to process, repackage, and digitize the transferred collection.

Per Box Fee Scale for Legacy Collections

(15" wide by 12" deep by 10" high, to maximum weight of 30 lbs.; partial boxes charged at per box fee)

Legacy Collection Category Per Box Fee for Legacy Collections Basis for Pricing
Legacy Collection Ready to Transfer $150 For collections where information has been directly inputted by transferee into the SA Informational Platform, collections have been packaged using Sustainable Archaeology procedures, standards and materials (e.g., boxes, bags, etc.). In effect these collections are being transferred as ready for immediate integration and 3D digital image recording
Legacy Collection Requiring Processing $400 Fee set per box for collections not already inputted into the Informational Platform but where digital data is ready to be converted for the purpose, and where collections may require limited re-packaging into SA-sized boxes, re-labelling of bags, or other minimal processing time
Legacy Collection Requiring Rehabilitation $675 Fee set per box where collections require full re-bagging and re-boxing into archival quality storage containers, transcription of label information, digitization of basic datasets, artifact identification, etc. Typically older legacy collections requiring complete conversion and generation of digital data will fall into this category
Processing Fees:

When discussions between the transferee and Sustainable Archaeology confirm that there will be a need to process a collection - which will range from repackaging, to digital conversion of paper records, to inputting collection data into the Informational Platform - and the transferee is unable to undertake the processing themselves prior to transfer, Sustainable Archaeology may agree to accept the transfer as long as the costs for processing will be provided along with the collection.

A single box of a collection that has been mostly sorted and packaged to Sustainable Archaeology standards and procedures, or a collection where digital catalogue information readily fits into the Sustainable Archaeology Informational Platform, may take as little as 1-2 hours to process. On the other hand a box of a Legacy Collection that has not been processed and still consists of paper or plastic bags without digital label or catalogue data, can take from 6-8 hours to process. In reviewing the collection to be transferred, the transferee and Sustainable Archaeology staff will work to determine an estimate of the processing fees to be applied in addition to the per box transfer fee.

Digital Data Archiving Fee

The Digital Data Archiving Fee is $30 per gigabyte of data.

All collections will be accompanied by digital data, including catalogues, images and maps, digital field datasets, field activity and other reports. At Sustainable Archaeology all document datasets will be preserved and archived digitally, not in paper format. Maintaining this digital archive on the Informational Platform requires dedicated space, keeping on top of file formats, and converting and migrating digital data as required. At the time of establishing the box size of a collection to be transferred to Sustainable Archaeology, a transferee will also estimate the size of the digital data to be transferred to determine the digital archiving fee. Note: if there is a need to digitize a substantial collection of paper copy records, an additional processing fee to enable the digitization would be applied.

For further information about the transfer of digital data and associated records to Sustainable Archaeology, please click here.

Specialist Equipment/Value Added Studies Available at Sustainable Archaeology

Sustainable Archaeology maintains a wide range of lab and field equipment to generate digital data about archaeological sites and collections. Subject to availability, these are also available for collaborator and non-collaborator use, though some of the specialised pieces of equipment require trained Sustainable Archaeology personnel or similarly trained individuals to operate, or to interpret the results. Fees reflect either Collaborator (directly partnered with Sustainable Archaeology/undertaken by affiliated researchers) or Non-Collaborator rates.

Collaborator rates are available upon request. Please contact Sustainable Archaeology for more information.

Any interest in using these services should be directed to the appropriate individual identified. General queries can be directed to the Sustainable Archaeology Manager.

Specialised Equipment/Services Available Through Sustainable Archaeology

Field services

Geo-Physical Survey:

  • Dual Array Gradiometer
  • Resistivity Meter
  • Ground Penetrating Radar

Note: Requires Trained Operator. Contact Ed Eastaugh, Western Dept of Anthropology Geophys Technician (eeastaug@uwo.ca) for his rates, project availability and data interpretation

Please contact the facility for fee rates.

*Mobilization fee:

(note: to a maximum of 3 days charge)

Mobilization fees will be waived for projects of a 5 day or longer duration

Please contact the facility for fee rates.
Lab services
3D Laser Scanning of Objects

Note: Sustainable Archaeology personnel undertake scans, or can recommend a technician upon request

Object Scanning: Please contact the facility for fee rates.

Rendering point cloud: Please contact the facility for fee rates.

3D Printer

Note: Sustainable Archaeology personnel print objects

Please contact the facility for fee rates.


Note: Requires Trained Operator. Contact the Sustainable Archaeology Facility Manager for further information.

Please contact the facility for fee rates.

Post scan data manipulation: Review with Trained Operator

Digital X-Ray

Note: Requires Trained Operator. Contact the Sustainable Archaeology Facility Manager for further information.

Please contact the facility for fee rates.

Post scan data manipulation: Review with Trained Operator

Soil Flotation Machine

Self-contained and water recycling. Requires access to running water for initial fill, and electricity.

$100/day, plus technician fee where applicable. Sustainable Archaeology can recommend a technician upon request.

Sustainable Archaeology Specialized Workstations, Meeting Space Rental


  • Photography Stations
  • 3D scan rendering software workstation

Note: Confirm availability with Sustainable Archaeology Manager

Please contact the facility for fee rates.

Meeting Space:

  • Collaboration Room
  • Researcher's Mezzanine

Note: Confirm availability with Sustainable Archaeology Manager

Please contact the facility for fee rates.

Waiving Sustainable Archaeology Fees

Sustainable Archaeology's fee structure is designed to establish the capacity for the facility to be self-sufficient over the long term by supporting the ongoing costs related to collections management and preservation, facility and equipment maintenance, and personnel costs. This limits the ability of Sustainable Archaeology to accept pro bono transfers where the costs of processing, repackaging, digitizing, and long term storage are borne by the facility itself.

Nonetheless, Sustainable Archaeology also recognises that the importance of a collection to the ongoing advancement of archaeological knowledge may warrant accepting such transfers. Likewise, recognizing the life efforts of a pioneering archaeologist or community towards advancing our understanding of Ontario's archaeological heritage may also warrant accepting a collection without supporting costs. The degree to which this is possible is constrained by Sustainable Archaeology's capacity and ability to remain in operation. Decisions regarding waiving fees will arise from discussions between the prospective transferee and the Sustainable Archaeology Director, in consultation with the Sustainable Archaeology Advisory Board.

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Sustainable Archaeology Standards for Preparing and Packaging Collections

In order to be integrated into the Repository and Informational Platform, collections transferred to Sustainable Archaeology will need to adhere to our procedures and standards for packaging objects, materials and associated records, and for recording information about those collections. Adherence to these procedures and standards is essential to ensure the collection contents and collection information can be effectively tracked and managed across the Repository facilities, and to ensure collections are stabilized and preserved to achieve long term care. This work must be done, and information inputted to Sustainable Archaeology's Informational Platform, for ALL collections held in the repository. If a transferred collection does not or only partially adheres to these procedures and standards prior to transfer, that work will have to be completed by Sustainable Archaeology staff, and the transfer may be subject to additional processing fees in order to complete the work (for Sustainable Archaeology Fee Schedules, please click here.

Preparing Collections for Long Term Preservation

Ensuring for the long term care and preservation of archaeological collections, and maintaining the integrity of the information about those collections, are critical goals of practice all archaeologists follow. And as every archaeologist knows, this process begins in the field at the moment of recovery and recording, carries through to lab processing, analysis and cataloguing of that material, linking field data with object data, and continues with the proper packaging of objects, their contextual data, and the containers housing that material. There is no end to maintaining collection viability and integrity, either, as collection care requires perpetually insuring that the long term storage facility remains secure, that objects, labels and records are stable and not decaying, and that digital data is continually migrated into viable formats over time as required. These efforts ultimately pass on to the next generation of archaeologists, and represent a key, critical ongoing responsibility that arises from excavating and documenting the archaeological record, to ensure that those initial field efforts continue to contribute to ongoing research long past the date of initial recovery.

The collections procedures and standards developed by Sustainable Archaeology are intended to sustain the long term care and information preservation begun at the time of discovery. In developing these procedures and standards, Sustainable Archaeology sought to merge current practices in Ontario, as well as standards reflected widely at research centres, repositories, museums, and conservation institutions that have extensive experience managing and caring for large, amassed collections. The intent is to adopt procedures that are in line with best practices, effectively serve the need of archaeologists interacting with archaeological sites and materials on a daily basis, and heeds the direction for the management of archaeological collections laid out by the Province of Ontario

These collection processing procedures and standards also facilitate the needs of Sustainable Archaeology to provide ongoing direct and online access to the amassed holdings in the Repository, while providing for the level of control needed to ensure effective and full tracking of these materials held in-trust. These procedures and standards also aid in alleviating the otherwise substantial efforts needed during the intake stage at Sustainable Archaeology to input collection information. The intent is to ensure the capture of complete data complexity of individual or groups of artifacts at the bag level, therefore allowing data entry personnel to efficiently and quickly work through boxes of material, and incorporate that data into the Informational Platform.

Processing Collections Prior to Packaging

Every archaeologist follows variable but generally similar procedures during the processing, cataloguing, analysis, and packaging of a collection. The decisions made during those stages play a key role in the subsequent effectiveness of long term preservation, and will influence the type and value of information that can be gathered from the collection to sustain novel research. For many Legacy Collections these stages have long been completed, and procedures and standards for those collections are more about re-packaging and repurposing existing catalogue and label data, and stopping the decline of collection integrity. For newly created collections, the following advice is offered to help inform use of procedures during lab processing to assist in ensuring long term preservation of artifact collections.

Artifact Cleaning

The first step in processing artifacts coming out of the field is to clean them, in order to properly expose surfaces for analysis, and to remove any residues that, if left long term with the artifact or in a bag of artifacts, can cause degradation. Cleaning usually entails removal of soil and other residues adhering to the artifacts, and traditionally this has consisted of immersing artifacts in a water bath and scrubbing them with a soft or hard brush. Unfortunately, such methods can also remove important residues and other critical data essential to micro-analyses and other studies. Wet washing with a stiff brush can alter the surface of softer artifact classes, such as Aboriginal ceramics, bone, and shell, causing striations in the piece and eroding or masking shallow incising, body treatments, body surface topography, and other important analytical variables.

As cleaning is an irreversible treatment, the nature, condition, and analytical potential of each artifact and class of artifact needs to be considered prior to the selection of a cleaning method. Robust and stable stone, glass, glazed ceramics, some bone, and some Aboriginal ceramics that can withstand exposure to water can be gently spot washed with a very soft brush or sponge. Wet cleaning by full immersion should be restricted to stable glazed ceramics, glass, and stone from dry or slightly damp in-site soil contexts only. Metals, unstable bone, friable Aboriginal ceramics, horn, tortoiseshell, and shell should not be exposed to water, and should be dry brushed only. Any other material suspected to be too fragile to withstand exposure to water should also be dry brushed

While artifacts that can be cleaned of adhering soils and harmful residues need to be cleaned before packaging, exceptions are necessary for artifacts too fragile to be cleaned, or where residues need to be preserved. For example, ceramic vessel interiors, blade edges of stone cutting or scraping tools, painted or dyed objects, and the contact surfaces of mortar and pestles, are just some of the examples of artifacts where preservation without cleaning ensures the possibility of future detailed residue and microscopic research. In the case where artifacts are not cleaned, they will need to be bagged separately from cleaned materials and artifacts.

Critically, artifacts subjected to a wet wash, or soil residues from soil flotation, must be dried completely before bagging in order to avoid damp rot or mould growth in storage. Even unwashed items, especially porous materials such as ceramic, bone, etc., will retain moisture from their time in the ground, so must be allowed to fully dry before bagging. Artifacts should be laid out and allowed to dry naturally away from direct sources of heat (e.g. direct sunlight, radiator, or space heater).

Whether left without being cleaned, or cleaned by whatever method, it is important to record the cleaning and other post-recovery processing treatments carried out for an object or group of artifacts.

This will assist future researchers in understanding how cleaning methods have or have not altered the object, and will allow Sustainable Archaeology staff to flag any possible issues with long term care.

Some materials and artifacts are prone to active decay immediately upon recovery, including many metals and organic materials such as bone and shell. Objects that cannot be stabilized without a continuous, specialized storage environment (e.g. wet or freezer storage) are beyond the scope of Sustainable Archaeology to curate.

Other materials, including actively corroding metals, will require stabilization, such as placing the object in an air-tight container along with a supply of oxygen absorbers. While Sustainable Archaeology can undertake these basic stabilization procedures, objects requiring such treatment need to be identified upfront so that staff can take appropriate measures during incorporation of the collection into the Repository. Other materials, for example organics such as basketry or wood or fast corroding metal, bone, or shell, typically require full conservation. As such measures are beyond our ability to undertake, that work will need to be completed prior to the material being transferred to Sustainable Archaeology.

When seeking to undertake a conservation treatment, bear in mind that any treatments, particularly those that require the use of chemicals or adhesives, should be reversible if at all possible. They should in no way cause further damage or destabilize the integrity of the artifact. All conservation tools, materials and techniques need to be recorded, including the name, grade, and concentration of any chemicals or other products used, since the presence of such products may affect future analyses or long-term preservation of the artifacts in question.

Note: Sustainable Archaeology has prepared a detailed best practices guide for cleaning, conservation, and packaging artifact collections. Please click here for further information.

Selective Discard / Culling of Materials Prior to Transfer

Any sampling, re-interment, or discard of materials prior to transfer should be recorded in the collection records, detailing the material discarded, as well as any relevant provenience data.

Mending Artifacts and Reconstructing Objects

While reconstruction of artifacts such as ceramic vessels are often conducted during initial analysis of a collection, at Sustainable Archaeology the preference is for related object fragments to be bagged together, but not reconstructed. Most adhesives and methods used to join fragments together will cause damage to the specimens, and the bulk and weight of the reconstructed object can also contribute to damage, plus makes it difficult to store or analyse. Moreover at Sustainable Archaeology fragments can be digitized and mended virtually, and a prototype can be printed from that model, eliminating the need to physically mend artifacts to see the reconstructed whole.

Collection Packaging and Labelling Material

All materials used at Sustainable Archaeology to stabilize, house and label collections must be stable, inert, archival quality materials that are acid free and non-off gassing. The following outlines the materials used at Sustainable Archaeology:

Boxes: Acid-free, corrugated polypropylene "bankers" style boxes. Cardboard, wood or rigid plastic alternatives are not viable. The boxes used at Sustainable Archaeology are of a customized size and assembly in order to fit our shelving (15" wide x 12" deep x 10" high - 1.0416 ft3) and for ease of handling. Other sized boxes, separate lidded boxes, or one piece boxes without inset handles, cannot be accommodated. Sustainable Archaeology boxes can be obtained directly from Sustainable Archaeology on a cost recovery basis ($7 per box). Alternatively, for large or continual transfers, transferees can be provided with the specifications of the box design, in order to shop out their own supply from Sustainable Archaeology's vendor or another company.

Bags: Sustainable Archaeology uses archival grade, acid-free, self-closing polyethylene bags that are 2-mil grade and 4-mil grade in thickness. Sustainable Archaeology utilizes a number of different sized polyethylene bags for individual and batch artifact storage. All bags used by Sustainable Archaeology are polyvinylchloride (PVC) free. Fragile artifacts contained within sealed polyethylene bags may be double-bagged in polyfoam bags for an extra layer of padding / protection. Paper, cloth or off-gassing plastics are not used at Sustainable Archaeology.

Packing Foam: Archival grade, stable, non-off-gassing foams of a polyethylene or polyethylene-polypropylene blend of a variety of densities and thicknesses are used by Sustainable Archaeology depending on the level of protection/padding required. Thin foams are used to bulk fragile materials, or as a buffer between bags of artifacts, while thicker cut foams are used to provide support for larger items, such as re-constructed ceramic pots, or cut out to hold sacred items in lockable specimen storage. Foams used by Sustainable Archaeology are nitrogen blown. Solvent blown foams, as well as polyurethane or urethane foams are not viable.

Packing Tissue: Archival grade, acid-free tissue is used to support, bulk, and cushion archaeological materials. Dyed or perfumed tissues, facial tissue, newspaper or inked paper, envelopes, or other paper products are not viable.

Vials: Low density, inert polypropylene vials with snap-closure lids are used for the storage of small and/or delicate materials. Gel-based capsules and glass vials are not viable.

Aluminum Foil: Foil is used for the packaging of carbonized plant remains for future radio carbon dating. Samples wrapped in aluminum foil packs should be contained within a sealed polyethylene bag to prevent the loss of material, with a detailed inventory of the pouch contents, so there is no need to re-open the foil pouch.

Acrylic Resins: Acrylic resins are used for affixing a catalogue or accession number directly on an artifact. This resin does not yellow with age and is removable with a solvent. Acryloid B-72 (Paraloid B-72) grade resin is used by Sustainable Archaeology. Nail polish, label adhesives, and flammable materials are not viable.

Oxygen Absorbers: Oxygen absorbers (also called "scrubbers" or "scavengers") are used to eradicate oxygen in a container. These absorbers are primarily used for metal artifacts where excessive exposure to oxygen results in chemical reactions that induce corrosion. They are used in sealed micro-environments, either archival quality storage containers or layered, moisture-barrier bags.

Silica Gel: Silica gel packets are used to reduce humidity and moisture in a sealed environment. Indicating silica gel is used by Sustainable Archaeology where a desiccated environment is necessary for artifact stabilization.

Thermal Transfer Printed Labels: Labels made of inert plastic materials are used to print the data matrix (DM) codes and other labelling information affixed to artifacts and boxes.

Other packaging materials, such as paper bags, metal fasteners, unstable plastics, or any other non-inert materials that will degrade, destabilize, or cause damage to archaeological materials, are not used or accepted by Sustainable Archaeology. A full list of packaging materials that will not be used or accepted by Sustainable Archaeology is available here.

Legacy Collections

Many Legacy Collections will not be in a condition that meets these standards, and are likely to contain unstable or deteriorated packing materials, such as paper bags, flaking nail polish artifact labels, off-gassing plastics, etc. As such, these collections will require a significant repackaging effort. If this repackaging work is to be performed by Sustainable Archaeology, these collections will be subject to processing and repackaging fees in addition to per-box fees. Please refer to Sustainable Archaeology Fees for more information on box, processing and repackaging fees.

Contaminated Material

Processing legacy collections for transfer to Sustainable Archaeology may require extensive cleaning and re-packaging of materials to remove unstable artifact and packaging materials, or materials that have been contaminated by pests or molds. In order to maintain a clean, pest-free storage environment for collections, Sustainable Archaeology requires that any materials (including packaging materials) containing or suspected of containing the following contamination be removed:

  • Mouse feces and urine, and/or any materials contaminated with mouse waste
  • Mouse chewed material
  • Evidence of mouse nesting (chewed/shredded material, hair or fur, etc.)
  • Insects, and/or insect carcases, eggs, larvae, cast skin, webbing, cocoons, waste (frass or feces)
    • includes materials demonstrating staining from previous insect contamination
  • Bag tags, packaging materials, and artifacts affected or damaged by mould
  • Packing materials that have been damaged by exposure to water, including those that have since dried

Any packaging materials that have been or may have been contaminated by insects, mice, moulds, or other pests MUST be removed and replaced with clean materials- including plastic bags and artifact labels. Artifacts that have been affected by the above contamination MUST be re-packaged before entering the facility. Where necessary, artifacts should be cleaned of any and all traces of contamination prior to repackaging.

Re-Packaging Legacy Collections

Legacy collections have previously been packaged in a wide array of packaging materials, many of which have been identified as aiding in the destabilization and deterioration of artifacts. The following packaging materials are not viable for collections housed at Sustainable Archaeology. Please refer to the section "Collection Packaging and Labelling Material " for a list of accepted packaging materials.

  • Newspaper, paper bags, paper envelopes, paper towel, facial tissue, toilet paper, etc.
  • Cardboard boxes, cardboard trays, cigar boxes, etc.
  • Cloth bags
  • Dyed, perfumed, or any other non-acid free tissue
  • Cotton wool / balls / batting
  • Metal staples, paper clips and other metal fasteners
  • Rubber bands
  • Twist ties
  • Scotch, duct, masking or electrical tapes
  • Film canisters, pill bottles, margarine or other plastic food containers
  • Plastic vials that are not made of archival grade polyethylene or polypropylene
  • Glass vials
  • Metal canisters or other metal containers
  • Saran or other plastic wrap
  • Plastic bags that are not made of archival grade polyethylene - i.e. plastic grocery bags, sandwich/freezer bags, etc.
    • Plastic bags that are not self-closing (zip locking) must be replaced
    • All plastic must be PVC (polyvinylchloride) free
  • Wooden boxes
  • Any unstable, non-archival quality foams including antistatic or fire retardant polyethylene, chlorinated or nitrated plastic, or polyurethane (including polyurethane chips), Styrofoam, foam rubber
  • Liquids - e.g. no samples preserved in oils or other liquids

Packing Archaeological Collections

The following are general rules that need to be followed when packaging collections for transfer to Sustainable Archaeology:

  1. Sustainable Archaeology boxes cannot contain more than 30 pounds (13.6 kg) of material.
  2. Artifact bags are placed in a box by logical context (e.g., bags of all artifact categories by site feature; bags of faunal by context from the same site; etc.). When a context or artifact category from a site is not sufficient, another site context or artifact category can be added to fill the box.
  3. Heavier materials should never be placed on top of more fragile materials within a box.
  4. Like materials should be packed and stored together. Artifacts of different material types should not be placed together in the same bag. Materials originating from the same context are bagged separately by material type under that specific context (see "Bagging Artifacts"). Separating artifacts by material type prevents any deterioration that may be caused by one artifact type coming into contact with another (e.g. staining on ceramic materials caused by metal corrosion; crushing of fragile objects by fire cracked rock, etc.).
  5. Pack artifacts in containers that are appropriate for the size and sturdiness of the artifact in question.
  6. Artifact bags should not be more than two-thirds full; they should not be overstuffed.
  7. Foams and tissues used for artifact support and protection should not be wrapped tightly around an artifact to hide it from view, and instead should be used to pad out space around a material. This prevents damage that could be caused by un-wrapping an artifact unseen.
  8. Very sharp materials (e.g. pointed metal or sharp-edged glass fragments) that could tear a bag need to be double bagged or wrapped in foam. 4-mil grade bags should be used to package sharp artifacts.
  9. Larger artifacts that take up the volume of an entire box should be packaged in a way that ensures the stability and protection of the artifact through the use of padding foam and other supports. Do not force an oversized object into a bag.
Bagging Artifacts by Context, Material, and Type

Sustainable Archaeology divides all archaeological collections into bags for storage according to the following basic system:

Site/Location → Unit (context)→ Sub-Unit → Material Type, which can reflect many specific variations depending on collection particulars, e.g.:

Site A → Unit 5 → Level → Ceramic

Site A → Unit 5 → Level 2 → Metal

Site A → Unit 5 → Level 3 → Ceramic

Site A → Unit 2 → Ceramic

Site A → Unit 3 → Operation I → Lot B → Sublot 7 → Ceramic

Site B → Feature 23 → Ceramic

Site B → Feature 22 → North Half → Layer 2 → Ceramic

Site C → Surface → Glass

Within this hierarchy:

  • Site (e.g., excavated site materials, survey surface collection, test pit, findspot) is an absolute exclusion for packaging purposes (artifacts from multiple sites are not bagged together);
  • In site context, when available (e.g., excavation unit, feature, operation, etc.) as well as any sub-contexts (strata, level, north half, lot, etc.) serve as an absolute exclusion for packaging purposes (artifacts from distinct in site contexts or sub-contexts from the same site are not bagged together). The exemption to unit exclusions is cross-mended or multiple fragments of one diagnostic object, where the fragments come from multiple units. In such instances the object fragments are bagged separately (to retain context), but together in a larger bag or box;
  • "Material" (metal, bone, ceramic, etc.) is an absolute exclusion for packaging purposes (artifacts of differing material are not bagged together). The exceptions to a material exclusion include composite artifacts (the predominant material determines bagged association) and the left over sorted soil flotation fraction residue. Note: When dealing with smaller quantities of differing material from the same specific site context, they are bagged separately by material, and then those bags are bagged together in a larger bag holding all materials from that context.

Below a material designation artifacts will be bagged individually or in batches of similar material from the same specific site context, depending on particular type and condition of the artifact. Diagnostic artifacts are individually identified in the database and labelled by a unique Artifact ID. Batches of less diagnostic artifacts are bagged together and identified together by a unique Artifact ID for the bag of artifacts (e.g., body sherds, debitage, unidentified faunal remains, etc.). Bagging down to individual object, especially for diagnostic or formal objects, facilitates management and accessibility in the Repository, and ensures incidental damage and degradation (e.g., damage to blade edge from several points banging together in the same bag) are minimized.

The following section outlines bagging artifacts by specific material, and identifies the level where batch bagging variability can be accommodated.

Material-Specific Standards for Bagging Artifacts

All materials must be bagged to the most specific contextual level available.

  1. Stone:
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) formal stone objects are bagged by:→ Material (type of Stone) → Stone Sub Material (e.g., chert type such as Onondaga) → Object Type (e.g., point, scraper, drill, etc.) → Object Sub type (e.g. Barnes Fluted, Meadowood, Pop-eyed Birdstone, etc.)
    • Batch Bagging Options:

      • Fragments of the same material, manufacturing technique, object/object sub type, at the most specific level of identification (e.g., ground and pecked slate fragments; ground stone tool fragments; biface fragments; Barnes Fluted point fragments) can be batch bagged.
      • Fragments that recognizably and collectively are one object, will be batch bagged together. Fragments that transcend excavation unit contexts are bagged by context and then bagged together
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) debitage is bagged by: → Material (Stone) → Stone Sub Material (e.g. chert type such as Onondaga) → Flake Type
    • Batch Bagging Options:

      • Debitage batch bagging will occur through normal sorting. However, given the variable application of flake types, and the tendency not to type flakes for mixed multiple component sites, batch bagging of debitage to stone sub material (e.g., chert type) is acceptable. accommodated.
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) rough or unmodified stone is bagged by:
    • → Object Type (e.g., hammerstone, fire cracked rock, etc

      Batch bagging is the expected method for bagging these materials. No more than 30 pounds of fire cracked rock or rough stone can be placed in one box. Rough stone with etching or other soft materials that can be easily scratched should be bagged separately.

  2. Ceramics
    • Aboriginal Earthen Ceramics
      1. Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Vessel Rim sherds from Aboriginal earthen ceramics are bagged by:
        → Type (e.g., Lawson Incised, Stafford Stamped, Pound Necked, etc.) OR by predominant decorative treatment on the exterior face of the rim AND orientation of application (e.g., horizontal, oblique, etc.) → Juvenile / Adult
      2. Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Vessel Neck/shoulder sherds from Aboriginal earthen ceramics are bagged by:
        → Predominant Decorative treatment on the exterior → Juvenile / Adult
      3. Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Vessel Body sherds from Aboriginal earthen ceramics are bagged by:
        → Surface Treatment (e.g., corded, self-slip, smooth, etc.) → Construction Method (e.g., coil, etc.)
      4. Batch Bagging Options for Vessel Sherds:

        • Aboriginal Earthen Ceramic fragments (Rim, Neck/Shoulder, Body) identified as belonging to a single vessel, will be bagged by sherd type, and then bagged/boxed together (depending on quantity of sherds). Fragments that transcend excavation unit contexts are bagged by context and then bagged together.
        • Multiple rim sherds of the same Type or decorative treatment/application are bagged together.
        • Multiple neck/shoulder sherds of the same decorative treatment are bagged together.
        • Body sherds by exterior surface are bagged together.
      5. Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Pipes of Aboriginal earthen ceramics are bagged by:
        → Portion (e.g., complete, bowl fragment, stem fragment, etc.) → Named Type (e.g., Coronet, Trumpet, Effigy, etc.) OR by predominant decorative treatment on the exterior of the piece (e.g., punctated, incised, plain, etc.) → Juvenile / Adult
      6. Batch Bagging Options for Pipe Sherds:

        • Individual Aboriginal Earthen Ceramic pipes - either complete or fragments identified as all belonging to one specimen - will be bagged together. Fragments that transcend excavation unit contexts are bagged by context and then bagged together.
        • Multiple bowl fragments from the same specific context can be bagged together.
        • Multiple stem fragments from the same specific context can be bagged together.
      7. Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Other Objects of Aboriginal earthen ceramics are bagged by
        → Object (e.g., disc, effigy, daub, etc.)
    • Historic Era Manufactured Ceramics:
      1. Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Earthenware Ceramic Sherds from Historic Era Manufactured ceramics are bagged by:
        → Glaze (e.g., pearlware, creamware, whiteware, no glaze, etc.) → Decorative Technique (e.g., painted, transfer, sponged, etc.) → Colour → Sherd type (e.g., rim, foot ring, body, etc.) → Maker's Mark, when applicable → Vessel form, when applicable (plate, cup, saucer, bowl, etc.)
      2. Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Porcelain Ceramic Sherds from Historic Era Manufactured ceramics are bagged by:
        → Decoration when available → Sherd type (e.g., rim, foot ring, body, etc.) → Maker's Mark, when applicable → Vessel form, when applicable (plate, cup, saucer, bowl, etc.)
      3. Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Stoneware Ceramic Sherds from Historic Era Manufactured ceramics are bagged by:
        → Ceramic Paste (e.g., yellowware, greyware, redware, etc.) → Glaze (e.g., salt glaze, lead glaze, no glaze, etc.) → Sherd type (e.g., rim, foot ring, body, etc.) → Maker's or Merchant Mark, when applicable → Vessel form, when applicable (Teapot, mixing bowl, crock, beer bottle, ink bottle, etc.).
      4. Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Ceramic Pipes are bagged by:
        → Ceramic Paste (e.g., kaolin, red, porcelain, etc.) → Portion (e.g., complete, bowl fragment, stem fragment, spur, etc.) → Bowl Decoration when applicable (Fluted, T.D. Crest, Masonic, Effigy, etc.) → Maker's Mark when applicable (e.g., Henderson, McDougall, etc.)
      5. Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Other Objects/Object Fragments from Historic Era Manufactured Ceramics are bagged by:
        → Object (e.g., brick, door handle, container, lid, doll part, etc.)
      6. Batch Bagging Options forHistoric Era Manufactured Ceramic Sherds:

        • For ceramic objects identified as all part of a single vessel they will be bagged together. Fragments that transcend excavation unit contexts are bagged by context and then bagged together.
        • Batch bagging of rim and body sherds that are of the same decorative treatment/colour, or same paste/glaze is acceptable.

        Batch Bagging Options for Pipe Sherds:

        • Individual pipes - either complete or fragments identified as all belonging to one specimen - will be bagged together. Fragments that transcend excavation unit contexts are bagged by context and then bagged together.
        • Multiple bowl fragments from the same specific context can be bagged together.
        • Multiple stem fragments from the same specific context can be bagged together.

        Batch Bagging Options for Historic Era Manufacturing Ceramic Other Objects/Fragments:

        • Heavy objects like bricks cannot be batch bagged, and can only be boxed up to 30 lbs in a single box.
  3. Metal
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) are bagged by: Identifiable Metal Objects
      → Material (e.g. iron, silver, copper - indigenous/non-indigenous - lead, brass, etc.) → Object Type (e.g., jewelry, tools, furniture hardware, gun parts, coins, etc.) → Object Sub-Type when applicable (e.g., earbob, chisel, drawer handle, ferrule, Bank of Upper Canada Token, etc.).
    • Batch Bagging Options for Identifiable Metal Objects:

      • Metal fragments identified as part of the same Object are bagged together. Fragments that transcend excavation unit contexts are bagged by context and then bagged together.
      • The same object sub-types from the same specific context can be bagged together.
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Identifiable Metal Architectural Fasteners are bagged by:
      → Material (e.g. iron, brass, etc.) → Artifact Object Type (e.g., nails, screws, spikes, etc.) → Fastener Sub-Type (e.g., machine cut, horseshoe, etc.)
    • Batch Bagging Options for Identifiable Metal Architectural Fasteners:

      • Complete and recognizable fragments of the same subtype of fastener are batched together.
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Unidentifiable Metal are bagged by:
      → Material (e.g. iron, brass, etc.)
    • Note: batched non-diagnostic or unidentifiable metal fragments must be stable enough for long-term storage. Sustainable Archaeology will not retain bags of rusted detritus considered to have no research potential.

  4. Glass
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Identifiable Glass Containers are bagged by:
      → Manufacturing Method when applicable (e.g., blown, mould, etc.) → Colour → Container Type (e.g., bottle, jar, etc.) → Sub-Container type (Medicinal, alcohol, mason, etc.) → Completeness → Portion (e.g., rim, neck, base, etc.) → Maker's or Merchant Mark, when applicable
    • Batch Bagging Options for Identifiable Glass Containers:

      • Fragments identified as part of the same glass object are bagged together. Fragments that transcend excavation unit contexts are bagged by context and then bagged together.
      • The same Object sub-types from the same specific context can be bagged together.
      • Fragments of the same Manufacturing Method, when applicable, and Colour can be bagged together.
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Identifiable Glass Tableware are bagged by:
      → Manufacturing Method when applicable (e.g., 1-piece, 2-piece, etc.) → Tableware Type (e.g., stemware, plate, decanter, etc.) → Completeness → Portion (e.g., stem, base, rim, stopper, etc.) → Colour → Decorative Technique → Decorative Motif
    • Batch Bagging Options for Identifiable Glass Tableware:

      • Fragments identified as part of the same glass Object are bagged together. Fragments that transcend excavation unit contexts are bagged by context and then bagged together.
      • The same object sub-types from the same specific context can be bagged together.
      • Fragments of the same Manufacturing Method, when applicable, and Colour can be bagged together.
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Glass Beads are bagged by:
      → Manufacturing Method when applicable (e.g., cane, wrapped, mould, etc.) → Shape (e.g., tubular, round, oval, etc.) → Colour (e.g., mono blue, poly red & black, etc.) → Kidd Type, if available
    • Batch Bagging Options for Glass Beads:

      • When using Kidd bead types, batch bag to type, otherwise to Shape and Colour
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Identifiable Glass Objects are bagged by:
      → Object Type (e.g. flat glass, lighting device, button, unidentified, etc.)
    • Batch Bagging Options for Identifiable Glass Objects:

      • The same Object type by specific sub-context can be bagged together.
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Unidentifiable Glass is bagged by: → Colour
  5. Bone, Shell, Horn
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Identifiable Worked Bone, Shell & Horn artifacts are bagged by:
      → Material (e.g. bone, antler, marine shell, etc.) → Artifact Object type (awl, comb, needle, cup, button, etc.) → Completeness → Decorative Technique & Motif, if applicable
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Unidentifiable Worked Bone, Shell & Horn artifacts are bagged by:
      → Material (e.g. bone, antler, marine shell, etc.)
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Unmodified Bone and Shell are batched together by:
      → Material (bone, shell) → Faunal Class, when available (e.g. avian, fish, mammal, etc.) → Species, when available; Otherwise batched bagged by material
  6. Organic Remains
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Carbonized Plant Remains are bagged by:
      When available: →Genus → Species
    • Batch Bagging Options for Carbonized Plant Remains (C14 Samples):

      • Carbonized samples for radiocarbon dating, sealed in foil and bagged by context, should be batch bagged in one larger bag.
    • Below most specific context (Site → Unit → Sub Unit →) Other Organic Remains are batch bagged by:
      → Material (e.g., wood, plant, leather, cardboard, etc.) → Object Type (e.g., shoe, basketry, unidentified, etc.)
  7. Other Material
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Other Material are batch bagged by:
      → Material (e.g., rubber, plastic, etc.)→ Object Type (e.g., button, container, etc.)
  8. Soil Samples
    • Below most specific context (Site → Context → Sub Context →) Soil Samples are bagged by:
      → Dry or Floated Samples → Sorted Flotation Residue → Fraction Type (light, heavy)

    Note: Only processed and sorted soil samples are held by Sustainable Archaeology for long term storage. Soil samples must be dry.


Labelling is critical to effective management and ensuring ease of access to collections in the Sustainable Archaeology Repository. As such, labelling is designed to be detailed, redundant and secure. Labelling occurs on objects or batches of objects, on bags holding artifacts, and on boxes containing collections.

Artifact Object Labels

Artifact labelling is the most secure means of ensuring contextual information is not divorced from an artifact. However, direct application on an object needs to be a non-intrusive and reversible process, and the labels themselves should be inconspicuous and neatly applied. General practice is to label non-diagnostic and untreated/undecorated surface areas away from edges.

At Sustainable Archaeology, all individual artifacts or batches of artifacts are assigned a unique, randomly generated 10 digit number that serves as a unique identifier for the object, linking it to the full information about the object and its context in the Informational Platform. It is this number that is affixed to the object and replicated on the bag tag for the object. Continuing Contributors who directly input their site collection data into the Sustainable Archaeology Informational Platform will be able to generate these unique identifiers for artifact and batch artifact labelling directly.

Traditionally a "sandwich" labelling method is most commonly used to label artifacts: which consists of laying down a layer of Acryloid B72, followed by a catalogue number written in black or white India ink, and then sealed under another layer. The use of this resin ensures that the label cannot be easily smudged away, but also allows for the complete removal of the label from the artifact with a solvent if ever needed. This resin is preferred over other mediums, such as nail polish, as those peel, shrink, run, or otherwise are damaged over time. Likewise sticky labels dry and peel off over time, or leave a damaging residue on an artifact's surface.

At Sustainable Archaeology a thermal transfer printer can be used to print artifact catalogue numbers on to labels made of an inert plastic material. The printed codes are then affixed directly to the artifacts using the acrylic resin Acryloid B72. This resin is archival standard, transparent, chemically stable, and non-yellowing, and can be removed with the appropriate solvents if necessary. Currently a numbered code label, the plan is to adopt use of DM codes for this purpose, since they are less intrusive and can be as small as 3.5mm x 3.5mm in size.

In cases where an artifact designation cannot be applied directly to the object, such as when the artifact is too small, fragile, has not been washed, or is considered sacred and cannot be marked, the designation is applied to a label or tag that is placed within the container holding the object. Bagged batches of artifacts are also designated and identified in this way.

Bag Labels

Bag labels are necessary for each bag holding an object or objects, and for larger Unit Bags holding multiple bags (e.g., the fragments of a designated vessel, multiple context-specific bagged artifacts representing an assemblage from a site, etc.). These labels will also reflected the Sustainable Archaeology system for bagging artifacts as laid out in Bagging Artifacts by Context, Material, and Type.

The remainder of this Section is still to be completed.

Bag Labelling

Sustainable Archaeology boxes are labelled at the facility. They are assigned a designation which is used for tracking box location, and confirming the contents of the Box. Labels affixed to boxes are RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags, which allow Sustainable Archaeology to track the movement and location of a specific box within and between facilities.

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Sustainable Archaeology Digital Data Standards

The curation of field, photographic, spatial and other records pertaining to archaeological fieldwork is as critical a task for the long term preservation of archaeological information as is the curation of archaeological objects. Without the preservation of these contextual records, the data value of the artifacts themselves is lost. It is therefore essential that associated records, particularly digital records, are created and maintained in a way that will ensure their future accessibility.

Sustainable Archaeology has adopted the best practice guidelines established by the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) of the United Kingdom - a world leader in setting standards for archaeological digital information management. To refer to their standards and guidelines, please visit the ADS Guides to Good Practice at http://guides.archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/.

Sustainable Archaeology curates all associated records and data in digital form only, as Sustainable Archaeology facilities do not have the physical space or the professional means to archive paper-based records and resources. Where only paper-based records exist, these will need to be digitized prior to transfer. Sustainable Archaeology can also digitize records into the informational platform of the database. Please note that digitization is subject to fee-for-service costs, and there is also a one-time per gigabyte fee for archiving digital information. For information about current fee schedules, please click here. To discuss your project and assess costs for digitization of materials, please review with the Sustainable Archaeology Manager or Director prior to submission of records for digitization. Please note that care and maintenance of any original paper documents remain the responsibility of the transferee, and all paper records will be returned to the transferee by Sustainable Archaeology after digitization is complete.

Digital Data Records Commonly Archived at Sustainable Archaeology

Digital documents and records that accompany artifact collection transfers to Sustainable Archaeology generally can include:

  1. Field Project Report (License Report). All field projects lead to the generation of a report, detailing the work conducted, contextual data found and recorded, collections generated, analysed and catalogued. Typically in Ontario since 1975 these reports, or a version of them, have also served as a license report submitted to the Province in fulfillment of archaeological licensing obligations under the Ontario Heritage Act. While the Province currently seeks dis-assembled versions of these reports for their differential information management purposes, many archaeologists continue to generate complete reports for internal purposes and for clients. It is these Field Project reports, rather than the Provincial license reports, that are preferred at Sustainable Archaeology for new projects, and are typically the report available for most Legacy Collections.

    Field Project Reports will be archived as text documents, and need to be submitted in PDF/A format. These digital documents require appropriate metadata information (see below) in order to associate the report with the site(s) collection(s) discussed in the report, which will need to be embedded in the file before creation of a PDF/A version.

  2. Site Locational Record. A critical association, one that provides meaningful information for all datasets and collection information, is the spatial location of where the collection was found and generated. This locational record operates as a "dot on a map" level of association, based on a single fixed point for the object or site, or series of perimeter readings of the site and fixed locational information within that perimeter. A file consisting of a table providing accurate site locational data, or the direct digital GPS file, is required for every location that generated a collection from the field (.DOC or .XSL format). A table of one or a series of GPS readings is the preferred means of providing locational information. Acceptable alternate formats include longitude/longitude co-ordinates, or Northing/Easting measures. A digital version of the site record form filed with the Province should also be included in addition to the locational data. These digital files will require appropriate metadata catalogue information (see "Recording Metadata" below) attached to associate the file with the appropriate site collection.

  3. Field Records. Project records or reports, including records of in-field methods, daily crew and photo lists, field journals, etc. Typically these documents are a mix of paper and digital, "diary entry format," with most being paper the further back in time the collection was generated. Most of these records are digitized in the course of analysis, or will need to be digitized to be included with the collection at Sustainable Archaeology. Converting them through OCR to be searchable .DOC files is helpful, but typically they will be archived as image files in PDF/A format. These records will require a metadata catalogue providing an inventory of the extent and nature of records provided.

  4. Site Mapping. These records will range from perimeter maps of surface finds or edge of excavations, to topographical maps of the site or sites in a study, to total station files of artifact scatters or feature locations, to grid layouts of units and sub squares, to square plans, to features plans and profiles, post mould locational data, in situ artifact or remains sketches, etc. Site mapping can also include post excavation GIS mapping data generated for field project reports, client specific needs, or research projects. Most of these will also geo-reference (or can be geo-referenced) to a fixed point in space (datum) that allows these locational maps to be translated to a specific geographic location. These are critical for recreating spatial contexts for any further analyses of materials from the collection, and understanding spatial relationships across a site. File formats for digital mapping are variable (see below for further information). For paper versions, ideally they are digitally converted to vector based file formats in order to allow for integration of other spatial datasets and for research purposes. Raster file formats are also acceptable provided their conversion to vector format is possible. These records will require a metadata catalogue providing an inventory of the extent and nature of records provided.

  5. Image Documentation. Photographic records in the field, or generated afterwards (photographs of artifacts, etc.) are an essential record to compliment mapping, written records and the artifacts themselves. Photo documentation should be complete, representing all stages of fieldwork carried out at a location, with particular representation of in-field contexts (feature plans and profiles, in situ artifact contexts, etc.). For older projects, images are in film or slide format only, and will need to be digitized. The digital file format preferred is uncompressed .TIFF format, since compression loses significant data and can compromise file stability through archived migrations. As such, it is recommended that a careful selection of the digital collection of images to be archived is made, to ensure unnecessary redundancies and spoilt shots are not transferred. Individual images will need image metadata tagging. These records will also require a catalogue providing an inventory of all images included.

  6. Collection Processing Documentation. This refers to textual records related to the cleaning and/or conservation of artifacts, methods and products used.

  7. Specialist Reports/Research Studies. Specialized studies undertaken on collections, ranging from faunal or floral analyses, radiocarbon assays, soils or materials based studies, etc., are either undertaken after field project reports are generated, or are only summarised in that report. Sustainable Archaeology archives the full reports as related to collections held in the facility. Likewise, value-added research on collections, either before or after a collection has been incorporated into Sustainable Archaeology (e.g., Student thesis or dissertation, research project or publication, etc.) is also archived by Sustainable Archaeology. Such reports and studies need to be submitted in the completed form as PDF/A files, with appropriate metadata (see below) catalogue information attached to associate the study with the appropriate site collection.

  8. Project Documentation. Typically, background information about the project that led to the fieldwork in a commercial, CRM context is sufficiently detailed in the Field Project Report. However, in cases where specific documents will help inform the fieldwork, copies of that documentation will be appreciated. This can take the form of project development maps, project inventories, correspondence, etc.

  9. Digital Data Inventory. This is an index of all digital files included in the transfer, file formats, size of digital datasets, etc. In effect a records catalogue, this inventory will guide Sustainable Archaeology staff as they incorporate these records within the Informational Platform, and to ensure all records are properly identified and mapped into the collections database.

Sustainable Archaeology: File Formats for Submission of Digital Data

Source: Archaeology Data Service. "Preparation of Files for deposit with the ADS", Version 1.3. March, 2008.

In order to successfully integrate digital data into the Sustainable Archaeology Informational Platform, and to ensure that digital materials remain accessible in the future, all digital data received by Sustainable Archaeology will be provided in file formats preferred for archiving purposes. Any file conversion necessary to meet Sustainable Archaeology requirements will be completed prior to transfer.

Please adhere to the following file formats when submitting digital data to Sustainable Archaeology:

Data set Preferred File Format
Databases Access - MDB
Open Document Database (e.g., Sql Server) - ODB
Delimited text
GIS ESRI Shape file - SHP + SHX + DBF
Geo-referenced TIF Image - TIF + TFW
Images Uncompressed Baseline TIFF v.6 - TIF
RAW format possible for contemporary digital image capture
Spreadsheets CSV
Microsoft Excel - XSL
Open Document Spreadsheet - ODS
OpenOffice.org Calc - SXC
Texts Word - DOC
Open Document Text - ODT
PDF ADOBE - PDF/A-1a or PDF/A-1b
CAD (Vector graphics) AutoCAD - DWG
Geophysical Data Raw xyz data - TXT, CSV
Rendered Images - TIF

Files that are not submitted in the preferred formats may be subject to a digitization fee to cover the time and labour costs associated with migrating data to the preferred formats.

Preparing and Submitting Digital Records

In order for the digital data to be sustainable, digital files need to be identified and labelled in a way that allows an outsider to understand the original purpose of the dataset, as well as the relationships between datasets

To ensure preservation of digital materials, the expedient addition of this data into Sustainable Archaeology's informational platform, and to facilitate the interoperability of data sets, all digital data submitted to Sustainable Archaeology will adhere to the following guidelines (derived from the Guides to Good Practice published by the Archaeological Data Service in York, UK):

  • All digital data files must be provided in the stated preferred file format
  • Files will not be edited or proof-read by Sustainable Archaeology staff. It is the transferee's responsibility to ensure that the correct and proofed file versions have been submitted, and that the files contain all the relevant information necessary to ensure the continued use and research potential of the collection transferred
  • Only the final version of any files will be accepted in a records submission - do not include any duplicate versions or draft files
  • Descriptive file names that adequately explain the contents of the file are needed.
  • The appropriate accompanying metadata and documentation (see below) should be included with all submissions of digital data

Each submission of digital material will include a basic, text, table or chart inventory of all files included in the transfer. The following data must be included in the inventory table:

  1. Folder names
  2. File names per folder (including file extension).

This file needs to include the phrase "digital data inventory" in its name, and please ensure the word "inventory" is not used in any other file name.

File Naming Conventions

Digital file naming must adhere to the following conventions:

  • All files must include the file extension which indicates the encoding file format. This extension is usually a three character suffix
  • Use only alphanumeric characters (a-z, 0-9), the hyphen (-) and the underscore (_). Upper and lower case characters and numbers can be used, but ensure that the supplied documentation listing file names accurately reflects the case used in the actual file name
  • Do not use spaces or full stops (.) within file names
  • File naming will need to be consistent for all records submitted for a particular collection transfer
  • File names need to be unique - no two files in the same dataset should have the same name
  • A consistent first part to a file name is preferred, one that helps specify what the files relate to. Either the specific site name, Borden number, or Sustainable Archaeology unique collection transfer number, when available, should be used in every file name to associate files to particular site collections.
File Folder Tree - Structure and Naming

When transferring a large number of digital files to accompany a collection to Sustainable Archaeology, it is important that they are logically sorted within a file directory and stored in folders clearly labelled so that Sustainable Archaeology staff can logically find files and load them into the Informational Platform so that they will be connected to artifact information. The following hierarchical file organization and naming conventions are set out to facilitate the navigation through and retrieval of digital datasets.

All associated data and records should be organized for transfer in a directory of folders and sub-folders. As most collections transferred to Sustainable Archaeology will consist of materials and records from a particular site, records and data should be separated and organized into sub-folders by that Site Name and Borden Number. Collections that consist of materials from a survey project or a private collection may prefer to organized by SA transfer designation number, project name, or transferee. When multiple site collections are being transferred at one time, a separate file folder tree should be generated for each site collection.

Within each site file folder, one folder should be designated as containing all Collection Level metadata files. This folder should be titled "Site Name - Site Metadata". A second folder should be titled "Site Name - Digital Files". Within that folder would be a series of folders, including one that contains all formal reports generated related to the collection and a series of folders that separate other files by file type, i.e., all word documents should be together within one folder, all GIS data contained together in another, all images in another folder. Each file type folder should be named according to the site folder, and indicate the kind of digital files in the folder - i.e., "Lawson Site AgHh-1_Images".

Within each File Type folder, there should be a sub-folder containing metadata information for all digital files in the folder - for example in the "Images" folder would be a subfolder labelled "Lawson Site AgHh-1_Image Metadata". These metadata folders should contain all file-level metadata pertaining to the file in that folder.

Finally, when there are an extensive number of files in a sub-folder, these can be subdivided into sub-folders for ease of search and retrieval. These subdivisions should be by logical in-site contexts, e.g., by Feature numbers (e.g., 1-50, 501-100, etc.), by Grid units (e.g., 500N-005E, 500N-010E, etc.), by feature type (e.g., Cellar_NW Quadrant, etc.), by spatially distinct components (e.g., Late Woodland Features, 18th century well, etc.).

The following graphic provides an example File Directory Tree for the Lawson Site:

To be completed.

Generating Collection- and File-Level Metadata

Metadata, often described as "data about data", is an essential aspect of digital archiving that facilitates the identification and preservation of digital data through the interoperability of diverse data systems and resources and by structuring digital data in a way that is understandable to both people and computer systems. Metadata provides information about a file or dataset that explains to a user details such as when, where and with what software and hardware a file was created, who created it, the purpose it was intended to serve, and the content and structure of the data. Metadata is an effective organization tool for digital data that aids in the identification and management of digital resources by describing those resources in a standardized manner, making those resources easy to identify, retrieve, use, and even repair if a file has become corrupted.

The Archaeology Data Service (ADS) has developed standardized Dublin Core metadata schema for archaeological digital data. This encompasses both collection-level and file-level metadata fields, and is reflected below in the metadata fields Sustainable Archaeology requires for digital data transfers.

In order to ensure the future use and migration of digital resources held by Sustainable Archaeology, a Collection Transfer Metadata Form can be filled out and submitted at the time digital datasets are transferred. No digital datasets can be incorporated into the Sustainable Archaeology Informational Platform without the inclusion of this documentation.

Collection-Level Metadata

Collection-level metadata refers to information that pertains to all digital datasets being submitted related to a specific collection (site, project, etc.). This data includes terminologies for period, site name(s), location, and keywords that are related for a specific collection transfer to Sustainable Archaeology. This type of metadata will allow users to quickly identify any dataset and its association with a specific collection in the Sustainable Archaeology Repository and digital data in the Informational Platform. Adhering to Dublin Core metadata schema for archaeological digital data, this metadata incorporates the following thirteen core elements:

  1. Title - formal title of the dataset, along with any alternative titles.
  2. Description of the Dataset - summarizes the aim/objective of the project that led to the creation of the collection, as well as the collection content. The summary should be no more than 300 words.
  3. Subject - keywords for the collection.
  4. Coverage - indicates both the spatial and temporal coverage of the Collection. Spatial coverage includes current/contemporary municipal names from which the Collection is derived, or other spatial variables. Record any alternative historically used names separately. For temporal coverage, indicate the dates/period covered by the collection.
  5. Creators - record details of the personnel responsible for the creation of the collection, and for the analysis of the collection (i.e., as reflected in the Field Project Report). Typically this would consist of the licensee, current contact information, along with any other principal personnel (e.g., field directors, field record generators, report authors, specialist analysts, etc.).
  6. Publisher - In effect the affiliation of the licensee of record (e.g., consultant company, university, etc.), and current contact information.
  7. Identifiers - Any project or reference numbers used either in the past or currently to identify the dataset (e.g., Project Information Form Numbers, consultant project file number, etc.).
  8. Dates - Record of when the collection was created and project carried out, as well as any other significant processing or digitization dates.
  9. Copyright - Name of copyright holder for intellectual content being transferred (e.g., Project Director, Principal Investigator, etc.).
  10. Relations - Cite any original published or unpublished sources that data included in collection may have been derived from (e.g., informant information, etc.), including details of the location and identification of those original sources.
  11. Language - Language(s) in which the dataset was created.
  12. Resource type - Indicate whether the dataset is primary, processed, or interpreted data (e.g., raw or cleaned up images, complete or selected dataset of field photos, square maps or field notes unedited or edited, etc.).
File-Level Metadata

File Level Metadata is essentially consistent information for each file provided. This "tag" allows users to understand the nature of those individual files contained within a dataset, as well as the relationships between individual files. Information such as the type of hardware and software used to create the dataset as well as other details that indicate when and why the file was created are recorded at the file level to facilitate future use of the files, as well as future migration and verification of the files. Using the Metadata Transfer Form will allow this file information to be batched so that all like files only need to information filled out once.

  1. File name -the full name of the file and its format extension (cut and paste from the digital file inventory).
  2. File path - record the file path of the file within the directory of files being transferred, ABOVE file name (e.g., AdHh-1/reports/X; AdHh-1/photos/X; etc., where "X" is the file name not included in the file path).
  3. Software - record the software and version of the software used to create the original file, when known (e.g., Microsoft Word 2007, etc.).
  4. Hardware - record the hardware used to create the file. This is relevant when the files are directly drawn from specialized equipment programs (e.g., GPS devices, total stations, hand-held XRF, etc.).
  5. Operating system - record the operating system and version under which the files were created (e.g., Windows Vista, Windows XP - Service Pack 2, Mac OS X 10.5, etc.).
  6. Date of creation/modification - record the file creation date or alternatively the date when the file was last modified.
Additional File-Level Information

Additional file-specific metadata information is needed for specific types of file. This will allow for verification of the integrity of a database received; to understand any failures or disabled functions or macros in databases, spreadsheets, etc.; understand native resolution and scaling limitations of GIS mapping or images; and to ensure migration of file data in the future is informed of settings, embedded macros or security certificates, or other potential risks to ensuring file security. As such, specific file-level metadata, either as embedded file tags with the file, or as an accompanying data table, is needed specific to the following file type.

  1. Databases:
    • Data dictionary listing tables and their fields, including data types
    • Field/character sizes for text fields
    • Identification of mapped relationships between tables
    • Active row counts for each table
    • The qualifiers for any delimited text
  2. GIS:
    • Provide a statement detailing the purpose of the GIS
    • Identify all layers in the GIS
    • Indicate whether the file used a Coordinate system or arbitrary site grid, and how the data is related to the chosen grid.
    • Method of capture for site/project geo-spatial data (e.g., total station, transit co-ordinates, weaving of 1x1 m or 5 x5 m square maps, etc.).
    • Data sources for layers (Purchased from OS, etc.)
    • Scale/resolution of data capture and for the file
    • Assessment of data quantity (e.g., root mean square error, etc.)
    • Date of data capture or purchase for each layer
  3. Image Files:
  4. All Image files require a digital label tag, which is then affixed to the file itself. The standard labelling format for photographs is IPTC/XMP (International Press Telecommunications Council/Extensible Metadata Platform), and can be created from a wide number of open source and proprietary image editing programs (e.g., Photoshop, Breezebrowser, XnView, etc). Similar though more limited labelling tags can be accessed directly through current Windows OS.

    • Information required within file label tags include title (caption), description, keywords (tags), author (photographer), date taken, location, project/site reference, copyright owner, whether the image is original or a scanned image of a slide/paper photo, and if the file was edited prior to final form.
    • Additional information could include the camera/lens settings and pixel dimensions of the original shot; or scan software used to scan slides/photos, the dpi setting of the scanned image, and whether the file was compressed or scaled during scanning
  5. PDF Files:
    • Indicate whether saved as a PDF/A-1a or pdfA-1b.
    • Indicate whether the PDF was generated from image capture/ocr scanning, or by direct conversion from originating software.
    • Indicate if searchable capability was enabled.
  6. Spreadsheets:
    • Indicate purpose and content of each individual spreadsheet/worksheet in the file (e.g., Projectile Point metrics, artifact catalogue, etc.)
    • A listing of what each column and row records, if not they are not already labelled in the file
    • A key explaining any codes, abbreviations or acronyms within the data
    • Column and row counts
    • An indication of what and where embedded functions, e.g., formulae, macros, charts, comments, notes, etc., are present in the spreadsheet.
  7. Textual Files:
    • TXT, SGML - indicate text encoding
    • HTML, XHTML - software and version used to create the file; doctype within the HTML schema
    • XML - indicate text encoding, DTD or schema
  8. Geophysical Survey Data:
    • Raw data: location of the survey, conditions and instrumentation
    • Images: details of data processing and interpretation
  9. CAD and Vector Images:
    • AI, CDR, SVG - Relationship to other documents, caption
    • DWG, DXF - AutoCAD/DXF version, significance of conventions (layers, colours, linetypes, hatch styles, symbols, etc.), relationship to other files (databases, object libraries, etc.)

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Sustainable Archaeology Procedures for Transferring Collections

What to Submit At Transfer

Collections submitted to Sustainable Archaeology must be complete. This includes the entire artifact and organic remains assemblage that make up the collection. Any prospective transferee completing analysis, report writing, or otherwise still requiring access to materials from the collection should hold off on the transfer until all such work has been completed. Likewise, if objects from a collection have been temporarily loaned for a period of time, the transfer should take place after those items have been returned (the borrower is welcome to contact Sustainable Archaeology to loan out the materials again, after they have been incorporated into the Repository and Informational Platform).

Additionally, all digital documentation related to the collection will need to be included in the transfer. Any work related to completing documentation (e.g., Field Project Reports, Site Record forms), or in converting paper documents to digital information should be finished prior to transfer. Digital data can be delivered on external hard drive or memory stick. Uploading of digital datasets is not available at present.

All Sustainable Archaeology required documentation should be completed prior to transfer, including the Collection Transfer Agreement, Metadata and digital information inventories, etc.

Sustainable Archaeology provides a Transfer Checklist for prospective transferees to complete and submit at the time of transfer, to confirm that all necessary materials, documentation and steps have been completed.

Delivery of Transfer

The transport of collections to Sustainable Archaeology is the responsibility of the transferee, and delivery of materials to the facility must be done directly (i.e., not by courier).

In the process of working through the Collection Transfer agreement, the transferee will establish a time to deliver the collection with Sustainable Archaeology - no collection can be accepted without an appointment. Sustainable Archaeology will only accept the transfer of collections delivered during normal hours of operation, Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm (excluding Western University holidays).

Collections may only be received by Sustainable Archaeology staff at the Sustainable Archaeology facility - collections may not be left at any department of Western University or at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. The individual(s) making the delivery of collections will co-sign an invoice with Sustainable Archaeology staff certifying that the specific collection, the right number of boxes, and all appropriate digital media were received by the facility.

Please note that payment of all fees associated with the transfer and/or processing of collections is typically due at the time the collection is delivered to the Sustainable Archaeology facility. See Sustainable Archaeology Fees for more information. Any questions regarding the payment of fees should be directed to the Sustainable Archaeology Manager or Director.

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These forms are currently unavailable. Please contact Sustainable Archaeology for more information.

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Contact information is available HERE.

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Sustainable Archaeology Selected References and Webpage Links

Conservation Guides

Brady, Colleen et al. Conservation FAQs and Facts. Society for Historical Archaeology, 2006.
http://www.sha.org/research/conservation_facts/conservation_facts.cfm (Accessed August 2012)

Conservation Treatments. Society for Historical Archaeology, 2006.
http://www.sha.org/research/conservation_facts/treatment.cfm (Accessed August 2012)

Handling Freshly Excavated Artifacts on Site. Society for Historical Archaeology, 2006.
http://www.sha.org/research/conservation_facts/handle_artifacts.cfm (Accessed August 2012)

Initial Processing of Archaeological Materials. Society for Historical Archaeology, 2006.
http://www.sha.org/research/conservation_facts/process.cfm (Accessed August 2012)

Canadian Conservation Institute. CCI Notes.

Cronyn, J.M. The Elements of Archaeological ConservationLondon: Routledge, 1990.

Dowman, Elizabeth A. Conservation in Field Archaeology. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1970.

Maekawa, Shin and Kerstin Elert. The Use of Oxygen-Free Environments in the Control of Museum Insect Pests. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2003.

National Parks Service. "Appendix I: Curatorial Care of Archaeology Objects".Museum Handbook, Part 1: Museum Collections, Washington DC, 2001.
http://www.nps.gov/museum/publications/MHI/AppendI.pdf(Accessed August 2012)

National Parks Service Museum Management Program. Conserv-O-Gram Series.

Rodgers, Bradley A. The Archaeologist's Manual for Conservation. New York: Kluwer Academic, 2004.

Scott, Rosalie and Tara Grant. Conservation Manual for Northern Archaeologists. North West Territories: Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, 2007.
http://www.pwnhc.ca/programs/downloads/conservation_manual.pdf (Accessed August 2012)

Sease, Catharine. A Conservation Manual for the Field Archaeologist. Los Angeles: Institute of Archaeology, University of California, 1994.

Singley, Katherine R. "Caring for Artifacts After Excavation - Some Advice for Archaeologists".Historical Archaeology 15 (1) (1981): 36-48.

Digital Data Standards

Archaeology Data Service. Guides to Good Practice. University of York, 2011.

Archaeology Data Service. Guidelines for Depositors. Versions 1.3 and 1.4, 2008 and May 2012.

National Information Standards Organization. Understanding Metadata. Niso Press: Bethesda, 2004.
www.niso.org and http://www.niso.org/publications/press/UnderstandingMetadata.pdf (Accessed August 2012)

Selected guidelines from archaeological repositories

Archaeological Research Centre. Requirements for Submitting A Collection to the Archaeological Research Centre.Rapid City: South Dakota State Historical Society, 2009.

Griset, Suzanne et al. Requirements for the Preparation of Archaeological Project Collections for Submission to the Arizona State Museum. Arizona: Arizona State Museum, 2004.

Maryland Historical Trust. Technical Update No. 1 of the Standards and Guidelines for Archaeological Investigations in Maryland Collections and Conservation Standards. 2005.

Minnesota Historical Society. Standards for Processing Archaeological Collections.

Museums of Indian Arts & Culture Laboratory of Anthropology. Procedures Manual for Submission of Archaeological Artifact and Records Collections. Sante Fe: Museum of New Mexico, 2002.

South Dakota State Historical Society, Archaeological Research CentreRequirements for Submitting a Collection to the Archaeological Research Centre. Rapid City: South Dakota Historical Society, 2009.

State Museum of Pennsylvania Section of Archaeology. Curation Guidelines: Preparing Archaeological Collections for Submission to the State Museum of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 2006.

University of Wyoming Archaeological Repository. Guidelines and Standards. Laramie: University of Wyoming, 2007.

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