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  Public Archeology in the United States—A Timeline

Timeline 1945-1969

As World War II reached its climax, U.S. officials began to plan a post-war, national system of dams for flood control and reservoirs for water supply in many important river valleys. Archeologists immediately took action to ensure that archeological resources, many of which might be destroyed by these projects, were not forgotten during planning. This action culminated in the creation of the Committee for the Recovery of Archaeological Remains (CRAR). Due to the efforts of the Committee and its supporting national organizations, federal agencies included funding for archeological surveys and excavations as part of new dam and reservoir construction. The Interagency Archeological Salvage Program, a public archeology program administered by the NPS and Smithsonian Institution, was developed to carry out these activities. Its goal was to preserve archeological data and materials from destruction by modern construction. During the 1950s the salvage of archeological data in the face of construction was imitated in the development of highway and pipeline salvage archeology. In 1966 the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) was enacted to control the adverse impacts of federal development projects on archeological sites and historic structures.

Timeline 1945-1969

  • 1945
    • Missouri River Basin Survey

      Missouri River Basin Survey

      The Committee for the Recovery of Archaeological Remains (CRAR) is established. It provides a voice for archeologists to express their concern that salvage archeology is conducted to preserve archeological remains before reservoir projects are completed. Its members include William S. Webb, Frederick Johnson, John O. Brew, and Alfred V. Kidder.
    • The River Basin Survey (RBS) Program begins in attempt to protect archeological materials from destruction by dam construction and flooding. Funding is provided by the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. The archeological work is administered by the NPS and SI.
  • 1946
    • Missouri River Basin Surveys in South Dakota

      Missouri River Basin Surveys in South Dakota

      The RBS Program expands when NPS establishes the Interagency Archeological Salvage Program in cooperation with the SI under the Historic Sites Act of 1935. In the SI, the River Basin Survey is created under the administration of the Bureau of American Ethnology.
    • The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is established.
  • 1947
    • J. O. Brew's "Symposium on River Valley Archaeology" is published in American Antiquity 12(4): 209-225.
  • 1948
    • Frank H. H. Roberts publishes "A Crisis in U.S. Archaeology" in Scientific American.
  • 1949
  • 1950
    • Jesse Nusbaum initiates the Pipeline Salvage Program in the Southwest. Archeologists work alongside pipeliners, surveying the land for surface evidence of underlying objects and inspecting the trenches in which the pipes are being laid.
  • 1956
    • Development of highway salvage archeology is enhanced with the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act, which contains specific language for the salvage for archeological materials within a construction area.
  • 1960
    • Salvage archeology during dam construction

      Salvage archeology during dam construction

      The Reservoir Salvage Act is enacted to preserve historic and archeological materials that might otherwise be lost through dam construction.
  • 1963
    • Following a report chaired by A. Starker Leopold, natural resource management is restructured along ecological lines. Environmental interpretation and the emphasis of ecological relationships and special environmental education programs reflect and promote the nation's growing environmental awareness.
    • President Johnson signs acts

      President Johnson signs the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act and the Wilderness Act

      Photo by A. Rowe, courtesy of the White House

      The Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology is formed to educate scholars, governments, sport divers, and the public about underwater archeology and the preservation of underwater cultural resources.
  • 1964
  • 1965
    • The Bureau of American Ethnology merges with the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian and becomes the Office of Anthropology. By 1968 it is called the Department of Anthropology of the SI.
    • Archeological field work at Gran Quivira National Monument

      Archeological field work at Gran Quivira National Monument

      Pecos National Monument, with its long legacy of archeological exploration, is authorized. It is renamed Pecos National Historical Park in 1990.
  • 1966
    • Fred Johnson publishes "Archeology in an Emergency" in Science and Gordon C. Baldwin publishes Race Against Time: The Story of Salvage Archaeology.
    • The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) is enacted in response to the concerns about the adverse impacts of federal development projects on archeological sites and historic structures. It establishes national policy and programs for the preservation of those resources. In particular, NHPA calls for consideration of historic properties during modern development such as urban renewal and highway construction.
    • A report by Ronald F. Lee, John O. Brew, and Ernest A. Connally provides the blueprint for how the NPS should take on its national archeological and historic preservation responsibilities outside the National Park System.
  • 1967
    • Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation (OAHP) is established within the NPS. OAHP has an Interagency Archeology Services (IAS) Division whose chief is the Departmental Consulting Archeologist.
    • The Society for Historical Archaeology forms to promote scholarly research and dissemination of knowledge about the archeology of the modern world (A.D. 1400 to present).
  • 1968
  • 1969

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