[NPS Arrowhead] U.S. Dept. of Interior National Park Service Archeology Program
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Caring for Collections (photo) Ring found at excavation of English settlement at Jamestown.

The collections, associated records, and reports of federal archeology projects are a largely untapped national treasure-spanning over 10,000 years of human life-but their sheer size has become an issue. Archeological collections make up more than half of the museum property administered by the federal government. Yet, some agencies don't know what they have, what condition it's in, and-in some cases-where it is.

By law, agencies must preserve these irreplaceable resources as well as evaluate their potential for research, exhibits, teaching, and connections to present-day cultures. Some agencies are making headway. They have good cataloging systems, storage facilities with effective environmental controls, conservation laboratories, and well-trained curators. Recent initiatives include the recent NPS distance learning course Managing Archeological Collections, the study of curation fees across the United States, and the National Archeological Database.