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  Managing Archeological Collections Access and Use Distance Learning

Policies and procedures

Integrated with its entire collections management program, a repository should have access and use policies and procedures for all its collections of material remains and associated records. As such, the policies and procedures should correspond directly with a repository's mission statement, scope of collections, and its various collections management policies, including risk management.

It is important that archeologists, as researchers, interpreters, and creators of collections, understand the issues around access and use both to facilitate their various needs and to optimize good working relationships with repository staff. For example, it is often excellent practice to sponsor a gathering during an archeological investigation to present the project goals and show some of the results to the local community affected by the project. Since this kind of event usually happens well before the resulting collections are deposited in a repository, archeologists must be fully aware of security, conservation, and long-term preservation issues that may impact the material remains they use and show.

Once a collection is under the long-term care of a repository, its access and use policy and procedures generally consider the following issues:

  • Loans - incoming and outgoing
  • Procedures for requesting access to collections
  • Evaluation of requests to access collections:
    • who evaluates requests;
    • who may be given access;
    • what issues to consider when evaluating a request (e.g., legal, cultural, scientific, ethical, management, preservation and protection, interpretation, and user qualifications);
  • Procedures once a request for access is approved:
    • hours of access;
    • appropriate locations for access and use,
    • sign in and sign out procedures;
    • repository staff supervision of collections use;
    • disability considerations, etc.;
  • Restrictions on access to particular objects, documents, or data:
    • site location and the nature of archeological resources in federal and tribal owned collections in accordance with the Archaeological Resources Protection Act or state- or locally-owned collections in accordance with a similar law;
    • information protected by privacy and publicity laws such as words or images of living, private individuals;
    • under the National Historic Preservation Act, as amended, or similar state, tribal, or local laws, the location, character, and ownership data on cultural or religious sites and culturally affiliated resources if disclosure might invade privacy, impede use of a traditional religious site by a practitioner, or endanger an historic resource; collection storage location, appraisal value, and insurance value if information places a collection at risk; release of donor or lender address since it may infringe on privacy
  • Appropriate use of material remains and records in exhibits and educational and public programs
  • Destructive analysis
  • Intellectual property rights, especially for commercial and public use of objects, documents, and images
  • Procedures for facilitating special cultural heritage activities
  • Consultation with affiliated cultural groups for NAGPRA and other repository activities
  • Documentation of collections use
  • Authorization of publications, including considerations of copyright, privacy issues, and sensitive data issues
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