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Critical Nature of Spatial Data in Cultural

Resource Management


Accurate locational information constitutes a key factor in our understanding of cultural resources, and the most appropriate treatment of these sites. Geographic clues provide information describing the human and environmental influences that effected the creation of these resources, and continue to affect our resources today. Examining cultural resources within their geographical context also provides us with a different perspective, allowing us to see the interaction of resources and larger trends across regions.

I. Spatially, we should consider each resource as a single entity

a. There single entities may be viewed from a variety of perspectives however: as built features, as archaeological sites, cultural landscapes, museum objects, etc.
b. Any on cultural resource may be viewed from multiple perspectives or disciplines

II. Organizationally, we separate out cultural resources into groups or categories: we catalog each of these categories in separate databases as well

a. This results in fragmentary look at cultural resources where each group is cared for by different disciplines and frequently different managers
b. The larger perspective becomes somewhat skewed as the interconnection of resources and landscapes disappears
c. Resource managers, planners and decision-makers become frustrated referring to multiple sources to find information on a single resource which may be significant to different disciplines for different reason

III. The database problem: there is no umbrella organization of methodology for linking all the various cultural resource databases together

a. It is clear that the geography itself must be the underlying key that integrates these various databases – a single location becomes the key between different disciplines
b. Each cultural resource database collects and maintains specific and cannot be collapsed into one database. These existing databases serve important purposes and should not loose autonomy.
c. Through GIS however, these databases can be linked together so that one location references multiple database

IV. The locational problem: if geography becomes the unifying method to tie the cultural resource databases together, it must be clean data and it must be standardized to insure consistency throughout disciplines

a. Locational data is the weakest element of all the national cultural resource databases right now, and there are no established standards for collecting this information
b. There are no requirements to collect coordinates and no standard way of including geographic information in the current databases

V. These problems are not new however and many in the NPS have been heavily involved in trying to find a solution

a. Hugh Devine – NE regional effort to tie cultural databases and natural databases together for general management planning
b. Melia Lane-Kamahele – Pacific regional effort to tie maintenance information and cultural databases together
c. Peter Budde – Midwest regional effort to tie cultural landscapes information together with other cultural databases, such as the National Register
d. Steve Bauman – Southwest regional effort to tie archaeological survey information together with the ASMIS database
e. Although successful for their purposes, these are regionally – based efforts and we need to help define a wider National approach, rather than generating many smaller projects all trying to accomplish different pieces of the same task.

VI. In order to generate more widespread support for an effort to integrate the cultural resource databases with GIS (and to find funding), the cultural resource community needs to come together and explain the critical relevance of the effort

a. Locational data is critical for the management of our cultural resources
b. Proper management and planning are a priority for the NPS and many parks need GMP revisions or implementation plans
c. New mandates in circular A-16 appoint NPS and the lead agency government-wide for the collection and dissemination of spatial cultural resource data

VII. CRGIS proposes some steps to begin pushing this effort forward at the National level

a. Host a workshop to bring all the National cultural resource database owners together and to lay out the problems: highlight the need for improved digital spatial data
b. Prepare guidelines for cultural resource database managers for making their databases compatible with GIS (more than simply leaving fields for UTM coordinates)
c. Create spatial data standards for new data and for legacy data. Guidelines here can easily spell out how to capture spatial data in future surveys, but legacy data will remain a problem unless addressed immediately
d. Create content standards once guidelines for cultural resource database managers are created. With consensus on methods, consistency and be generated on what a cultural resource data layer should contain in terms of attribute values
e. Create metadata standards if consistency and accuracy can be generated through other standards. With the establishment of metadata standards, we can fulfill our obligations under circular A-16 and disseminate our information to other cultural resource managers.

VIII. If we can find a way to generate consistent and accurate entity-based spatial cultural resource data, we can bridge the gaps between the cultural resource databases in a meaningful way

a. We can better manage resource at park, regional, and national levels this way and contribute more effectively to planning efforts
b. By creating standards we can insure consistent quality across the NPS and throughout the federal agencies as a result of our A-16 mandate
c. Creating these standards and providing guidelines based on current practices will insure their continued use and help state/local agencies work from our example.