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  Public Archeology in the United States—A Timeline

Timeline 1930-1944

The 1930s witnessed a new kind of large-scale archeological project as part of federal unemployment relief projects and programs. These were funded by the Works Progress Administration and other public employment programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal in order to employ large numbers of people affected by the depressed economy. The archeological projects of this decade focused on fieldwork and keeping large crews fruitfully employed in excavating archeological sites. Unfortunate consequences of many of these projects were delays in the production of descriptive reports, delays in data analysis, and few publications of project results. Despite these drawbacks, the programs resulted in a substantial increase in the knowledge about American archeology, especially in the Southeast. Many projects also focused on the archeology of historic period sites, often done in coordination with architectural stabilization, reconstruction, and/or historical research on the historic structures at the site. The programs also involved many young, newly trained archeologists who went on to have long distinguished careers in American archeology, such as James Griffin, Jesse Jennings, and Gordon Willey. During that time, the Historic Sites Act of 1935 established a mandate for federal interest in a wide range of nationally important archeological sites and historic structures.

Timeline 1930-1944

  • 1930's
  • 1933
    • The Historic American Building Survey (HABS) is authorized by President F. D. Roosevelt.
    • The Civil Works Administration archeology program begins.
    • The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) is created to help conserve, rehabilitate, and construct projects in both national and state parks. CCC personnel start projects to protect, improve, and maintain parks. They also act as guides to the visiting public at national parks.
    • Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) archeology projects begin.
    • Executive Orders Nos. 6166 and 6628 charge the DOI and NPS with administration of national parks, monuments, historic and archeological sites, and historic and archeological structures that were previously maintained by the Department of Agriculture and the War Department. As a result, the National Park System expands into most states of the U.S.
    • Work detail crew of Camp Wyoming

      Work crew from Company 1538 at Camp Wyoming in West Virginia

      Copyright 1998, Parks & History Association

      NPS investigations and restorations at Morristown National Historical Park in New Jersey and Yorktown (now a part of Colonial National Historical Park), Virginia, begin.
  • 1934
  • 1935
    • Congress passes the Emergency Appropriations Relief Act that gives President F. D. Roosevelt authority to establish the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
    • The Historic Sites Act is enacted. Asserts federal government concerns and responsibility for recognizing and providing technical assistance to nationally significant historic sites, buildings, objects, and antiquities, no matter where they are located in the U.S.
  • 1936
    • In an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation, the NPS assumes responsibility for recreational development and activities at the Hoover Dam Reservoir. This is the first reservoir area in the park system, later called Lake Mead National Recreation Area in 1947.
  • 1937
  • 1939
    • Classification and numbering of specimens

      Classification and numbering of specimens at Ocmulgee, GA

      The National Research Council creates a committee to find ways to improve the archeological work of federal agencies.
  • 1940
  • 1941
    • America's entry into World War II causes a drastic reduction in NPS activity. Newton B. Drury, NPS Director, defends the parks against pressures for consumptive uses of park resources in the name of national defense.

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