The Toolkit


The purpose of this Toolkit is to provide a set of useful and flexible resources to assist archaeological practitioners during the creation of project-specific selection strategies for the working project archive.

Use of the toolkit is not required, but it is necessary that a selection strategy be developed for all archaeological projects. The toolkit can be used to aid and inform that process.

This toolkit builds upon existing guidance on best practice in the curation and management of archaeological archives (ADS (1), ADS (4), Brown 2011a, CIfA 2014b, Perrin et al 2014, SMA 1993).

This toolkit is not intended to be used in the creation of a selection Policy and it does not provide advice on what selection decisions should be made. The toolkit instead provides advice, guidance and resources to aid the management of the selection process, and tools to help archaeological practitioners record their project-specific selection decisions.

This toolkit is not intended to be used in the selection of human remains or in the rationalisation of an archaeology collection within a repository. For guidance on human remains refer to the Historic England human remains advice page ( For guidance on the rationalisation of museum archaeology collections see Baxter et al (2018) and SMA (1993).

Who is the toolkit for?

This toolkit is appropriate for use by all archaeological practitioners who create, work with and care for archaeological archives. Examples include but are not limited to

  • staff within commercial units, including project managers and project personnel engaged in survey, excavation, post-excavation, assessment, specialist activities, and the compilation of the working project archive
  • local authority archaeologists, planning archaeologists, and other national and local authority staff
  • collecting Institution personnel, such as collections curators, other repository representatives, administrative staff, and archivists
  • archaeological conservators
  • specialists
  • esearchers (academic, student and independent)
  • community groups.

How to create a selection strategy using this toolkit

A selection strategy should be developed for every archaeological project and must take into account

  • the aims and objectives of the project
  • local authority guidance (including the brief and/or written scheme of investigation (WSI))
  • the collecting institution’s collection policy and/or deposition guidelines
  • local and regional research frameworks
  • relevant thematic or period specific research frameworks
  • the project’s data management plan (DMP) - see here for DMP guidance and here for DMP template
  • internal recording and reporting policies
  • material-specific guidance documents

The selection strategy should be reviewed, and amended if required, at the end of each stage of the project.

Project planning

A selection strategy must be outlined at the planning (project initiation) stage of a project for inclusion in the WSI or detailed project design. It should take the form that best fits the project, but a template is included in this toolkit to assist in the creation of a project-specific selection strategy.

The context, scope and rationale for the selection strategy should be documented, along with any amendments made throughout the course of the project.

The methodology for recording uncollected material should be agreed with the relevant specialists and described or referenced in the selection strategy. Methods for disposing of de-selected material should be agreed with the landowner and other relevant stakeholders (such as the collecting institution)

The selection strategy should be an integral part of all pre-project documentation (i.e. WSI, project design) and as such be made available to all stakeholders together with all supporting documents (e.g. the DMP, practice manuals).

Data gathering

All project personnel (management, field staff, post excavation staff and specialists) should have knowledge of and understand the selection strategy.

Throughout the course of the project the selection strategy should be monitored, reviewed and revised as necessary, for instance to take account of unexpected developments or discoveries. All revisions to the selection strategy should be agreed with the relevant stakeholders and fully documented. Uncollected material should be recorded and dispersed as agreed in the selection strategy.

Analysis and report writing

Following analysis and prior to archive compilation, all records and documentation, including digital data, and the entire material assemblage (i.e. the working project archive ) should be subject to a selection assessment. This will be informed by relevant specialist advice and agreed with stakeholders, the project lead and the collecting institution.

Archive compilation

Before the preserved archive is compiled, the agreed selection strategy must  be applied to the working project archive and the de-selected material dispersed in accordance with the methods documented in the selection strategy.

The selection strategy (including all amendments and revisions) should be included in the project archive and accompany the archaeological archive to the collecting institutions.

What's in this toolkit?

This toolkit contains:

  • A selection strategy template that can be used to help structure a project-specific selection strategy and that provides appropriate prompts on what a selection strategy should include. Even if the template is not used it does provide useful prompts to assist in following the process of developing a selection strategy. The template is divided into three sections: 1. Digital Data, 2. documents and 3. Materials. If necessary, the materials page can be repeated and sub-numbered for each material component of the archaeological archive (eg 3.1 Animal bone, 3.2 Flint, 3.3 Roman pottery, 3.4 Bulk soil samples from contexts, etc). The selection strategy template contains sections where the methodology for recording uncollected material can be described. The selection strategy template contains sections where the agreed methods of dispersal for de-selected material can be detailed.
  • a list of further guidance detailing existing guidance on best practice in the curation and management of archaeological archives as well as links to regional and national research agendas and material standards
  • a list of contact details where further advice can be sought
  • checklist for the Selection process
  • glossary of terms used in this toolkit
  • several real world examples of projects where a Selection Strategy has been devised, and how the process developed through the course of the project

When to use the Selection Strategy Toolkit

This toolkit designed for use in all archaeological projects, although the detail and input required from relevant stakeholders will vary depending on the size of the project.

For comparable archaeological projects undertaken in similar areas (eg two evaluations neighbouring the same rural village, or two watching briefs on in the same town centre) it is likely that the selection strategy can be re-used with minor amendments (in agreement with relevant stakeholders). The use of existing museum archive deposition documentation may cover the requirements for a project specific selection strategy, or for smaller archaeological projects it may be possible to include the selection strategy within the WSI (in agreement with relevant stakeholders). However the prompts within the selection strategy template will still be relevant regardless of how the selection strategy is compiled.

Collecting Institution

Receives an Archaeological Archive from the Depositor for long-term curatorial care.

Collections Curator

The individual that curates Archaeological Archives on behalf of the Collecting Institution, who should therefore be involved in the development of the Selection Strategy.

Data Management Plan

A data management plan, or DMP, is a document which describes how you are planning to manage the data gathered through the delivery of a project, and what will happen to that data (eg. plans for sharing and preservation) once the project is complete.

De-Selected Material

The parts of the working project archive not selected for inclusion in the archaeological archive.


All documents and records in paper or film form, including: correspondence, contracts, specifications, notes, records, pro-forma, indexes, catalogues, reports, maps, plans, section drawings, elevations, site photographs, object images and x-rays.

Project Manager

The individual responsible for the successful completion of an Archaeological Project, including management of the Working Project Archive and implementation of the Selection Strategy.


A quantity of material type or a deposit collected for analysis.

Selection Policy

A non-project-specific, generic methodology for selection. As such, a selection policy may inform decisions about deselected materials but should not be used to determine a project-specific selection strategy.

Uncollected Material

Material not collected during the data-gathering phase of an Archaeological Project e.g. as a result of Selection in the field.

Working Project Archive

The records and materials gathered during an archaeological project and retained for analysis prior to selection for the archaeological archive.