All About the Repository and Contracting Storage

Take a look inside the Collections and Research Wing of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.

If you follow us on our social media platforms (Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram) you may have seen some of our recent behind the scenes posts. We’ve been taking our followers inside the Collections and Research Wing of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology (MOA) and showing them a little more about how repackaging is done, the history of the space, and its current uses.

The Collections and Research Wing.

We recently received a new delivery of artifacts and I was inspired to tell you a little more about the facility, how it works, and why it’s important. The Museum of Ontario Archaeology is home to the Collections Repository in the Collections and Research Wing. Here over 54,000 boxes of millions of archaeological items can be stored in safe and secure conditions. The collections staff at MOA works tirelessly to maintain this space so researchers, descendant communities, and others can have access to these objects. It is also important as these objects are given proper storage conditions to ensure they last over time.

You may be wondering where these artifacts come from, who they were recovered by, and how they end up here at the museum.

The recent delivery included dozens of boxes of archaeological materials.

These artifacts come from across Ontario. Our current feature exhibition, Who Cares About the Past, and our online video series, Behind the Glass, have both explained how artifacts are recovered in Ontario. Most of the archaeological work in Ontario is done by Cultural Resource Management (CRM) firms. CRM companies are contracted by developers to investigate sites earmarked for development. Before any construction can happen, the CRM company must survey the site and conduct an analysis to evaluate if the site needs to be excavated. To hear more about this, check out our Google Arts and Culture page or the Behind the Glass Series.

So, these objects are recovered by licensed archaeologists working for CRM companies contracted by developers all across Ontario, but how do they end up here at MOA? The short answer is we are contracted to store the objects by CRM firms!  They reach out to us about housing the objects in these safe and stable conditions and we draft a contract for them. If you are an archaeologist or from a CRM firm interested in this program, please see the collections page on our website.

Moving the boxes from the delivery van into the Collections Repository.

All the objects are packaged into safe storage conditions and labelled using a complex system that allows our collections staff to easily locate them. If you’re interested in hearing more about what safe storage conditions are, what it means, and how conservation is done—check out our posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and keep your eye out for a blog post right here.

We receive the artifacts in shipments and store them on our shelves. If specified in the contract, we repackage the artifacts to ensure that all materials entering the repository are in the safest storage conditions possible! If you are an archaeologist or someone from a CRM company who is interested in this service alongside our storage service, please let our collections manager know when reaching out to negotiate a contract.

Storing the boxes in their temporary location on the shelves until they can be repackaged.

As part of the agreement for this deposit, our collections staff will repackage the artifacts. That’s why you see the staff moving cardboard boxes in, don’t worry, soon they will be in conservation safe plastic! Interested in what repackaging looks like? Check out the time lapse video we posted on our social media!

Once the objects are repackaged, they are entered into our database. The boxes are labelled by site location or project name, recorded into our database, and placed in the appropriate area in the repository.

Now, these artifacts are available to researchers, descendant communities, and others, like you, who are interested in archaeology! Follow us on social media or check out our Google Arts and Culture pages to see more about the artifacts we house and hear their stories!

Written by Katie Gaskin