Legal and Ethical Responsibilities
Not only is archeology outreach a way to maximize the public benefits of NPS archeology, it is a legal and an ethical responsibility. Archeology outreach invites the public to participate and learn from archeology, which makes more transparent the use and purpose of taxpayer funds for archeological work.
Keep in mind that public outreach does not necessarily mean excavation-centric projects. Excavation, in fact, may not be the most ethical or responsible choice. Collections offer rich environments for outreach programs with students, volunteers, and other audiences. Exhibits, flyers, education packets, and websites are examples of outreach projects that protect sites and collections while making the results of archeology available.
The NPS is responsible for developing the public benefits of archeological resources. Federal law and NPS policy direct land managers to incorporate archeological information into public outreach.
Antiquities Act of 1906, as amended: The Antiquities Act indicates that archeology is for the public's benefit:
- Section 3 states that, “the examinations, excavations, and gatherings are undertaken for the benefit of reputable museums, universities, colleges, or other recognized scientific or educational institutions, with a view to increasing the knowledge of such objects, and that the gatherings shall be made for permanent preservation in public museums.”
National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended (NHPA): NHPA sets out requirements for outreach:
- Section 1 states that Congress declares, “the preservation of [our] irreplaceable heritage is in the public interest so that its vital legacy of cultural, educational, esthetic, inspirational, economic, and energy benefits will be maintained and enriched for future generations of Americans.”
- Section 101(i) directs the Secretary not only to, “develop and make available” to Federal and state agencies, private organizations, and individuals training and information about professional preservation practices, but also to “develop mechanisms to provide information concerning historic preservation to the general public including students.”
- Section 101(j) instructs the Secretary, in consultation with a number of organizations, to, “develop and implement a comprehensive preservation education and training program” that shall include “support for research, analysis, conservation, curation, interpretation, and display related to preservation.”
- Section 9 (a) states that, “Information concerning the nature and location of any archaeological resource for which the excavation or removal requires a permit or other permission ... may not be made available to the public ... unless the Federal land manager concerned determines that such disclosure would (1) further the purposes of this Act ... or (2) not create a risk of harm to such resources or to the site at which such resources are located.”
- Section 10 (c) directs that, “Each Federal land manager shall establish a program to increase public awareness of the significance of the archaeological resources located on public lands and Indian lands and the need to protect such resources.”
- See the ARPA and Resource Protection section below for resource protection issues associated with ARPA and outreach.
Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, as amended (ARPA): ARPA provides for the protection of archeological resources and directs Federal land managers to establish programs to increase public awareness:
NPS Director's Order 28A: Archeology: Federal laws to protect archeological resources for the public's benefit led to DO28A, which includes:
- DO28A: 4A(1) Antiquities Act and Archaeological Resources Protection Act: “Section 10 (c) of ARPA requires that Federal land managers establish a program to increase public awareness of the significance of archeological resources and the need to protect such resources. Individual superintendents at parks with recognized archeological resources will incorporate information about these topics in park interpretive programs. Centers, support offices, regional offices, and the National Center for Cultural Resources will, to the extent practicable, conduct public outreach and educational programs for archeology.”
- DO28A: 5A. Archeological Resource Stewardship:
- “Superintendents must maintain the confidentiality of information about in situ archeological resources, unless the release of information enhances the preservation and possibly the public interpretation of the resource. (Consult DO #66 on FOIA and Protected Resource Information and see NHPA section 304 and ARPA section 9 for conditions under which certain information is to be withheld from public disclosure.)”
- “Good stewardship includes public interpretation of park archeological resources. ARPA (Sec. 10(c); 43 CFR 7.20) requires land managers to provide interpretive programs about the importance of archeological resources in their parks. Superintendents at parks with recognized archeological resources should incorporate information about these topics in park interpretive programs.”
- Federal laws and NPS DOs led to the development of a national strategy that includes outreach and education.
National Strategy for Federal Archeology: The National Strategy affirms and highlights the importance of public outreach in public archeology. Elements of the National Strategy for Federal Archeology include fighting looting with public awareness programs and sharing the results of archeological investigations. More specifically, the goal to increase public outreach and participation includes:
- establishment of outreach programs as a regular agency function
- interpretation of archeological research for the public in a way that is accurate and understandable
- consideration of the views of diverse cultural groups
- engagement of the public through professionally-directed volunteer programs
Requirements and Responsibilities
Archeologists also should be familiar with the requirements described in the section of this Guide chapter written for managers.
An approach that incorporates outreach and education as part of archeological undertakings makes archeology significant to an audience that is broader than professionals alone. Such an approach offers opportunities for creative projects that demonstrate the value of archeology to the nation and establishes networks for the continued support of archeological investigation.
Remember that outreach can be considered in a broad way. Even though we tend to think of outreach as being primarily for the non-archeologist public, it is also a useful way to conceptualize the presentation of information to other professionals outside archeology. For example, administrative reports, planning documents, and other studies can benefit from an archeological perspective.
Major professional organizations have incorporated into their missions and professional ethics a message that outreach and education is a priority.
- “The Archaeological Institute of America promotes a vivid and informed public interest in the cultures and civilizations of the past, supports archaeological research, fosters the sound professional practice of archaeology, advocates the preservation of the world's archaeological heritage, and represents the discipline in the wider world.”
- Society for Historical Archaeology's mission includes Principle 7, which states: “Members of the Society for Historical Archaeology encourage education about archaeology, strive to engage citizens in the research process and publicly disseminate the major findings of their research, to the extent compatible with resource protection and legal obligations.”
- The Society for American Archaeology's Principles of Archaeological Ethics Principle Number 4 states: “Archaeologists should reach out to, and participate in, cooperative efforts with others interested in the archaeological record with the aim of improving the preservation, protection, and interpretation of the record. In particular, archaeologists should undertake to: 1) enlist public support for the stewardship of the archaeological record; 2) explain and promote the use of archaeological methods and techniques in understanding human behavior and culture; and 3) communicate archaeological interpretations of the past. Many publics exist for archaeology including students and teachers; Native Americans and other ethnic, religious, and cultural groups who find in the archaeological record important aspects of their cultural heritage; lawmakers and government officials; reporters, journalists, and others involved in the media; and the general public. Archaeologists who are unable to undertake public education and outreach directly should encourage and support the efforts of others in these activities.”
Working with Interpreters and Educators
Effective interpretation provides each visitor an opportunity for enjoyment, education, and personal reflection. It also moves a visitor to realize the relevance and significance of resources in contemporary life and how he or she plays a role in protecting them. Archeologists can take the opportunity to encourage stewardship by the public and spread the message of the significance of the resources and the need to protect them.
Both interpreters and archeologists should be aware of the range of our responsibilities to visitors, associated communities, and the resources themselves. Interpreters and archeologists work together in an open dialogue about archeologically-known facts, and the meanings derived from them, to establish relevance. Each works to provide both accurate information and multiple perspectives.
- Herscher, Ellen and Francis P. McManamon (2000) “Public Education and Outreach: The Obligation to Educate” Pages 49-51 in Ethics in American Archaeology (second revised edition), edited by Mark J. Lynott and Alison Wylie. Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC.
- What are our personal and professional responsibilities? from Archeology for Interpreters
- Archeologists and Interpreters Working Together from Interpretation for Archeologists
- Shared role in resource stewardship from Study Tour of Archeological Interpretation
Curation and Collections
Curation is important. Unless collections are cared for and provenience information stays with the material remains collected, all the time and effort spent digging materials out of the ground and recording that process becomes useless.
Access to and use of collections is an essential aspect of both archeology and collections management, and is important as well in conducting interpretation and heritage-oriented activities. Archeologists and other scholars, interpreters, educators, culturally affiliated groups, and members of the public need access to collections for a wide range of activities.
Section 79.10 Use of collections in the federal regulations at 36 CFR Part 79, “Curation of Federally-Owned and Administered Archeological Collections” stipulates that: “(a) The Federal Agency Official shall ensure that the Repository Official makes the collection available for scientific, educational and religious uses, subject to such terms and conditions as are necessary to protect and preserve the condition, research potential, religious or sacred importance, and uniqueness of the collection.”
- African American Families at Manassas, Manassas National Battlefield
Consultation and Cultural Sensitivity
Outreach conducted by national parks reaches a diverse public, which means that outreach must be conducted sensitively. A perspective that is common sense to one visitor may deeply offend another on the basis of background, religious beliefs, or personal experience. Archeologists who conduct outreach must be sensitive to the fact that archeological resources have multiple meanings to different peoples. Acknowledging multiple points of view does not require interpretive and educational programs to provide equal time to all possible perspectives, or to disregard the weight of scientific or historical evidence.
Consultation can be one form of outreach. Consultation involves working with invested groups to make sure that outreach is culturally sensitive, accurate, and meets the needs of a range of publics. It enables individuals or groups who are represented archeologically to speak about their concerns or beliefs. It provides descendant groups with a voice in archeological outreach and insurance that their perspectives will not be misrepresented. Consultation with diverse populations improves outreach because it enhances and broadens content, and identifies multiple points of view and potentially sensitive issues. Possible partners in consultation include Native groups, park partners, schools and education councils, local communities or gateway communities, and others.
- Multiple Lines of Evidence: Searching for the Sand Creek Massacre Site, Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site
- Issues of Sensitivity in Interpretation for Archeologists
- Civic Engagement and Public Involvement in the Archeology Outreach module
ARPA and Resource Protection
Many ARPA incidents result from local individuals who may or may not know that metal detecting or digging on federal land is a crime. A lack of understanding about why the NPS protects archeological resources is frequently behind incidents. One aim of archeological outreach is to improve the public's understanding of how and why the NPS manages the resources.
Archeologists must be prudent in the information they share about archeological resources. Archeology outreach does not mean sharing everything that is known about the location, condition, and contents of all sites in a park. Nor does it mean giving hints or advice on likely places to find sites. It does, however, mean reaching out to individuals who believe that the government is mismanaging artifacts by locking them away and not exhibiting them. These individuals believe that it is their right to possess the artifacts because they would do as good a job as the NPS in managing them.
Education and interpretation are tools to cultivate a stewardship ethic, as are volunteer programs and site stewardship programs. Archeologists and law enforcement officers who conduct ARPA investigations might investigate education and interpretation as complementary methods to other protection activities. Know, too, that metal detectorists and amateur archeologists have skills that may benefit federal efforts. Such work can go a long way in changing attitudes and improving understanding of federal policies and laws.
- Battlefield Archeology at Kings Mountain National Military Park, South Carolina includes information about volunteers at Little Bighorn Battlefield, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, and Kings Mountain National Military Park
- Promoting Archeological Stewardship in Interpretation for Archeologists