What are Reference Resources?

What do we mean by ‘Reference Resources’?Fabric type series even smaller
In the context of this project, and Historic England’s Strategy for developing Research Resources (see below), Reference Resources are works of specialist synthesis comprising typologies, reference collections, corpora, and in some cases, synthetic studies. Published, online, and physical Reference Resources are included. Broadly speaking, Reference Resources are those resources that allow archaeological specialists to answer the questions ‘What is this?’, and ‘How does this fit in with what we know about this type of object?’

How do ‘Reference Resources’ relate to ‘Research Frameworks’?
The Historic England Research Strategy draws a distinction between these two types of research resource. Research Frameworks are more to do with a much wider synthetic context, and broader questions about ‘What does this mean?’ or ‘How does this fit in to what we know already about this region/class of object/broad class or period of site?’

What about ‘how to’ guides or teaching manuals?
These are generally not Reference Resources. These teach people how to become specialists. Reference Resources are what people still use when they have learned and developed their specialism.

The Historic England Strategy for developing Research Resources (available here) describes Research Frameworks and Reference Resources as different types of Research Resources, and sets out the following definition for Reference Resources (pp7-8):

These works of specialist synthesis have for many years been the essential building blocks of historic environment research. They help researchers to identify and understand all aspects of past human life including the natural and historic environment. They are used to inform all areas of basic and applied research, including identification, classification, chronological sequencing and site comparison. Reference Resources are closely associated with Research Frameworks – generating new understanding to inform and update Frameworks as well as being the product of gaps identified by research agendas.Ref resources photo

They can include all immovable and movable heritage – object, building, site, landscape and material type syntheses, for example:


Project scope

Our project specifically excludes Reference Resources ‘associated with buildings, building fittings and fixtures, attached sculpture and sites and landscapes’, in accordance with the project brief. However, this still leaves a lot of Reference Resources used in a wide range of diverse archaeological specialisms.