CRM Journal

Media Review

National Park Service Archeology and Ethnography Program
[updated program address:]

National Park Service; accessed May 28, June 30, July 5-7, and December 4, 2003.


Interested in learning more about African-American history or the first Americans? Lost your copy of the 1906 Antiquities Act? Trying to locate archeological sites at a national park near your home? Look no further than the website for the National Park Service's Archeology and Ethnography Program. With a mix of direct content and links to articles, technical reports, distance learning curricula, legislation, and related preservation websites, this portal provides a comprehensive guide to some of the programs and resources administered by the National Park Service.

Through the use of thematic links and menus, the website connects audiences with abundant content. The home page navigational options include a Features menu that links to special topics, a pull-down Quick Menu, and a list of links that organizes content into broad themes. A series of additional links provides access to resources for professional and non-professional audiences. The What's New link describes recent additions to the site and an overview of content contained within each thematic section.

Current features include The Robinson House, which is highlighted on the home page. Owned by a free black family in 19th- and early 20th-century Manassas, Virginia, the Robinson House played an important role in the First and Second Battles of Manassas. The site presents an overview of archeological research conducted following a 1993 fire at the house. Traditional archeological information from field excavations and material culture analyses is offered. A more interesting presentation is a series of photographs and line drawings linked to a timeline, which proves to be an effective interactive tool for tracing the evolution of the house. Contemporary documentation and contributions from Robinson family descendents help bring the story of the house alive, and a bibliography for those interested in further exploring African-American history and archeology is also available.

Sites and Collections provides in-depth content for professionals through a series of thematic links. Topics include looting and site protection, public education, and submerged resources with links to articles, technical information, and related sites. The Peoples and Cultures page addresses the ethnography program in the national parks and provides links to recent research projects.

A section called For the Public offers bibliographic information and links to related sites. Topics include a guide to national, state and regional parks, museums and online exhibits, volunteer opportunities, certification programs, statewide events, and archeology-focused media such as books, videos, magazines, and websites. These links are far more content-rich and sophisticated than others on the site.

Two distance-learning modules, Archeology for Interpreters and Managing Archeological Collections, provide comprehensive summaries of their topics. The former is an in-depth, online tutorial in archeology, covering methodologies, interpretive strategies, ethics, and biases. It includes Try It Yourself exercises in the methodology sections with links to off-site resources, which supplement the text with animations or problems to solve. Managing Archeological Collections is designed for curators, providing layered information on the current state of curation, collections management, legislation, access to collections, technology, and future directions. The bibliography includes some downloadable articles, while the links page highlights funding sources, online catalogues, exhibits, and digital archeological resources.

Given the sheer volume of information available, navigation presents some challenges within modules, to external links, and across the entire site. There is a lack of visual continuity in some areas because content generated from several sources has been merged. Older design schemes clash with the pleasing pastel coloring of more recent modifications. Kennewick Man is given its own link from the home page, rather than placed within the navigational structure reserved for other reports. Currently, the site map offers the best way to quickly assess the information available, and understand how it is organized, and navigate the site.

The Archeology and Ethnography website presents a rich and varied array of resources for archeologists, ethnographers, preservation professionals, and non-professionals. The designers deserve much credit for organizing an overwhelming mass of data into a site with a high degree of visual and technical coherence.

Technical reports, legislation, standards and guidelines, databases of archeological resources, preservation-related articles, many other useful guides, bibliographies, and links have been organized in a site that will literally take you weeks to explore, but only moments to bookmark.

Barbara J. Heath
Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest