Museums & Archaeological Research

The Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) has been up and running for a few years through the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, but has recently appointed a Museums Project Officer (that’s me, Anna MacQuarrie).


Anna MacQuarrie, ScARF Museums Officer outside Orkney Museum

ScARF is designed to be the go-to resource for beginning research on Scottish archaeology. It provides an overview of the subject by period, through a series of panel reports and also clearly sets out useful and relevant research questions for everyone to use. My job is to help bring more museum contributions to said subjects, using existing museum collections and archaeological assemblages.

Society of Antiquaries of Scotland seal

The first ScARF panel reports were produced in 2012, compiled by a set of acknowledged experts for each archaeological periods. The panels are now beginning to reconvene to discuss what is new in archaeological research, and whether the original research questions have been answered or addressed since 2012. It is the perfect time, then, for the start of the museums arm of ScARF. One of the main points addressed in all the panel reports is a need for greater museum-based research to be contributed.



For example, one of the Iron Age panel recommendations is as follows: Older museum collections are often inadequately catalogued, while the scale of more recent excavation assemblages means they are often slow to be integrated into museum databases – targeted programmes of (re)cataloguing and archiving important assemblages would be of value (More information here

The Modern panel suggests the following: Large volumes of modern material culture are already curated by Scotland’s museums, but much of this is little used for research at present and collections could be publicised and promoted more widely (more information here I hope that my work will help those working in museums and archaeological to achieve some of these 2012 recommendations as well as perhaps create more for the future.

I’ll be working with staff from Orkney Islands Council and Aberdeenshire Council museum services for the next few years, so plenty of time to get some interesting, and valuable, research undertaken.  Whilst the project is based in Edinburgh, ScARF is a Scotland-wide initiative and we endeavour to reflect archaeological work from across the country, so it’s really important to us to get out and about when we can to encourage collaboration with museums and archaeologists nationwide.

I’d be really interested to hear from other museums with archaeological collections that have used them to inform ongoing research projects, whether big or small. I’ll be back again in a few months with an update blog post on how the project is faring, but in the meantime you can reach me via email at

The ScARF project is joint funded by Historic Environment Scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland.

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For more information on ScARF, please visit 

For more information on the Society of Antiquaries please visit:

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