Many agencies have turned to no collection field strategies in recent years. Unfortunately, these strategies vary widely and are implemented with very little data, so we don’t know if they are effective. Several members of the Collection and Curation Committee have been working with SHA and SAA to develop some best practices to consider if you are developing a scope or preparing a proposal that includes no collection. We welcome your thoughts on this.
Ralph Bailey, Chair, ACRA Collections Management & Curation Committee
Best Practices for No-Collection Projects and In-field Analysis in the United States
The Archaeological Collections Consortium (ACC) includes representatives from the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), the Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA), and the American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA) who are focused on the use, preservation, and management of archaeological collections. A key ACC goal is to develop and act upon a common platform of objectives that seek to benefit the discipline and ultimately the public for whom archaeological collections are curated in the public trust.
The ACC is concerned about the growing trends of no-collection, in-field artifact analyses, and collections reburial*. The use of these practices is driven by several factors, including limited availability of collections storage space, costs of curation, pressure among agencies to reduce overall project costs, and concerns among some THPOs and tribes about how their patrimonies are being treated by others once archaeological objects are removed from a site. These practices negatively impact the types and breadth of archaeological collections available for present and future research, interpretation, and education. They impede the archaeologist’s ability to analyze existing artifacts by using future research designs and methods and independently verifying results, actions which are critical to the credibility of an archaeological project and the scientific process in general. They also run counter to the professional ethics** of the organizations participating in the ACC.
Furthermore, these strategies are not justified in law, are rarely included in federal or state standards and guidelines, and very little has been published on these topics***. Statutory authority for recovery of archaeological material remains on federal land primarily comes from Sections 106 (compliance) and 110 (resource management) of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA). These federal laws were enacted in recognition of the need to preserve and research the enormous historic, cultural, and scientific value that archaeological materials contain for the benefit of the American people. By specifying that such items located on federal land are the property of the federal government, and by systematizing the procedures for the excavation and handling of covered objects, ARPA sought to 1) protect the items from pillage, and 2) by doing so, better enable the American people to learn about and appreciate the lives of those who came before them. Likewise, the NHPA ensures that development considerations are balanced with preservation values, and confirms the public's interest in heritage preservation. Compliance agreements under Section 106 of NHPA require management considerations, which in many cases include archaeological data recovery and curation of the recovered collections. ARPA permits also govern archaeological data recovery and curation of the recovered collections. The federal regulations 36 CFR Part 79 then ensure that the recovered and analyzed collection is deposited in a repository that meets certain standards. Burial in the ground does not meet those standards.
The ACC is not aware of any published studies that explore the relative costs of no-collection and in-field analysis versus long-term curation to determine where the most significant expenses/savings occur when both follow professional ethics and guidelines. No-collection strategies might actually cost agencies more than curation if sites must be revisited and reevaluated because collections are not available to verify artifact identifications and specific attributes of those artifacts. Additionally, even when artifacts are not collected during a project, the associated records, whether hard copy or digital, should be assembled as a collection and may be subject to curation fees (Childs et al. 2010; Drew 2010; Kintigh and Altschul 2010).
Various combinations of no-collection and in-field identification and analysis have been implemented, particularly in the western United States. It is unclear whether these practices were developed using data sets and studies about their benefits and drawbacks or whether an assessment was made of how these practices may run counter to historic preservation laws. The effectiveness and reproducibility of these practices and their impacts on the archaeological record and future research should be carefully considered by archaeologists and other stakeholders involved in an archaeological investigation.
Therefore, for all of the reasons stated above, the ACC strongly discourages the use of no-collection, in-field analysis, and collections reburial until further study can be done, with exceptions for the use of no-collection and in-field analysis in the following circumstances: when a site is subject to a HAZMAT situation (e.g., harmful contamination) and for projects that conform to selected types of surface survey only (e.g., water lines, culverts, power lines, pumphouses, microwave towers). For these few instances when the applications may be appropriate, the ACC offers the following best practices to provide guidance to stakeholders. The goal of these guidelines is to ensure that no-collection and in-field identification and analysis methods—when agreed upon, documented, and adopted—are implemented with appropriate care and ethical consideration. The ACC decided not to provide best practices on reburial at this time because the reasons for reburial and the methods used seem to be widely varied, unevaluated, and unpublished in the United States (an exception is Williams 2011 on reburial for conservation).
These best practices should be considered interim until more research is conducted on the history, legal foundations, and long-term impacts of no-collection and in-field identification and analysis on the archaeological process (see last section below). Primary stakeholders for these guidelines include government (federal, tribal, state, and local) archaeologists and resource managers, descendent communities, cultural resource management companies, academic archaeologists, students, and professional societies, all of which might participate in developing archaeological research designs.
The ACC also considers these best practices to provide a framework that can be adjusted to specific archaeological projects and, perhaps, state policies and guidelines. There is considerable regional variation in how prehistoric and historical archaeological investigations are undertaken across the United States, especially during survey projects, which can affect these practices. Factors, such as local flora, topography, and soil type(s), should be considered when choosing appropriate archaeological field methods, as should the guidelines presented below.
Best Practices for No-Collection and In-Field Analysis
The ACC and others (Heilen and Altschul 2013) advocate for more research on no-collection and in-field identification and analysis practices across the United States. Some critical topics to explore, which are ripe for dissertation or thesis work, include:
In conclusion, the ACC contends that the practices of no-collection, in-field analysis, and collections reburial run counter to historic preservation laws and professional ethics. In only two circumstances—the event of a hazardous situation and for some kinds of surface survey—does the ACC recognize that no-collection and in-field analysis could be utilized. Additional comparative studies on this topic are needed; the few that exist clearly demonstrate that no-collection and in-field analyses cannot match analysis completed in the laboratory, in terms of replicability and accuracy. However, given that no-collection projects are proceeding without clear answers to the questions outlined above, the ACC offers these best practices for no-collection projects and in-field artifact identification and analysis as interim guidance. When further research into the legality, legitimacy, and cost-effectiveness of these archaeological field strategies is completed, this guidance can be amended. In drafting these initial best practices, the ACC is making an effort to fill an informational void for those who undertake such projects while trying to preserve a breadth of archaeological collections available for present and future research, interpretation, and education.
This statement is available in its entirety with footnotes and references here.
*Several of the terms used in this document are defined by the ACC in a compendium of definitions jointly published in The SAA Archaeological Record (2016, 16(1):41-43), SHA Newsletter (2015, 48(4):4-6), and ACRA’s February Monthly Member Update (2017).
**ACRA Code of Ethics: http://acra-crm.org/code-of-ethics, SHA Ethics Principles: https://sha.org/about-us/ethics-statement/, SAA Principles of Archaeological Ethics: http://saa.org/AbouttheSociety/PrinciplesofArchaeologicalEthics/tabid/203/Default.aspx
***For exceptions, see Butler 1979; Griset and Kodack 1998; Heilen 2013; Heilen and Altschul 2013; Heilen et al. 2008; and Williams 2011. Only Butler 1979 and Heilen and Altschul 2013 are in peer-reviewed publications.
****The ACC is not including immediate reburial of large organic objects for preservation purposes in its consideration of artifact reburial.
This post is authored by Kye Miller, Senior Project Director at PaleoWest Archaeology.
At the dawn of my career as an archaeologist, like most of us, I learned to draft site sketch maps with a compass and pacing, all forms and logs were kept on paper, and transects were determined from a compass bearing. Fast forward to 2019 and I haven’t used paper in the field or office for over seven years. We are now training newly graduated “green” field technicians exclusively with digital methods: GPS units, iDevice data management and mapping, photogrammetry, and so on. The newer generations of cultural resource managers will likely never know the pleasure of carrying a handheld compass, lined and graph paper and pencil, and paper topographic maps. These tools, and much more, are rapidly being replaced with digital devices and applications.
Digital methods, such as the PaleoWay system employed by PaleoWest Archaeology and systems developed by our partner Codifi Paperless Solutions, allow archaeologists to significantly reduce workloads (primarily data entry and digitization), errors, and ultimately the cost for conducting cultural resource projects, while increasing efficiency, accuracy, and quality of data collection. In the summer of 2014, PaleoWest Archaeology conducted the first large-scale all-digital data recovery project on a Colonial-Pioneer period ballcourt village along the Santa Cruz River, north of Tucson, Arizona. The project developers required a tight schedule and employing all-digital methods allowed us to collect quality data faster than ever before to meet a nearly impossible deadline, resulting in the identification and excavation of an adobe ballcourt, over one hundred pithouses, and hundreds of burials and extramural features.
I’ve observed mixed reactions to digital methods in CRM. Some more seasoned CRM practitioners are hesitant to utilize the new technology, often seemingly originating from a general lack of knowledge of digital technology coupled with a lifetime of traditional record keeping. The younger generation is more amenable to, and excited about, the transition to digital methods and, with their reliance on digital devices in their daily lives, typically requires fewer hours of training. Most tend to envision a bright future that improves the way we document and manage invaluable cultural resources.
SAVE THE DATE: MAY 16-17
Join ACRA in Washington, D.C. on May 16-17 for CRM Day on Capitol Hill! We’ll be meeting with Senators and Representatives to discuss the CRM industry. There are 100 new members of Congress, and lots of new staffers too. We need to introduce ACRA, and our priorities, to the new leaders on the Hill! We’ll also be visiting our champions in Congress to ask them for their continued support of our work.
ACRA will arrange the meetings and provide training beforehand. Together with fellow ACRA members, you will talk with Members of Congress and their staff about our most pressing CRM concerns.
Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to influence preservation policy at the national level. Help make a difference for CRM businesses across America - join us!
Now that the government has reopened (until February 15 at least), federal government workers are back on the job. President Trump signed a bill that allowed direct federal employees to get back pay for the length of the shutdown – but what about contractors?
Many CRM firms interact with the federal government on a daily basis. From working on federal contracts to relying on joint federal funding for university labs, we have heard from many of you that your operations have been negatively affected in recent weeks. As of now, federal contractors are NOT guaranteed backpay for the work that they have been conducting or have lost during the shutdown. Now there is a growing effort in Washington to change that – and we need your help to try and make it happen.
We need you to share your shutdown stories with us. Were you instructed to keep working on federal projects without pay? Were you told that you could keep working on a project, but that you would have to do so without certain precautions like park rangers being on site? Was your lab shut down and students who depend on the funding for necessities like food and rent went unpaid? We want to know it all.
The more stories we have to take to Washington, the louder we will be heard by legislators. Let us know in the comments how the shutdown has affected you!
PROMOTING SYNERGY BETWEEN THE ACADEMY AND THE CRM INDUSTRY: EDUCATION AND TRAINING
I have been leading an ongoing ACRA Task Force focused on “promoting synergy between the academy and the CRM industry” for the past year. The Task Force, consisting of academic and CRM industry professionals, decided that it would promote collaboration in pursuit of two key objectives: Research/Data Access and Education. Collaboration between academic professionals and those working within the CRM industry is not new; neither is it well established. Much work remains to encourage increased collaboration. Communication is essential for increasing collaboration between academic professionals and those working within the CRM industry. Neither side fully understands the constraints and/or opportunities under which the other operates. In the first post of this series, I am going to focus on the education and training of future CRM employees.
Task Force discussions revealed that academic departments have significant constraints related to curricula. Departments can provide only a limited number of courses; the addition of any course most likely requires the removal of another course. Presenting industry needs to administrative officials would also likely be unproductive; rather, our industry needs to find faculty members who would champion additional courses or new programs that meet the needs of our industry.
On the other hand, academic professionals perceive that our industry has significant funds to financially support educational programs and internships. This may be the case for a limited number of firms, but for the average small firm, funds are dedicated to employee benefits and the long-term financial welfare of the owner. Industry support of training through internships is a more viable option; however, academic professionals need to understand that workload and contracts are not always conducive to the support of internships. Nevertheless, our industry needs to evaluate if we are doing enough to support the training of future employees.
A recent survey conducted by Dr. Karen Larkin of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Ms. Michelle Slaughter of Metcalf Archaeological Consultants, Inc. (“Bridging the Gap Between CRM and Academia: Training Future Archaeologists – A Potential Model” 2018 ACRA Conference) indicates that academic professionals and CRM industry managers have very different views of how well prepared undergraduates (BA degree and field school) are for CRM employment. Continued conversations regarding industry needs and how academic professionals might meet those needs are necessary.
Given the disparity between the perceptions of academic and industry professionals, the Task Force has proposed the following courses of action:
The Task Force would like you to think about the following:
Let us know your thoughts on these questions in the comments.
The 2019 ACRA Conference may be months away, but preparations are already underway for this exciting event! This year attendees will be converging on Spokane, Washington from October 24–27 to exchange ideas, meet new colleagues, and hear updates on our industry.
This year’s theme is ACRA at 25 - Exploring Our Past to Build Our Future. Using our host city’s frontier history as our impetus, sessions and events during the conference will focus on looking into ACRA's past as we build the programs that our members need. This includes introspective sessions examining where the organization has come from and where we would like to go, as well as connections between ACRA firms and those who use the data we produce.
Registration won’t open until early April, but we need your input now—the Call for Sessions has just been posted. If you have an idea for a great conference topic, we want to hear it! The deadline for proposals is March 15, 2019. Not sure what planning a conference presentation entails? Check out our Manual for Speakers for more details.
We will be sharing details regarding sessions and special events over the next few months, including a feature on the fantastic location for the annual Awards reception in a blog post next week. In the meantime, help us build our program by letting us know in the comments what sessions you would like to see at the 2019 ACRA Conference!
The call for nominations for the 2019 ACRA Awards is now open! ACRA Awards recognize private and public sector clients of ACRA member firms for CRM accomplishments and commitments exceeding those required by various laws and regulations. ACRA Awards also recognize ACRA member firms or employees thereof who have made a long-term and on-going public service commitment to CRM.
The deadline for receipt of nominations is FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2019, at 5:00 PM EDT. Awards will be presented during the ACRA Conference October 24-27, 2019, in Spokane, Washington.
Industry Award-Private Sector: Presented to an ACRA firm’s private sector client who has demonstrated accomplishments and commitments above and beyond those required to meet laws and regulations pertaining to CRM. Recognition can be for completed single or multiple projects, or for an on-going commitment.
James Klickovich of Calpine Corporation is presented the Industry Private Sector award at the 2018 ACRA Conference in Cincinnati.
Industry Award-Public Sector: Presented to an ACRA firm’s public sector client who has demonstrated accomplishments and commitments above and beyond those required to meet laws and regulations pertaining to CRM. Recognition can be for completed single or multiple projects, or for an on-going commitment.
Public Service Award: Presented to an ACRA company, or current employee thereof, who has made a long-term contribution to the study, management, and/or preservation of cultural resources, or who has contributed volunteer efforts and resources for the betterment of their immediate community, county, state, etc. Contributions may include, but are not limited to, training students for CRM careers, internships, and the development and delivery of environmental, preservation, and interpretive programs.
For more details, please review the Call for Nominations on the ACRA page.
This post is authored by Elaine Robinson, Senior Architectural Historian with Commonwealth Heritage Group in Dexter, Michigan.
When I entered the world of Cultural Resource Management as an architectural historian, the fifty-year guideline (I refuse to call it a rule) was at about 1945. The guideline is part of the standards used to determine which cultural resources are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Also considered are the four Criteria for Evaluation (association with events, persons, architecture, or likely to yield important information about the past) and the seven aspects of integrity (location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association). Looking back, I realize how convenient that was for historians. For the most part, the industry was still using the end of World War II as the cut-off for survey and documentation. Style guides and architectural books all covered the entire gamut of defined styles (the issue of vernacular forms is an entirely different issue…best saved for another time) that we were required to review. These resource books include names of every tiny feature, from acanthus to water table.
However, as time passes, and the date of construction for resources to be surveyed extends into the late 1960s, the reliable style guides are less likely to cover relevant styles, or even provide names for features that have to be described by the historian. Some of the style guides do offer vague discussions of architectural styles after 1945, but these are often lumped into a single category of “contemporary” or include resources that may not fit into individual State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)’s standards for a time period. And, even if style guides do include information you could use, getting the SHPO to recognize some of the terms can be more challenging than can be addressed in a single post. Consider the “wounded dove” roof form as mentioned in the 2013 A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia McAlester.
Some training sessions on the styles of buildings of the mid-twentieth century do exist, such as the National Preservation Institute seminar “The Recent Past: Strategies for Evaluation.” Unfortunately, this seminar is not offered often and can be cost prohibitive. This can lead to making up terms for architectural features, like my personal one of “fixed hopper” to reference windows in mid-century buildings that are placed at an angle that echoes an open hopper window. Or having to use full paragraphs to describe an individually important feature.
"Fixed Hopper" windows extend across the front of the 1950 Crystal Motors, 5901 Bay Parkway, Brooklyn, New York (photo by Samuel H. Gottscho).
It seems like it is time for another style guide. One that covers architectural features that dominated the twentieth century, from curtain walls to prow roof lines and beyond. As historians who are documenting twentieth-century buildings, please tell us about your experiences, the names you have used for architectural details, or resource materials that would benefit others!
As is discussed in the first blog post, for 20 years (1994-2014) ACRA hosted a listserv, called ACRA-l. ACRA-l served the CRM community well and provided a much-needed mechanism for CRM practitioners, from novices to company principals, to communicate about issues that were important to us. Topics ranged from job posts, to artifact identifications, to information on running a business; the listserv was dynamic and active thru 2013. In 2013, use of the listserv dropped dramatically, while newer platforms and interfaces were taking over our daily lives. The ACRA board decided that it was time to cease supporting the listserv and search for new ways to connect the CRM community.
It is my hope that the ACRAsphere Blog will provide a place for all our voices to be heard, a place to reinvigorate dialog between CRM practitioners of all levels, in all disciplines. Unlike platforms we have tried for the last 5 years, I hope that this system will recapture the value ACRA-l brought to our community using modern interfaces. I hope this blog can connect individuals, provide important updates to our community, create opportunities for random and guided discussions, and embrace the variety of voices with the CRM community.
Posts on this blog will be scheduled and created by a team of volunteers and staff. I hope that dialog related to our posts will occur in the comment section, which is open to everyone. In order to also allow for dialog on other topics important to you, we have created a "General Discussion" blog post. The General Discussion post is open for everyone to comment on, add new dialog, and start new strings. As we develop the blog, we may find other mechanisms to allow for informal discussions, categories of discussions, etc.
Readers can now find relevant news items compiled all in one place! In our CRM Firms in the News series, we feature recent mentions of ACRA member firms and their projects across the country. Was your firm recently featured in a news article or on social media? Send it to us to be included in our next volume of the series!