Curation Policy for Archaeological Collections
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work
Edward V. Curtin Archaeological Consultant
in consultation with
Susan J. Bender
Associate Professor of Anthropology
This curation policy is prepared in the form of the scope of collection statement recommended in the National Park Service Museum Handbook, Part 1 (2:1-14). This format recognizes the comprehensive, institutional, fiduciary responsibility attendent to the curation of archaeological collections, while providing a logical structure to consider the issues, procedures, and protocols contained in the present policy.
This policy derives its scope from the mission of Skidmore College, as articulated through its educational programs, and the expectation that reappointed and tenured faculty "show professional accomplishment in their academic disciplines." Currently the curriculum in Anthropology includes several areas relevant to the curation policy. These are instruction and research in the archaeology of New York State and the eastern woodlands, as well as human osteology, and field and lab training in archaeology. Currently, faculty, and staff research in anthropological archaeology focus on the upper Hudson valley, a region defined in A Prehistoric Context for the Upper Hudson Valley: Report of the Survey and Planning Project (1990) by Susan J. Bender and Edward V. Curtin.
In addition, the College has initiated a program in contract archaeology in order to enhance student training, and provide partial financial support for, and substantive investigations within the ongoing research program.
Although the college does not have permanent or regular exhibits of Hudson valley or eastern woodlands archaeological collections, temporary exhibits are sometimes prepared for installation on campus or at selected off campus sites, in relation to particular research activities or course work.
Archaeological collections have been made, and will be made in the future in order to support these educational and research purposes. However, making and curating archaeological collections are regulated activities in certain circumstances. The circumstances include collections from state land (for example, New York State Education Law Section 233) and federal land (the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, and where applicable, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and/or the American Indian Religious Freedom Act), and human remains of Native American origin (New York State Indian Law 12A, and the federal Native American Indian Graves Protection and Repatriation Act). The application of these laws may in some cases mandate curation at state or federal facilities, or preclude the long term, or even temporary curation of human remains, associated or unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and items of cultural patrimony. Although it is not yet clear in all cases what kinds of remains are included in some of these categories, or whether they may be repatriated, the present policy is responsive to the various laws that may affect collections made under its perview.
In further consideration of the possibility of encountering human remains during field training or research, this policy recognizes the need for sensitivity to biologically or culturally related descendents, with due respect to the important information that may be learned from the study of human remains and mortuary practices. The position of this policy is concordant with that of the New York Archaeological Council, which seeks a case by case consideration, with the concerned descendents, of the benefits which may be obtained through the long or short term curation and study of human remains, graves and funerary objects, the cultural and human values involving the restriction or control of research, and the need for reburial. As a matter of human dignity, and as embodied in the position of the New York Archaeological Council, human remains must be treated respectfully at all times.
Finally, members of communities where archaeological field work is conducted most often value the contribution the research may make to the interpretation of local history and the appreciation of heritage. Therefore, making archaeological collections involves cooperation between archaeologists and landowners, local historians, and community members. This sense of mutual appreciation of, and joint responsibility for the proper treatment and preservation of archaeological collections is a value that normally will affect the disposition and uses of collections, both through the donation of collections to the college, and the likelihood that exhibits or other interpretative works will be produced as a result of making or donating archaeological collections.
In summary, the purpose of the archaeological collection is to support the following elements of Skidmore College's mission: the education of Skidmore's students, the research of its faculty and staff, and the functioning of its contract archaeology program. These activities operate within the constraints imposed by law, and in cooperation with members of the public and Native American tribes or organizations who have a cultural interest in the collections that are, or may be curated at Skidmore College.
Types of Collections
The types of collections included in this policy are archaeological and osteological collections, as appropriate and necessary for the requirments of teaching and research within the college's programs. The materials requiring curation include
The geographic and temporal scopes of these collections include the upper Hudson drainage in New York, Vermont and Massachusetts, as well as adjoining regions in the Hudson, Mohawk, Susquehanna, Delaware, Housatonic, and Champlain drainages that provide information useful for the interpretation of upper Hudson prehistory, or historic events and processes having similar regional scope, pertinent to either substantive or methodological studies.
As examples, the collections include:
These collections derive in large part from sponsored faculty research and research involving archaeological field schools, student-faculty collaborative research, and independent studies in cultural resource management (contract archaeology).
Collections will not be acquired unless they meet the temporal, geographic and research design criteria necessary to satisfy research and educational needs within Skidmore's ongoing programs.
Archaeological collections usually will be acquired in three ways. These are:
Normally ownership of the collection must be transferred to the college in order for the college to curate the collection. However, this may not always be possible, particularly in the case of older collections. Therefore, in some circumstances, and at the discretion of the department's archaeologist, collections may be accepted for curation pending transfer of title, or until such time as legislation may resolve this issue (such legislation was drafted but not introduced in New York in 1990).
Curation costs for the college's research and field training programs are borne by the college, except as they may be supported by sponsored funds. For example, the contract archaeology program routinely budgets curation costs for each surveyor excavation.
Curation costs for orphaned or deaccessioned collections normally will be assumed by the college within the context of its archaeology programs.
Collections deriving from contract archaeology, or where appropriate, other sponsored research, must be supported by those sources.
Currently, curation costs are charged at the rate of $ 150.00 per cubic foot of storage. These costs cover the furniture, materials, handling, inventory, and long term management of the collection. In extraordinary circumstances, and in consideration of the significance of the collection for faculty and staff research, the rate for curation may be decreased with the assumption that the researcher will account for the difference through other programmatic means, such as coursework, work study, and supplies and materials funds.
Uses of the Collection
The uses of the collection are for research, teaching, and small, temporary exhibits. The users of the collection include faculty, staff and students; visiting scholars who may travel to the curatorial facility to study portions of the collection; and outside groups who may propose and install temporary exhibits in cooperation with the department's archaeologist, and/or archaeological consultant.
Access to Skidmore's collections, including all artifacts, specimens, samples, replicas, and written, electronic, or photographic records is through the department's archaeologist, or by delegation through the department's archaeological consultant. Certain restrictions apply, and written proposals may be required in appropriate circumstances.
Proposals for exhibits are considered in terms of the overall theme of the exhibit, the security of the exhibition place, potential detrimental effects upon artifacts or specimens (depending upon the exhibit plan), and the potential that the exhibit or some part of it may be objectionable to others.
Proposals for destructive analysis must include a description of the nature and extent of loss, and clear statements relating the research significance and why the selected materials, in particular, are suitable and necessary to complete the research.
The disclosure of site location information may be restricted depending upon the likelihood that its disclosure could result in vandalism or looting of the archaeological sites. Normally scholars and students with the cooperation of faculty advisors will be allowed access to records disclosing site locations. Information disclosing site locations will be provided upon request to appropriate agencies, consultants, or individuals in order to reduce the potential of archaeological site destruction as a result of mining, economic development, or other construction threats.
The use of Skidmore's archaeological collections, records, slides and photographs, archaeological databases, and reports of research (including contract reports) must be acknowledged. Reports and publications must be referenced according to author, title, and date, and for unpublished works, origin at Skidmore College.
The archaeological collections are housed in the anthropology lab in the Tisch Learning Center. Skidmore College provides security to restrict access when the building is closed. The lab is equipped with an alarm system to notify the security officers if security is breached. A sprinkler system is installed to protect against fire damage. Collections not in use are stored in a locked room adjoining the lab. Collections in use are stored on shelving in the lab. A catalog system provides an identification and inventory of materials. It is current through ongoing field research, and should be kept up to date.
This plan should be reviewed every two years, and revised as necessary to account for changes which may occur in college programs or the specific conditions of archaeological collections curation.
CREATIVE THOUGHT MATTERS
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