Living in Nevada, there isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t hear someone that either has lived here for a significant portion of their life, or all their life, and about how many arrowheads they have in a bucket back home. It makes me angry and sad when I hear about it. What’s even more sad is that they have no idea that what they did is/was wrong. The only one to blame for that is archaeologists and our failure to educate.
The field of Cultural Resource Management is responsible for most of the archaeological discoveries in this country. Did you know that? Does anyone know that? Absolutely everyone that I talk to about what I do, that is not in the business, has no idea what CRM is. Why is that? Is it our fault? Is it our client’s fault? I don’t know.
What I do know is that something has got to give. The public has a right to know about THEIR cultural resources so they can appreciate them the way we do. I love this country and it’s rich history but all most people ever learn about it is what gets distilled into text books and from soundbites on cable TV.
How can we change this? I don’t know that either. As CRM professionals we are highly censored as to what we can say. We sign confidentiality agreements that are intended to protect the client, the company, and the resources, so we can’t really say anything. Trust me on this. I’ve made several posts on this blog that have had to be removed or heavily edited because someone thought I crossed a line. In all honesty I thought I had removed any information that could be linked to a client, my company, or even me, for that matter. It doesn’t matter. You can’t talk about work. No matter what. I understand why the rules are in place and I don’t fault company leaders for enforcing them. It is a situation that they have been put in by tradition and by their clients.
There are reports and papers published about some cultural resources, that’s true. However, the bulk of the finds never see the light of day and sit, “protected” in a BLM and/or SHPO file cabinet. Is there a way that an abstract of the report, striking out location and client information, can be put online for anyone to see? Is that a bad idea? I don’t think so.
What can we do to bring archaeological discoveries to the people that they belong to? We are not special. We should’t hold onto the information and guard it with our lives. What we find belongs to the American people and they have a right to know about it.
Comment here so everyone can participate in the discussion.
Written in frustration.
2008 The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology (iPad App), Oxford University Press, 2nd ed. Developed by Handmark, Inc.
"Archaeological Resource Management (ARM): A branch of archaeology, also known as public archaeology, that is concerned with the identification, mapping, recording, assessment, evaluation, and documentation of archaeological sites and objects at all scales in order to assist in their conservation, protection, preservation, presentation, and exploitation through effective mitigation strategies, excavation, and nondestructive study. Major aspects of this work involve: the administration of legislation that bears on archaeological remains; informing the decision-making process as it applies to the potential impacts of development on archaeological remains; issuing permits and licenses; monitoring and managing contract archaeology; the definition and application of research policies; and the development of public education programs. In the USA and Australia, where it also covers the management of the contemporary material culture of the indigenous populations, this branch of archaeology is often referred to as cultural resource management (CRM)."