Unpacking the Packed. The Life and Future of Archaeological Collections


  • Natalija Ćosić Centre for Preventive Conservation Central Institute for Conservation




archaeology, custodian crisis in archaeology, archaeological heritage, collection management, museums, disposal of objects


Due to the strong influence of heritological concepts and the concern for the future of heritage, an ever increasing accumulation of the past is taking place, as well as the unconrolled influx of cultural goods into museums. Consequently, an increasing number of museums expresses anxiety for the future of the collections stored in the already overcrowded depots.

Concerning the large quantity of material, the archaeological collections form a special category, differing in the ways of collecting and the dynamics of growth of the number of objects in the museum funds. The existing approches to the collecting of archaeological record include the unpredictable annual increase and in itself present an untenable concept of long-term management of archaeological heritage. The consequence is the neglect towards the already collected material in the post-excavation phases, as the vital part of the “life” of archaeological objects. At the same time, the huge amount of inaccesible material points to the professional horror vacui, fear that a certain proof or trace will be lost from the process of understanding the past, or to the tendency to safeguard the imperative of preserving the heritage for the future generations. Due to the poorly regulated processing of archaeological remains the issue arises of how the traditions of collecting and organizing of artefacts influence the value assessment of archaeological record and formation of the images of the past. Bearing this in mind, the paper presents a critical assessment of the problem of long-term management of archaeological material and museum collections. The possible paths of changes in the practice of usage and redefinition of value of the “unpacked” archaeological heritage are also discussed. 


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How to Cite

Ćosić, Natalija. 2018. “Unpacking the Packed. The Life and Future of Archaeological Collections”. Etnoantropološki Problemi / Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 13 (3):595-615. https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v13i3.2.