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  Managing Archeological Collections 3. Laws, Regs, Policies, and Ethics Distance Learning

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.

University-based archeologists

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.

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