The Department of the Interior supports S. 643, as the completion of the Hibben Center would be the final step in carrying out the Federal government's responsibility for the protection the archeological resources that were collected during the Chaco Project in the 1970's. Although there are significant costs associated with this legislation, the bill directly supports a key park mission by authorizing a better curatorial facility for park resources. This legislation would authorize an appropriation of $3,772,000 for construction costs, tenant improvements and costs associated with a long-term lease for a portion of the Hibben Center at the University of New Mexico. The facility will provide for the protection of the cultural resources taken from Federal lands at Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Aztec Ruins National Monument. The project is currently on the National Park Service (NPS) five-year priority list for line item projects and passage of this legislation is necessary for Federal funds to be expended. There would be no additional annual operating or maintenance expenses to the Federal government beyond the existing level expended for the current substandard facilities.
History of the Project
Chaco Canyon and the University of New Mexico (UNM) have been partners since Chaco Canyon National Monument was founded in 1907. From 1907 to 1949, the State of New Mexico owned sections of land within the monument's boundaries for the benefit of UNM. Since its Anthropology Department was founded in 1929, UNM has been a leader in Southwestern archaeology. The university conducted an archaeological field school in Chaco Canyon from 1929-1948 and excavated many important sites. Students from virtually every college in the country participated in these field schools. Dr. Frank C. Hibben was a teaching assistant at the UNM field school, and remained interested in Chaco throughout his long career. The UNM field schools produced extensive museum collections still held by UNM.
In 1949 the university deeded its land to the United States government. Since then, the UNM-NPS partnership has continued through a series of formal agreements to conduct research and to care for the UNM and NPS Chaco museum collections. Since 1970, the main NPS Chaco collection has been housed on the UNM campus. Today the NPS Chaco Collection contains approximately 1.5 million artifacts, representing nearly 6,000 years of prehistory and history. In 1980, Congress expanded the monument's boundaries and created Chaco Culture National Historical Park to preserve and interpret Chacoan resources and to facilitate research. Chaco Canyon is on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1987 was designated a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.
For the past 100 years archeologists have considered Chaco Canyon to be one of the most important pre-Columbian archaeological regions in the United States. In 1970 Congress created the Chaco Project - a multi-year, multi-disciplinary research partnership with the University of New Mexico to study Chacoan archaeology. The million-dollar project was the largest archaeological project in the country at that time, and it generated the bulk of the Chaco archaeological collections. However, the Chaco Project did not address the long-term storage needs of the collections. In 1983, UNM committed itself to providing temporary storage space for the collection until a joint UNM/NPS repository could be built. However, the UNM storage space was rapidly filled to capacity. Over the past 20 years, the collection (including office and work space) has spilled over into inappropriate and substandard spaces throughout the UNM campus.
Both the NPS and UNM have long recognized that the storage facilities provided by UNM are inadequate and do not meet DOI standards for the care of archaeological collections. The need for a repository for the cultural resources has been acknowledged in numerous planning documents for Chaco Culture NHP and Aztec Ruins NM, including the Chaco Culture National Historical Park 1985 General Management Plan, 1987 Memorandum of Agreement with the University of New Mexico, 1990 Resource Management Plan and the 1993 Collections Management Plan. In 1987, UNM and NPS museum staff began planning a new curation facility that would house the archaeological collections of both institutions and meet all federal standards. Finding funding for such a facility was the main stumbling block. In 1997, Dr. Hibben made a commitment of $3 million to help fund a new research and curation facility at UNM, and he asked Chaco Culture NHP to partner with him. In 2001, the park's project to match Dr. Hibben's funding for a new curation facility was added to the NPS Line Item Construction Program for funding in FY 2003, pending Congressional authorization. In the FY 2004 priority list this project is slated for funding FY 2006.
The Hibben Center for Archaeological Research was designed to sit adjacent to the UNM Maxwell Museum of Anthropology. The building is three stories with a full basement. During planning it was decided that UNM would occupy the basement and the ground floor; the NPS would occupy the entire second floor and three-fourths of the third floor. Due to Dr. Hibben's advanced age and failing health, UNM proceeded with the construction of the Hibben Center, which was dedicated in October 2002, a few months after Dr. Hibben's death. Dr. Hibben's funds completed the building shell and build outs of the basement and ground floor. The NPS will build out the second and third floor with passage of S. 643.
Need for the Project
The current storage conditions of the world-class Chaco Museum Collection are
substandard and pose a threat to the preservation and security of the artifacts
and archives. The bulk of the archaeological collections are stored in a room
in the UNM Anthropology Building, built in 1937. This room has no temperature
or environmental controls, no smoke detection or fire suppression system, and
only a rudimentary security system. Aging plumbing pipes that run through the
ceiling of the room frequently leak, exposed phone and data lines pose a fire
risk, and insect infestations are a constant problem. This space is currently
at 99% capacity.
The remainder of the NPS archaeology collection is housed in the Maxwell Museum warehouse. The conditions at the warehouse are the same, except there is no heating, cooling or ventilation system in the building at all. Lighting fixtures were finally added a few years ago. Due to the nature of the structure, rodent and insect infestations are an ongoing problem. Rodents have destroyed some of the Maxwell Museum's collections. This facility exceeded 100% capacity several years ago, and the 16' high wooden shelves are overloaded with boxes and are unsafe.
The Chaco Museum Archive is housed on the third and floor levels in the stacks of UNM's Zimmerman Library, built in 1950. The stacks have no temperature or environmental controls, no fire suppression system, and no security system. The antiquated evaporative cooling system in the library fluctuates dramatically during the summer season, pouring excessively harmful humidity into the archive. Dust from the aging building covers everything. The main storage room has built-in structural shelving supports that are so closely spaced that map cases will not fit between them. One map case sits in a hallway because it will not fit through a narrow, non-code, non-ADA compliant emergency exit door. Flights of stairs link the archive storage room and the office, and there is no elevator access to the archive office.
None of the storage areas meet DOI standards set forth in 36 CFR 79, Curation of Federally-Owned and Administered Archeological Collections (1990) or NPS museum standards. The poor storage conditions contribute to the deterioration of the collection. The lack of adequate security puts the collection at risk especially given the large (25,000+ students), urban university setting. The lack of ADA access violates federal law. The dispersed storage, office, and workspaces make it impossible to efficiently and effectively manage or use the collection. The overcrowding of storage and workspaces makes providing research access, mandated by 36 CFR 79, extremely difficult.
Benefit of the Project
The NPS is committed to supporting the Department and Secretary Norton's 4 C's initiative of cooperation, consultation, and communication, all in the service of conservation and believe this project supports that goal. Partnerships are a cost-effective way of doing business. If the NPS were to construct a new facility on its own, it would cost more than three-and-a-half times as much. Under this project, the NPS will invest now in tenant improvements and will enter into a 40-year lease with UNM at a cost of $1 dollar per year. UNM will bear the annual operations and maintenance cost. As a result, the cost of this facility to the federal government, amortized over the forty-year lease, will be $5.60 per square foot. A comparable GSA-leased space would cost $20.00 per square foot.
This project will also involve a partnership between two NPS parks: Chaco Culture NHP and Aztec Ruins National Monument. These parks share the World Heritage Site designation because of their close archaeological relationship. Under this project, Aztec Ruins NM archaeological collections will also be stored in the Hibben Center, making research of Chacoan culture more centralized and efficient.
In addition to the monetary benefits, this project will continue a collaboration which, since 1949, has been a model of Federal and state partnerships. The NPS will continue to benefit by having its Chaco Museum Collection housed in a research university setting, with the attendant advantages, while UNM will continue to benefit by having a World Heritage Site collection readily available to its faculty and students for research and training.
That concludes my testimony. I would be glad to answer any questions that you or the members of the subcommittee may have.