|MANAGING ARCHEOLOGICAL COLLECTIONS||3. LAWS, REGS, POLICIES, AND ETHICS|
Antiquities Act of 1906
Three men excavate a cave in Spruce Tree House at Mesa Verde National Park sometime between 1915-1926. Photo taken by Jesse L. Nussbaum. Photo from the Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library.
The first major U.S. law to address the preservation of archeological resources is the Antiquities Act of 1906. Its primary focus is the protection of archeological sites from looting, which was widespread in the southwest in the late 1800s, as it is now. The Act establishes the permit process for archeological excavation on federal and tribal lands in an effort to deter destruction of sites by anyone who is not a professional archeologist. It establishes fines and punishment for unauthorized excavation or looting. It also allows the president to declare historic or prehistoric sites or structures as national monuments, as President Clinton did several times during his presidency.
The Antiquities Act also contains a stipulation for the curation of archeological collections, stating that "the gatherings [of artifacts and data] shall be made for permanent preservation in public museums." Importantly, the law implies that decisions for the care and management of the recovered collections should be made before a permit is granted.
The Act and its accompanying regulations, Preservation of American Antiquities (43 CFR 3), do not contain any specific guidelines or standards for carrying out the curation of archeological collections. The regulations, however, do cover several significant issues. First, they mandate that the permittee must submit a catalog of the collection recovered and photographs made during the field season to the Smithsonian Institution and indicate if any items may "be available for exchange" (43 CFR 3.10). Second, any object of antiquity or collection that is seized due to excavation without a permit or other reasons contrary to the Act are to be "disposed of as the Secretary shall determine, by deposit in the proper national depository or otherwise" (43 CFR 3.16). Third, the regulations mandate that collections "shall be preserved in the public museum designated in the permit and shall be accessible to the public (43 CFR 3.17). If a public museum closes down, then all federal collections in that museum "shall thereupon revert to the national collections and be placed in the proper national depository" (43 CFR 3.17).
Unfortunately, no other law mentions any aspect of the management of archeological collections until some 70 years later.
Cultural resource laws into the 1970s
Slowly, some cultural resource or historic preservation laws began to be passed after the Antiquities Act. Although these laws had major impacts on the practice of U.S. archeology, few dealt specifically with the care and management of archeological collections.
Sites Act of 1935
An extension ladder anchored with taut guy wires often provided a perch for taking near-vertical photographs of excavated house floors in the Missouri River basin. Photo taken in 1954 by H. Huscher. Photograph courtesy of the National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.
This Act declares it a federal policy to preserve historic and prehistoric areas of national significance and establishes the National Historic Landmarks program. It also empowers the Secretary of the Interior to "secure, collate, and preserve drawings, plans, photographs, and other data of historic and archeologic sites, buildings, and objects." Although these documents could be significant associated records of archeological projects, how and where they are to be curated is not adequately addressed in this law. The passage of the Historic Sites Act also formalizes National Park Service programs involved in salvage archeology, programs that were designed to put many people to work during the Great Depression.
Museum Properties Management Act of 1955
This Act authorized the Secretary of the Interior through the National Park Service to preserve the objects found in individual national parks and provide public access to those materials through museums. The Act, as amended in 1996, gives the NPS legal authority to "acquire collections through donations and purchase and to loan and and exchange collections. Under certain conditions, it also allows the deaccession of collections by transfer, conveyance, and destruction" (NPS 2000:A:1). In the latter case, only museum objects and collections that have no historic, cultural, scientific, educational, aesthetic, or monetary value can be destroyed.
The Reservoir Salvage Act of 1960
The Reservoir Salvage Act of 1960 is another important piece of legislation that directly affected salvage archeology programs. Such programs, which began during the Depression and continued in a revised form until after World War II, helped put many people to work, save many archeological sites, and create many new collections. The passage of this law was related to the widespread destruction of archeological sites from large scale construction, such as federal dams and highways. Unfortunately, the Act did not address the care and management of the large collections that resulted from salvage work.
Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974
The Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974 (or the Moss-Bennett Act, or the Archaeological Data Preservation Act) continues the fight to preserve archeological resources during development, but it is broader in scope. The AHPA and its amendments call for the "preservation of historical and archeological data (including relics and specimens) which might otherwise be irreparably lost or destroyed as the result of … any federal construction project or federally licensed activity or program." Another significant stipulation is that up to 1% of the cost of a federal project could be used for "recovery, protection, and preservation of any data deemed endangered."
AHPA is also the first piece of legislation since the Antiquities Act to mention the care of archeological collections. It states that the Secretary of the Interior must consult with appropriate groups or individuals "with a view to determining the ownership of and the most appropriate repository for any relics and specimens recovered as a result of any work performed...." Furthermore, it is the first call for the Secretary of the Interior to issue regulations for curation, which did not come about until 1990.
Other Significant Laws of the 1960s
Two other laws enacted in the 1960s had major impacts on American archeology, the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, as amended, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969. The majority of today's contract or CRM archeology firms are involved in compliance with these two pieces of legislation.
NHPA is responsible for expanding the National Register of Historic Places and establishing the State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO). Archeologists deal most often with sections 106 and 110 of the Act. Section 106 requires federal agencies to "take into account" the effects of a federal or federally assisted undertaking in any state of the Union on "any district, site, building, structure or object that is included in or eligible for the National Register" before federal funding for the project is approved. Archeological sites may be significant because they "have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history." Section 110 calls for the preservation and use of any historic property owned or controlled by a federal agency.
Determining eligibility and resolving adverse effects of federal actions on archeological resources under NHPA often involves several phases of archeological activity from scoping to surveying (Phase I) to testing to full excavation or mitigation ( Phase III). When testing and excavation are required, collections are usually made. Given the costs of curation and limitations on space for collections in repositories, there seems to be a trend to not collect material remains during surveys (Griset and Kodack 1999). Instead, associated documentation, particularly field notes, photographs, maps and digital data, are the results of such survey projects, which also require curation.
The National Environmental Policy Act covers both cultural and natural resource management. It is an authority for managing the impacts of all federal actions on the "human environment." Cultural resources are collected under Section 101 (b)4, which gives the federal government responsibility to "preserve important historic, cultural, and natural aspects of our national heritage, and maintain, wherever possible, an environment which supports diversity, and variety of individual choice." Contract archeologists deal with NEPA by preparing either an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a federal project. Archeological compliance and preparation of these statements usually involves scoping and/or surveying. NEPA is unique, though, in that it links together all socio-cultural impacts. Acknowledging the fact that impacts on archeological resources are not the only socio-cultural impacts a project may have, NEPA considers the relationships between past cultures and their living descendants.
Archeological projects involved in NHPA or NEPA compliance have created vast amounts of archeological collections over the past 30 years. Since many projects were done before the curation standards and guidelines were issued in 1990, appropriate long-term collections care was occasionally set up by knowledgeable and responsible principal investigators.
NHPA and NEPA projects are also known for producing archeological "gray literature." These are usually project or site reports that are limited in their accessibility and are sometimes limited in their research and interpretive value. NHPA is important in terms of records management, though, because it requires that "records and other data, including data produced by historical research and archeological surveys and excavations are permanently maintained in appropriate databases and made available to potential users" (Sec. 112).
Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) of 1979
Excavating a pit structure. From the photograph collection of the Bureau of Land Management, Anasazi Heritage Center, Dolores, Colorado.
An important piece of archeological legislation, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, was enacted in 1979. ARPA strengthened the permitting procedures required for conducting archeological fieldwork on federal lands, originally mandated by the Antiquities Act. It also establishes more rigorous fines and penalties for unauthorized excavation on federal land.
ARPA is important from the standpoint of managing archeological collections because it:
An application for an ARPA permit must include authorization and a written agreement between the federal agency and an appropriate repository that will house and curate the collection recovered from the project. This permit process applies to all excavations on federal and Indian/tribal lands. ARPA also is the third law that permitted the Secretary of the Interior to issue regulations on the care and management of archeological collections. These regulations (36 CFR Part 79) were issued in 1990.
In order to accommodate the repatriation or disposition requirements of NAGPRA, the ARPA regulations dealing with custody and ownership of archeological collections were amended in 1995 (see 43 CFR Part 7.13
Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation
The Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation, issued in 1983, provide technical advice on key aspects of archeological and historic preservation activities and methods. The activities include preservation planning, identification, evaluation, registration, documentation, and treatment. They were prepared under the authority of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, specifically section 101(f), (g), and (h), and section 110.
The long-term care and management of material remains and associated records is an important aspect of the preservation and investigative activities of archeological sites, yet there is relatively little discussion of it in these standards and guidelines. For example, the overall standards for preservation planning, the process that organizes and relates all of a project's subsequent preservation activities (identification, evaluation, registration, documentation, and treatment), does not mention the curation of the resulting collections. In many cases, only associated records, including digital data, may result from the planned activities, but there is no consideration of how these records are to be preserved.
The standards for identification concern gathering information about historic properties in an area, including archeological sites, depending on the planning and management goals of the project. Several aspects of identification focus on records. One is the use of archival records, but there is no acknowledgement of the importance of the proper management of archival documents for the identification process. Also, there is emphasis on the need to systematically gather and record identification information, but no discussion on how these important data are to be managed for future access and use. Another focus of the identification standards is on field survey and analysis. Unfortunately, there is no discussion of the potential information that might be gleaned from existing archeological collections prior to survey, or of the proper long-term care of a collection that might result from survey activity.
The standards for evaluation consider how to determine if identified properties are significant and the process of inventorying significant properties. Evaluation can involve the accumulation of both data and material remains in order to determine significance, while inventory is the accumulation of data. Although retention, access, and use of the records regarding both significant and insignificant properties are advocated in these standards and guidelines, no guidance is provided on how or where these record collections should be managed. The long-term care and management of any material remains collected and analyzed is not addressed at all.
Fortunately, the specific standards for archeological documentation, the process of gathering information on archeological properties at various stages of planning, identification, evaluation, and/or treatment, consider both the collection of appropriate materials and their subsequent curation. The primary goal of curation in these standards is to preserve the resulting artifacts, specimens, and records to ensure their future access and use. This goal was and still is right on the mark.
The standards for archeological documentation provide some of the first available federal guidance on issues and practices of data recovery and collection management. Unfortunately, the same issues and practices are still of concern today. Discussed here in latter sections, these include:
Archeological artifacts appropriately stored in archival quality bags and boxes, then placed in baked-enamel metal museum cabinets. From the photograph collection of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District.
Curation of Federally Owned and Administered Archaeological Collections (36 CFR 79)
Government-wide regulations for the curation and care of federal archeological collections required by NHPA, the Reservoir Salvage Act, and ARPA were issued in 1990 as "Curation of Federally Owned and Administered Archaeological Collections" (36 CFR 79). These regulations establish procedures and guidelines to manage and preserve collections. They also include terms and conditions for federal agencies to include in contracts and Memorandums of Agreement (MOA) with non-federal repositories.
36 CFR 79 is the first set of regulations to produce standards for determining a viable repository for archeological collections and guidelines for acceptable access, loans, and collections use. Unfortunately, these regulations contain no deadlines for compliance and no enforcement powers. Nor do they provide a process to identify or accredit repositories that meet the standards set forth. Furthermore, a regulation on deaccessioning proposed in 1990 was not issued due to considerable controversy. It has yet to be issued.
Below are some of the main points of the regulations.
What 36 CFR 79 Covers
Funding Curatorial Services
Where and How Federal Agencies Secure Curatorial Services
Oversized materials present additional storage problems. All too often, they are rolled or stacked, thus creating obstacles to both their ultimate survival and accessibility. From the photograph collection of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District.
Terms and Conditions For Contracts, etc.
Use of Collections
Inspections and Inventories
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)
Historic Ute material on display at the Anasazi Heritage Center. From the photograph collection of the Bureau of Land Management, Anasazi Heritage Center, Dolores, Colorado.
The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) is another important piece of federal legislation that impacts archeological fieldwork and curation. Issued as final in 1990, at almost the same time as 36 CFR 79, NAGPRA deals with certain, limited kinds of archeological objects from both the field and the repository. Items covered under NAGPRA include Native American human remains, associated or unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. It covers objects in federal or federally funded repositories. It also affects any public museum or repository that received federal funding before or since 1990. In the field, NAGPRA reinforces many aspects of ARPA. It also requires consultation (and proof of such) with Indian tribes if any remains or objects that might be subject to NAGPRA are likely to be excavated during fieldwork or are discovered inadvertently.
NAGPRA has had several major impacts on archeological collections. First, it has set forth standards for repatriation. Second, it requires that every federal agency and federally funded museum or repository completes a summary of the NAGPRA-related objects in their care and an inventory of the Native American human remains and funerary objects. This process includes identifying ownership and cultural affiliation of these objects. Many agencies did not know what they owned or where it was located prior to this requirement. Many museums did not have adequate inventories of their holdings, both the collections they owned and those for which they were caretakers. NAGPRA has forced many agencies and museums to find out exactly what they own and for what collections they are responsible. NAGPRA also contains provisions for repatriation of these objects to lineal descendants or culturally affiliated Indian tribes or Native Hawaiians.
Unlike 36 CFR 79, NAGPRA contains deadlines for compliance with its summary and inventory requirements and penalties for noncompliance. This has forced many agencies and museums to work quickly and diligently to comply with the law. NAGPRA also contains provisions to establish a grant process to help implement the law and its regulations. Again, this is something that 36 CFR 79 does not do. Between 1994-2000, the NAGPRA grants program has awarded 292 grants to Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages and corporations, Native Hawaiian organizations, and museums. The total amount awarded thus far is $15,310,035.
State, tribal and local laws and policies
The federal National Historic Preservation Act has served as a guide for many state, local, and tribal historic preservation laws and ordinances. State, local, and tribal governments have also developed policies that address archeological resources located on their lands. The scope of non-federal laws and policies tend to mirror federal historic preservation and archeological resources laws and regulations (i.e., National Historical Preservation Act; Archaeological Resources Protection Act; Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation). However, non-federal entities, especially in the last decade, tend to write more detail into their historic preservation and archeological resource protection laws and policies than appears in a corresponding federal law or policy.
In 1991, only about a third of all U.S. states had issued laws, regulations, or policies that addressed the management of archeological collections (Carnett 1991). By 1997, laws in 35 states mentioned curatorial issues and at least 20 states had curation policies and guidelines. Most of these curation policies closely follow 36 CFR 79. By 1999, 37 states had laws that addressed archeological curation (State Historic Preservation Database; see this section's Links page). These findings suggest that states are increasingly concerned with the long-term management of and access to state-owned collections.
A Recent Survey
Policies and guidelines involving the collection of material remains during field survey, testing, and mitigation (or data recovery) directly impact the nature of the resulting collection, which then must be prepared and managed for the long term. In 1998, the Army Corps of Engineers Mandatory Center of Expertise for the Curation and Management of Archaeological Collections (MCX-CMAC) contracted staff from the Illinois State Museum Society to conduct a non-random survey on existing policies concerning field collecting, collections preparation for curation (i.e., cataloging, labeling, and packing), and long-term curation and use (Wiant and Loveless 1999). Six groups were surveyed: State Historic Preservation Officers, State Archeologists who are not associated with the SHPO, Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, State Department of Transportation, University-based Archeologists, and Archeological Consultants.
The survey results on the policies of 53 State Historic Preservation Officers are revealing. First, approximately one third of the SHPOs were not involved in field work so did not have detailed policies on either field collecting or management of the resulting collection. However, 83% had a field collecting policy of which 91% were written. Four of the SHPOs with written field collecting policies had different procedures for collecting prehistoric versus historic material remains. On a related note, eight State Archeologists were surveyed of which four had a written field collecting policy (two developed their own; two used the policy of another agency). Of those four, three had different field collecting procedures for prehistoric versus historic material remains.
The SHPO policies for collections preparation and long-term curation are also revealing. First, only 40% of the SHPOs cataloged artifacts and 36% cataloged associated records. Three quarters of those that cataloged artifacts had written procedures, whereas just over 50% had written procedures for cataloging documentation. Second, 42% of the SHPOs were involved in the curation of objects and 43% in long-term curation of associated records, mostly on a long-term basis. Only 59% of these, however, had written long-term curation policies or, at a minimum, a mission statement on curation.
The eight State Archeologists surveyed that are not part of a State Historic Preservation Office were located in a museum or university. Five of the eight surveyed cataloged both artifacts and documentation and all had written policies or procedures for these activities. Interestingly, six of the eight SAs had an electronic catalog of artifacts and documents. Seven of the eight SAs curated artifacts and documents of which only one curated for the short term. The one SA that did not curate was hampered because the state did not have a central repository. Five of the seven that curated had a written policy on the related activities. Unfortunately, the survey report does not discuss whether the policies of each SA filled gaps in the SHPO policies or were duplicate or conflicting policies.
Wiant and Loveless (1999) also surveyed fourteen THPOs concerning specific policies on field collecting, collections preparation, and long-term curation. Whereas 71% had a field collecting policy (one THPO tailored the policy to the project), about half of these were written in 1998. More importantly, 50% of the THPOs strictly forbade collecting on tribal lands unless artifacts might be destroyed. When collecting did occur, 50% of the THPOs cataloged both artifacts and documents. Of those, 57% had written procedures for cataloging. Four or 29% of the THPOs curated artifacts and documents of which one did so on a project-by-project basis. Two of the four had a written collections management policy.
The above discussion is merely an overview of parts of the MCX-CMAC survey conducted by the Illinois State Museum Society. There is considerably more useful information in the document, some of which is presented in the next sub-section.
Contractor and university policies
The non-random survey conducted in 1998 by the Army Corps of Engineers' MCX-CMAC (see previous sub-section) also collected information on existing policies used by archeological contractors/consultants and archeologists based in universities and museums (Wiant and Loveless 1999). Illinois State Museum Society staff asked about the policies and practices involved in field collecting, collections preparation for curation (i.e., cataloging, labeling, and packing), and long-term curation.
Contractors and consultants
Forty-one contractors and/or consultants were interviewed. Forty had some sort of collecting policy, which is the highest total number of all the groups interviewed. Forty-nine percent tailored a collecting policy to a project, 44% had a company-wide policy, and 5% used the policy of an unidentified agency. Only 61% of these were written, however.
Of particular interest is the fact that about one-third of the contractors/consultants applied different collecting procedures for prehistoric as opposed to historic material remains, which is somewhat higher than that for the SHPOs, state archeologists, and THPOs discussed in the previous sub-section. For some contractors/consultants, the principal investigator decided on a system of field collecting for historic, prehistoric or both kinds of artifacts, depending on the project. The Wiant and Loveless report (1999), however, suggests that more historic than prehistoric artifacts were either collected discriminately (e.g., diagnostics only) or were observed and not collected.
For collections preparation, all of the contractors and consultants stated that they cataloged artifacts, whereas 40 cataloged associated records. Only 55% had written policies for cataloging artifacts and 45% for associated records, however. Significantly, 90% had an electronic system for cataloging artifacts and records.
The vast majority of the contractors and consultants interviewed said they did not provide planned, long-term curation services. Instead, they prepared collections for permanent curation in a repository that usually was designated by the client or regulatory agency in the project's scope of work.
This group of survey participants consisted of archeologists in Anthropology departments, university museums, contract archeology programs, and field schools. Of the 48 participants, 10 did not work in the field (of these, 9 were in a museum.)
Of those that conducted field work, 50% had a field collecting policy, mostly for survey and testing. Only 13 respondents had written policies. Seven said that they had different collecting procedures for historic as opposed to prehistoric material remains.
In the 1998 survey, cataloging artifacts was practiced by 96% of the survey participants of which 72% had a written policy. Curiously, 81% cataloged associated records and only 51% had a written policy for this important activity. Seventy-one percent had an electronic system for cataloging artifacts and records.
The discrepancy between artifacts and associated documents continued for questions regarding long-term curation. Whereas 88% said they curated artifacts, 81% said they curated associated records. Forty-one respondents stated that they curated for the long-term, although only 63% of those had written collection management policies.
Improper mixing of artifact types of materials in the field, which can lead to significant damage before arrival at the lab. Photo courtesy of Alexandria Archaeology, City of Alexandria, Virginia.
Codes of professional ethics or ethical standards have been developed and endorsed by major international archeological and anthropological associations over recent years. Archeologists have a responsibility to uphold professional ethics in their work because they outline sound professional practice. Ethics also highlight what ought to be done for the benefit of the resources, not just what is legally mandated. It should be noted that, while the wording of the ethics discussed below may vary in detail and emphasis, all professional societies for archeology address curation and collections management in some way.
The Society of Professional Archaeologists (SOPA), now the Register of Professional Archeologists (ROPA), was probably the first organization to address curation and professional standards in its "Standards of Research Performance", issued in 1981. These standards stated, in part, that the "research archaeologist" has a responsibility to "ensure the availability of adequate and competent staff and support facilities to carry the project to completion, and of adequate curatorial facilities for specimens and records;" and "specimens and research records resulting from a project must be deposited at an institution with permanent curatorial facilities, unless otherwise required by law."
ROPA's current Standards of Research Performance cover
key professional responsibilities related to the recovery, preparation,
and long-term management of collections. These are:
I.4 Ensure the availability of adequate and competent staff and support facilities to carry the project to completion, and of adequate curatorial facilities for specimens and records;
IV. During accessioning, analysis, and storage of specimens and records in the laboratory, the archaeologist must take precautions to ensure that a correlation between the specimens and the field records are maintained, so that provenience, contextual relationships, and the like are not confused or obscured.
V. Specimens and research records resulting from a project must be deposited at an institution with permanent curatorial facilities, unless otherwise required by law.
The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) addresses the issue in their code of professional standards passed in 1994. The "Responsibilities to the Archaeological Record" section states that archaeologists should "anticipate and provide for adequate and accessible long-term storage and curatorial facilities for all archaeological materials." As well, "All research projects should contain specific plans for conservation, preservation, and publication from the very outset."
The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) developed a very specific ethical principle for curation when the SAA Principles of Archaeological Ethics were issued in 1996. Principle No. 7 (Records and Preservation) states, in part, that "archaeologists should work actively for the preservation of, and long term access to, archaeological collections, records, and reports."
The Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) mentions curation in their current code of ethics. Perhaps of more importance, it is the only international society with guidelines for curation for its membership. These guidelines, passed in 1993, are in accordance with 36 CFR 79, but provide more detailed consideration of some practical issues of collections management. These include artifact cleaning and labeling, storage recommendations, documentation, repository specifications, and deaccessioning.
The American Anthropological Association (AAA) does not address the management of archeological or anthropological collections in its current ethics statement. The association has, however, identified the need for revision of their ethics statement to include, among many other issues, mention of collections care.
As a final note, archeologists should be aware of the codes of ethics developed and endorsed by the societies and organizations of the museum profession, including curators, conservators and archivists (see the Links page of this section). Although the care and management of archeological collections are not explicitly addressed, broad statements that include all types of collections are relevant. For example, the American Association of Museums Code of Ethics for Museums (1994) states:
Furthermore, these codes provide insights into the ethical issues and challenges faced by museum professionals, such as appropriate treatment, donor restrictions, access restrictions on sacred materials, personal collecting, and many others.
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