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U.S. Dept. of Interior National Park Service Archeology Program
U.S. Dept. of Interior National Park Service Archeology Program
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Welcome to "Managing Archeological Collections"! This online technical assistance and distance learning effort covers all aspects of caring for archeological collections -- the activities dealing with all kinds of archeological collections (i.e., objects, records, reports, and digital data) in all kinds of places (i.e., the field, the archeologist's office, the lab, and the repository.) Another word for this range of activities is "curating" or "curation", which you will find a lot more about in the following sections.

(photo) Fieldwork (circa 1970s) during which non-archival quality boxes are used.
Fieldwork (circa 1970s) during which non-archival quality boxes are used.Photo courtesy of Alexandria Archaeology, City of Alexandria, Virginia.

The information provided here is designed to assist those who are interested in or need to learn more about preserving and managing archeological collections over the long term. Since the U.S. National Park Service provided funds to support its development, an important audience includes the archeologists, curators, cultural resources managers, planners, and other NPS staff who create, care for, and make decisions about archeological collections. Although this is not official guidance for the NPS or anyone else, it does provide extensive technical assistance that is not available in any other single place.

Much more broadly, this technical assistance is designed for the global archeological community -- professional archeologists (e.g., university professors, CRM principal investigators and their staff, federal, tribal, and state agency staff), graduate students, upper level college students, and others concerned about archeological collections -- who are rarely taught this material in formal educational settings. Because "Managing Archeological Collections" is created for primary access and use via the Internet, "global" is a key word here. Although it is impossible to discuss laws and policies related to archeological practice and collections management for every country around the world, the non-legal content is pertinent to all archeologists.

The information provided here should also be useful for museum professionals who want to know more about the relationships between archeological field and lab practices and the resulting collections. Policy makers, budget officials, and managers who make important decisions about the care of archeological collections at federal, state, and other levels will also find this web site useful.

In many ways, the materials provided allow for self-motivated learning. Our goal is to increase your base of knowledge about archeological collections and their management each time you visit. We planned it so you may tailor your visit to what you want to learn today. In other words, you may come back as frequently as you want and learn at your own pace. However, we also hope that the materials may be used and adapted for formal instruction at collegiate or professional venues and courses.

In the end, we hope you find a number of valuable resources for further exploration, particularly through the numerous links we provide to other significant sources of related information. We plan to periodically update those links as we learn about relevant new materials on archeological collections, their long-term care and access, and museum management issues.

This technical assistance complements a book, Curating Archaeological Collections: From the Field to the Repository, published by AltaMira Press in 2003. The book, authored by Lynne Sullivan and S. Terry Childs, provides a critical overview of the issues related to the long-term care of archeological collections and responsible practices that need to be implemented now and in the future by archeologists.


(photo) Archeologist reviewing 'Managing Archeological Collections'?
Reviewing "Managing Archeological Collections"? Photo courtesy of Alexandria Archaeology, City of Alexandria, Virginia.

We hope you find the materials provided here both informative and fun. There are ten sections, including the one you are in right now. Each contains information on a particular set of subject matter, such as the laws related to caring for archeological collections or what an archeologist should think about and do prior to going to the field. Although each section provides unique information, it also builds on knowledge learned in previous sections.

For visitors who know very little about archeological collections management and care, we suggest that you start at the beginning and complete every section in the order presented.

If you feel that you already know about the key issues in a particular section, you can test yourself by taking the review quiz. If you get a grade of less than 70%, we suggest that you go back and study the section more completely.

The time it takes to work through the whole site depends on how much knowledge you wish to extract. It takes a minimum of five hours to read all the text, take all the quizzes, and explore all the interesting links in each section.

The highlights of each section are photos, a bibliography, a page of links to related web sites, a glossary linked from keywords in the text, and a quiz. The photos are provided by several sources (see Credits) that cover practical curatorial experience and expertise at the federal, state, tribal, and local levels, as well as from the perspectives of an archivist and conservator. Each photo is fully credited.

Note that there are relatively few references cited within the text. This is done to more or less replicate a lecture rather than a scholarly book. Therefore, you are provided with a comprehensive bibliography for further information that is tailored to each section.

Each review has ten questions. Not only do you get instant feedback when you answer each question, but you can receive a grade after you answer all ten questions.

As a final note, the spelling of "archeology" and its derivatives follows the conventions of the federal government. The spelling commonly used in academia and in publications for the public, "archaeology", is followed when appropriate in quotations and bibliographical citations.


This technical assistance is designed to be very user friendly. The top of each page is clearly marked with the title and number of the section you are in, and the title of the currently active subsection appears in bold above the text.

There are a number of features that crosscut or are present in all sections. These are:

Please note that the NPS Internet policy does not permit links to commercial web sites (URLs that end in .COM). Therefore, only links to useful web sites of educational institutions, non-profit organizations, state agencies, and federal agencies are provided.

For any questions or comments about this site, please e-mail Terry Childs.