England’s museums could be running out of space to house the troves of ancient artifacts that have been unearthed during building and infrastructure works, according to a report by BBC. These objects range from Roman metalwork to Bronze age pottery, and are reportedly awaiting future placement in warehouses right now.
Archaeological contractors known as commercial archaeologists are hired by developers to clear construction sites and are often the ones who discover these objects.
According to a report commissioned by the public body and Arts Council England, the amount of ancient finds being unearthed will soon max out the available storage space. “The clock is ticking—we have four or five years before we really do start seeing massive problems,” Barney Sloane, a national specialist services director at Historic England, told the BBC.
Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have all reported similar issues, though the management of archaeological finds differs between the three countries. Less than half of England’s museum have an archaeological curator, according to the Society of Museum Archaeologists, and this could lead some institutions to be less willing to take on these objects.
Historic England and Arts Council England reported that at least a quarter of the excavations overseen by archaeological contractors in England produce collections that never make it to a museum. Contractors are typically left to store the objects, but are often not equipped to showcase the finds.
Historic England, the Arts Council England, and the National Trust are in early discussions to advise on the creation of a national archive, which could solve the storage issue for the next 100 years. It is unclear, however, if the government will fund the project.
Historic England said that it is concerned that if storage space runs out, developers may not continue to excavate archaeological sites.