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MoLAS 2002: annual review for 2001

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As 2001 came to a close, preparations for the February 2002 opening of the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC) accelerated. The artefacts and records from the majority of the 5200 archaeological interventions known to have taken place in Greater London's 32 boroughs and the City in the past 75 years, many of them previously at inaccessible stores and unpublished, were reorganised within the new building. These form what is by far and away the largest archaeological archive in the country, representing over 20% of the whole of England's archaeological archive and a collection of national importance. In terms of shelving space, this represents 1000m of field records, another 10km of registered finds, numbering around 250,000; the LAARC holds 120,000 boxes of general finds, pottery and bone. A major programme of work was carried out by the Museum's archive team to make the archive more accessible for researchers of all types.

A related initiative, also aimed at opening the doors to the archived material and fostering new research and new discoveries, was the production of A research framework for London archaeology 2002, due for publication later this year. Involving over 150 external consultees and the collaboration of staff throughout MoLAS, Specialist Services and the Museum, the document seeks to realise the potential of the London Archaeological Archive, chart ways of managing it effectively, and help to target academic endeavour to where it will have greatest effect. A key aim is to widen commercially-funded activities to include partnerships with the many individuals and organisations who make up London's archaeological community. Work has already identified material in the archive which will complement recent fieldwork, enhancing the value of projects already underway. An important part of the research policy is to harness the relevance of archaeological discoveries to our lives today, and to return the stories of London's past to the residents, local communities, office workers and indeed to the property professionals who sponsor archaeological work. In essence, the LAARC has created the opportunity to study long-neglected material, and in developing new research projects will promote much more tightly focused and inclusive research where we hope the real value of the archives will be realised.

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