Commercial archaeology is generally different from that practiced by academic institutions in that historical finds are often not available to the public. The field typically involves the investigation of artifacts, at construction sites or other locations, by private companies. Local and regional agencies, as well as private contractors, often support this kind of archeology, which is usually focused on planning rather than research. Things created as part of commercial activity to promote establishments like motels, diners, and signs are sometimes studied through a form of commercial archaeology, which often focuses on these from a cultural or historical aspect.
Researchers are often called on to investigate areas dug up during commercial operations. Small buildings are sometimes found and warrant additional investigation, but commercial archaeology often takes place anywhere the ground is dug up and past artifacts are thought to be. Such work is commonly carried out by companies in England and Scotland. Commercial contractors can provide services to architects, construction companies, as well as property developers.
Specialists who work for a commercial archeology company are often experienced in land surveying and excavation, as well as the interpretation and reporting necessary to gather the appropriate data. Archaeological study can include a variety of technological equipment such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS), ground excavation machines, and drilling tools. Services often include help with planning both small and large projects. These can take place on site or with the aid of historic maps, photographs, evidence, or other kinds of records analyzed in a professional office.
Archaeologists sometimes analyze historic buildings to assist in repair and refurbishment. Historical materials can be recorded if any disturbance threatens to destroy those, or it is suspected additional features from a specific era may be uncovered. Commercial archaeology services can also provide an analysis of the local environment or the use of equipment, such as x-ray machines, to do research. Major finds can also be labeled and stored for proper care; different artifacts can then be retrieved later on, while volunteers or educational initiatives may benefit in the future.
Cultural studies can also take place in modern civilizations. In many places, commercial archaeology is considered the study of signs and advertisements for commercial establishments, particularly those along road sides. They can be assessed in relation to the space used as well as the local economy. In this form of commercial archaeology, researchers can study urban planning, or photographs can be collected of stores, restaurants, or historic signs, for example, as part of art or museum collections.