This year it is 50 years since the first professional archaeologists set foot on Svalbard in the first of three inter-Nordic expeditions. Amateurs had been digging freely for a century because the historical monuments had no legal protection. Two more Nordic expeditions were mounted in 1958 and 1960. The next phase in archaeological exploration began in 1978. Over the next 15 years, archaeologists from several countries conducted extensive excavation programmes on many Pomor house sites and west European whaling sites, leading to a substantially raised level of interest in and knowledge about the history of Svalbard. Given the limited archaeological resource base, the high excavation rate had to be reduced. In recent years there have been very few excavations and this low field activity is a concern both for the cultural heritage management and scientific milieus concerned with research on Svalbard. An important question is how to stimulate research and at the same time ensure sustainable cultural heritage management on Svalbard.