Archaeological Curation Standards and Guidelines

General Policy

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Archaeological Research Laboratory (ARL) is the official repository for archaeological collections from southeast Wisconsin (SHSW Region 9). Although preference is given to materials originating in Region 9, the ARL will accept collections from other portions of Wisconsin and adjacent states. Acceptance of collections originating outside Region 9 is entirely at the discretion of the Director and/or Assistant Director. Acceptance of collections may be predicated on exclusion of certain material types or artifact categories. In general, the ARL will accept only complete collections. A collection is deemed complete if it includes in addition to the artifacts themselves, the following components:

  • adequate documentation (copies of field notes, logs, maps, photos, slides, computer files, etc.)
  • a completed State site form for each archaeological site represented in the collection
  • a notice of gift transferring permanent ownership of the collection to the ARL.

The following guidelines are intended to be consistent with the Standards and Guidelines for Curation of Federally-owned and Administered Archeological Collections (36 CFR 79) promulgated by the National Park Service.

Guidelines for Curation of Archaeological Collections

Materials submitted for curation must meet the following standards prior to acceptance.

Preparation
All artifacts must be cleaned and stabilized unless an un-cleaned condition is necessary for future analysis. The depositor may choose to have the ARL staff clean and conserve collections for a fee based on time and material costs. Acceptance of such collections is entirely at the discretion of the Director and/or Assistant Director.

Labeling
Artifacts and artifact containers must be marked in permanent ink with accession numbers supplied by the ARL. Minimally, labels will include a two-part designator consisting of a numerator that identifies the project or accession number and a denominator that identifies the site using a standard trinomial descriptor. Acceptance of collections labeled according to other systems is entirely at the discretion of the Director and/or Assistant Director.

Containers
The ARL curates artifacts in standard (10 X 12 X 15) storage boxes manufactured of acid-free cardboard. Artifacts should be bagged in 4 mil polyethylene bags with Ziploc closures. Bags must be clearly labeled with provenience information. Artifacts should be sorted according to provenience, material type, and standard analytical category. All artifact packages should fit within one standard box. Oversize materials should be clearly labeled as such. Acceptance of oversized materials is entirely at the discretion of the Director and/or Assistant Director.

Documentation
The following documentation should accompany each accepted collection.

  • a photocopy of all original field documentation. The copy should be prepared on acid-free paper. Original documentation may be submitted for permanent curation also.
  • completed State site forms for each archaeological site represented in the collection
  • project-related color slides, black-and white photographs, and associated photo logs. Photographic materials should be stored in archivally stable slip jackets or holders.
  • a copy of the associated report of investigations

Human Remains
Acceptance of human remains is entirely at the discretion of the Director and/or Assistant Director. Handling, documentation, and disposition of human remains follows laws and guidelines established under Wisconsin Stats. 157.7 and pertinent Federal legislation including the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Individual collections are processed according to the appropriate standards as determined on a case-by-case basis.

Procedures

Assuming materials are delivered in acceptable condition, (i.e. cleaned, labeled, and sorted) curation typically involves the following tasks:

Accessioning and Repacking
HRMS will unpack the accepted collection and repack the materials into archive quality cardboard boxes. Typically, repacking reduces the total number of boxes to be curated. Occasionally, however, improperly packed collections may require more volume to insure adequate conservation of curated materials. Per box costs are based on final collection volume.

Document Management
Photographs, negatives, and color slides will be stored in archival-quality holders. Field notes, maps, and other documents are stored in separate archive quality boxes but are curated with the archaeological materials. Oversized documents are stored in flat file map cases in archival-quality dividers.

Collection Inventory
An Accession Record will be generated for the collection. This record contains collection management information pertinent to the collection as well as an abbreviated listing of curated materials by lot# or provenience unit. The collections inventory is not a detailed item-level database, but if a prior analytical level inventory exists, HRMS will maintain a copy of the associated inventory for use by future researchers.

Perpetual Curation
HRMS will curate the accessioned materials in perpetuity at UWM's Archaeological Research Laboratory (ARL). Archaeological materials held by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Archaeological Research Laboratory (ARL) are curated in a 2,400 square foot, dedicated curation facility located in Sabin Hall on UWM's campus. Approximately 1,300 square feet of compact storage provides 3900 cubic feet of storage while open shelving allows curation of an additional 2,000 cubic feet of storage. The curation facility is compliant with federal regulations as outlined in Standards and Guidelines for Curation of Federally-owned and Administered Archeological Collections (36 CFR 79). Curation of materials generated by non-UWM researchers is accomplished through extramural contracts administered by Historic Resource Management Services.

All ARL collections are routinely made available to qualified researchers for study. Visiting scholars can make arrangements for on-site study or materials can be transferred to approved curation facilities for long-term intensive analyses.

Costs

Curation costs are adjusted on an annual basis to reflect changes in institutional charges, salaries, and other costs. Clients should inquire as to current costs at the time of collection transfer. Current costs are estimated as follows:

  • Accessioning and repacking: hourly costs for the Assistant Director and the Collections Manager
  • Collection Inventory: hourly cost for the Collections Manager
  • Artifact Curation: a one-time fee of $700.00 per curated box
  • Containers and Supplies: provided as needed unless supplied by depositor

In addition, UWM requires each funded accession to recover the costs of personnel related expenses under the heading of Fringe Benefits. The cost of physical plant maintenance and contract administration is recovered under the heading of Indirect Costs. The current rate of 47.7% is set by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and is adjusted annually. The ARL does not charge profit on funded accessions.

Typical Curation Fee1
Labor
$54.00
Fringe Benefits
$15.39
Supplies
$25.00
Curation Fee
$700.00
Indirect Costs
$378.92
Total Accessioning Charges    
$1,173.31
1 Based on collection requiring minimal accessioning consisting of one standard storage box.