Local authority archaeologists are responsible for maintaining a register of all the known archaeological sites in their area, known as either Historic Environment Records (HERs) or Sites and Monuments Records (SMRs (or in some historic towns as Urban Archaeological Databases (UADs)). The name of HERs being adopted by many authorities as it is felt to better reflect the increasing breadth of information which they record about the historic environment.
Only a small proportion of these sites are protected as Scheduled Ancient Monuments or Listed as being of national importance, but many others merit protection for their regional or local importance.
HERs/SMRs are the major source of information for understanding the local historic environment. The inclusion of a site on an HER/SMR gives it formal recognition in the planning process, and local planning authorities take account of this in drawing up development plans and reaching planning decisions. They also provide the basis for the formulation of management policies and provide a valuable resource for research and education.
Consulting the Records
Local HERs/SMRs can be consulted by contacting the relevant local authority historic environment service. Some HERs/SMRs are also accessible on-line, either through their own websites (see ALGAO's list of member organisations) and also through the sites listed below, although for more detailed information and advice, contact the individual HER/SMR.
Some HERs are available online, and can be accessed via Heritage Gateway, which also enables cross searching with a number of national databases, and provides contact details for all HERs. Archaeology Data Service also has links to a wide range of reports on Interventions, databases and other collections.
Several Scottish SMRs can be accessed through Pastmap, which also provides access to national records including Listed Buildings, Scheduled Ancient Monuments, National Monuments Record of Scotland and Historic Gardens and Designed Landscapes.
CARN is being developed as the public entry-point to the Extended National Database for Wales, a national information resource for archaeology and architecture compiled by archaeological organisations across Wales and which includes records the four Welsh Archaeological Trust and the Royal Commission's National Monuments Record of Wales (NMRW). Further information from NMRW is available through Coflein.
Development of HERs
Principally through its HER Committee ALGAO works with national agencies to work to improve the structure, content and development of local HERs and to improve access to these records. In order to fulfil their responsibilities compatibility between local and national records, and the ability to retrieve consistent data of standard quality from all SMRs/HERs are essential goals.
The national heritage agencies of England, Scotland and Wales curate a wide range of information and archive collections relating to the historic environment of their respective countries and make them available to the public: