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A National Strategy for Federal Archeology in the 21st Century
Francis P. McManamon
Chief Archeologist, National Park Service
Departmental Consulting Archeologist, Department of the Interior

The preservation and protection of America’s archeological heritage is an important modern function and goal of the many public agencies and organizations at the national, state, and local levels. America’s archeological heritage, the sites of her historic and ancient past and the collections and records that have been collected or excavated from these sites, need protection. The number of archeological sites from bygone times never increases; it is only reduced. The means of this diminishment include modern development activities, unscientific looting of sites, and even by the very best archeological field investigations. It is also important that we make the most of the collections, and records that we have, documenting, interpreting, synthesizing, and preserving data and information. We must use sites parsimoniously for relevant archeological research, preserving as much of the in situ archeological record as possible so that future generations of Americans can utilize this unique physical heritage and the information that can be obtained from it (Lipe 1974, 1996; McManamon 1996, 2000).

Since the 1980s, federal agencies with archeological programs, coordinated by the Departmental Consulting Archeologist of the Department of the Interior, have attempted to collect, consolidate, and publish governmentwide summary information about public archeological activities. These reports have focused on federal agency actions, but include information about the archeological activities of many other public agencies as well, especially because some federal agencies carry out their archeological responsibilities cooperatively with state or local agencies (McManamon 1992:26-32). This decade-long series of reports, while not comprehensive, is as thorough a description of the range of public archeological activities in the United States as can be found (Haas 1997, 1998, 1999; Keel, et al. 1989; Knudson and McManamon 1992; Knudson et al. 1995; McManamon, et al. 1993). In this series of periodic reports focuses attention on topics that merit continued, and in some cases even greater, efforts to improve the interpretation, preservation, and protection of America’s archeology.

Using the information in the initial reports and in discussion with archeologists throughout the public sector, the Department of the Interior developed a national strategy for federal archeology in 1990 (Federal Archeology Report 1990a, 1990b; McManamon 1999). The initial strategy was a statement listing important areas in need of continuing or additional attention by federal agencies and archeological programs.

In March, 1990, Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan issued the initial “The National Strategy for Federal Archeology” as a policy of the Department of the Interior. He directed the heads of bureaus and offices within the department to emphasize the wise use and preservation of archeological sites, collections, and records that they managed, or that their programs affected. The Secretary also urged use of the national strategy by managers, archeologists, and other historic preservationists throughout and outside of public agencies. Many of these officials have developed and supported the activities and archeological programs called for by the national strategy. The Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, and Energy, and the Chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority, have endorsed the national strategy to focus more attention upon these kinds of activities. Public agencies spend tens of millions of dollars every year identifying, analyzing, and preserving archeological sites. We need to continue these important efforts, and to improve them whenever it is possible. For over a century and a half, public archeology has existed in the United States. Beginning with the archeological studies and publications of the Smithsonian Institution, during the last 100 years, other public agencies, such as the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Defense, have also come to play important roles in American archeology (Timeline 1999).

On March 4th of 1999, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt updated and affirmed the National Strategy as an important statement of national policy for Federal archeology. The strategy encourages the design and execution of public activities and programs in ways that accomplish important archeological goals. Four general areas for attention are highlighted: (1) the preservation, protection, and appropriate research on archeological sites, (2) the curation and research use of archeological collections and records, (3) the utilization and sharing of archeological reports, data and research results, and, (4) the continued incorporation of public education and outreach activities in archeological projects (Figure 1). The strategy aims to ensure that these basic areas of concern are included in every public archeological endeavor and are used as measures of effective performance by public programs. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act and National Historic Preservation Act authorize the Secretary of the Interior to provide leadership, guidance, and coordination for national archeology and historic preservation programs. The National Strategy is part of the Secretary’s guidance efforts in this arena.

The renewed and updated National Strategy recently was affirmed and redistributed by National Park Service Director Fran Minella. In her transmittal letter, Director Minella identifies important topics for focusing archeological activities and programs. By emphasizing these general topics, preservation, protection, research, and interpretation efforts will improve and better coordination will occur among public and private organizations undertaking archeological activities. The stewardship and wise use of America’s archeological heritage is important for all Americans; its loss diminishes all of us and future generations. There is no quick fix to the challenges that the national strategy identifies. The necessary activities are all part of ongoing, regular efforts. Public agencies, private sector businesses, the archeological profession, private associations and citizens all have important roles to play in these endeavors.

References Cited

Federal Archeology Report
1990a       A National Strategy for Federal Archeology. Federal Archeology Report 3(1):1,13, 23.

1990b       Secretary of the Interior: National Strategy for Federal Archeology. Federal Archeology Report 3(2):1, 7.

Haas, Daniel
1997       The Federal Archeology Program: The Secretary of the Interior’s Report to Congress, FY 1991-FY 1993. National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.

1998       The Federal Archeology Program: The Secretary of the Interior’s Report to Congress, 1994-1995. National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.

1999       The Federal Archeology Program: The Secretary of the Interior’s Report to Congress, 1996-1997. National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.

Keel, Bennie C., Francis P. McManamon, and George S. Smith
1989       Federal Archeology: The Current Program: Annual Report to Congress on the Federal Archeology Program, FY 1985-1986. National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.

Knudson, Ruthann and Francis P. McManamon
1992       The Secretary of the Interior’s Report to Congress on the Federal Archeology Program. Federal Archeology Report 5(2):1, 4-10.

Knudson, Ruthann, Francis P. McManamon, and J. Emlen Myers
1995       The Federal Archeology Program: Report to Congress for 1988-90. National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.

Lipe, William D.
1974       A Conservation Model for American Archaeology. The Kiva 39(3-4):213-245.

1996       In Defense of Digging: Archeological Preservation as a Means, Not an End. CRM 19(7):23-27.

McManamon, Francis P.
1992       Managing America’s Archaeological Resources. In Quandaries and Quests: Visions of Archaeology’s Future, edited by LuAnn Wandsnider, pp. 25-40. Center for Archaeological Investigations, Occasional Paper No. 20, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

1996       The Antiquities Act—Setting Basic Preservation Policies. CRM 19(7):18-23.

1999       A National Archaeological Strategy for Now and the Next Century. Archaeology Southwest 13(3):4-5.

2000       The Protection of Archaeological Resources in the United State: Reconciling Preservation with Contemporary Society. In Cultural Resource Management in Contemporary Society: Perspectives on Managing and Presenting the Past, edited by F. P. McManamon and Alf Hatton, pp. 40-54. Routledge Publishers, London and New York.

McManamon, Francis P., Patricia C. Knoll, Ruthann Knudson, George S. Smith, and Richard C. Waldbauer
1993       Federal Archeological Programs and Activities: The Secretary of the Interior’s Report to Congress, FY 1987. National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.

National Park Service
1999       Public Archeology in the United States: Timeline. Archeology and Ethnography Program, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.