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Handbook of Operating Procedures
Chapter 9 - General Provisions
Publication Date: November 9, 2001
Responsible Executive: VP for Academic Affairs

9.33 Collections Management Policy for the Center for Archaeological Research

  1. Mission Statement

    The Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) established in September 1974 is a research facility of the Department of Anthropology at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). As an organized research unit of the Department, CAR's main objectives are:

    1. to provide student training, publication and teaching opportunities in archaeology and anthropology through field laboratory work on ongoing field projects and to conduct archaeological research in Texas and adjacent regions using existing collections and through public outreach;

    2. to provide outreach services that educate the general public about anthropology and archaeology;

    3. to provide cultural resource management services to federal, state, local, and private agencies as required by legislation and executive order; and

    4. to furnish long-term care for collections that are "Held-in-Trust" for the people of Texas and the United States.

    Car's archaeological laboratory has complete facilities for processing artifact collections. The laboratory is an authorized curatorial repository designated by the Texas Historical Commission. It houses extensive collections from prehistoric and historic sites in Texas, and has collections from Mesoamerica, Panama, and Africa. Some collections are on display for viewing by students, teachers, and visiting scholars. The CAR archaeological team is supported by its own administrative staff and university offices (i.e., Grants and Contracts and Research Development) that provide fiscal control, project management, supplies, and services. CAR also draws upon the faculty and staff of UTSA for expert assistance in such fields as anthropology, history, geology, ecology, botany, and computer sciences.

  2. Scope of Collections

    The role of CAR as an archaeological repository is but one of the many facets of its mission. Although originally designed to curate records and collections from CAR projects, the facilities now include the records and collections from other institutions, agencies, and individuals on a contracted basis. CAR is primarily interested in collections from historic and prehistoric sites that fall into regional or thematic areas already exemplified by our collections, such as historic San Antonio, the Spanish Missions, and prehistoric hunter-gatherers and proto-historic Indians of the greater south central and south Texas regions. The Center staff is in favor of the consolidation of materials from sites that have been curated in multiple repositories when these collections fit the established thematic or regional areas. Records and artifacts are accepted with the understanding that the primary usage is research by students, scholars, and other authorized persons. The acceptance of collections is primarily limited to south and south-central Texas, but CAR will consider accepting collections from other areas when these collections fit the broader thematic scope of the facility.

  3. Responsibility

    The Collections Manger has primary responsibility for maintaining the collections, authority to accept new collections that fit the scope of collections, and to establish loans to and from the CAR holdings. The Director will review all proposed accessions or loans for periods exceeding the established one-year maximum duration. The CAR assistant director has oversight responsibility for the professional performance of the collections manager and the CAR director is accountable for the fiscal soundness of the operating budget dedicated to collections maintenance. The CAR Director reports to the Chair of the Department of Anthropology regarding policies and activities related to collections. The Dean of Liberal and Fine Arts at the University of Texas at San Antonio are accountable for the CAR holdings including financial commitments to the care and maintenance of the collections.

  4. Loans

    Loans are both accepted and made in order to further our missions of research, education and public outreach. Only individuals that are affiliated with a research institution or contract firm and are holding an advanced degree in Anthropology or a related field will be considered professionally qualified to obtain loans from Car's holdings. Any individual associated with the Texas Archeological Society through direct membership or through membership in an affiliated regional organization will be considered eligible with an additional stipulation. An individual with vocational status will be asked to have loans cosigned by a sponsoring professional archaeologist and/or institution meeting the aforementioned criteria. Loans will only be granted for a maximum of one year unless extraordinary reasons can be presented at which time the CAR Director will make the final decision regarding the loan period. Loans are renewable; however, materials that have been on extended loan may be recalled.

  5. Deaccession

    CAR staff have not developed a deaccession policy at present. However, since the majority of Car's collections are derived from compliance with state and federal regulations, any proposed deaccession would meet these rules.

  6. Access

    Only qualified researchers or students engaged in legitimate research are allowed access to Car's collections. A proposed plan of research must be approved in advance by the director of CAR and by the collections manager before allowing any researcher access. For federal collections, the controlling agency will be notified of any destructive or potentially controversial analysis. Access to any human remains must meet with the stipulations below under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Additionally, CAR reserves the right to deny access to persons without a valid scientific research plan.

  7. Acquisition

    Originally established to curate materials generated from in-house projects, CAR primarily accepts collections limited to south and south-central Texas, but CAR will consider accepting collections from other areas when these collections fit the broader regional and thematic areas already exemplified by our collections, such as historic San Antonio, the Spanish Missions, prehistoric hunter-gatherers and proto-historic Indians of the greater south-central and south Texas regions. Although the CAR staff does not actively seek collections, it may seek to acquire certain collections to strengthen the thematic focus of the CAR holdings.

  8. Conservation/Care

    The maintenance of the collections at the level of high quality archival care will be supported to the limit of the fiscal abilities of the Center. In addition, UTSA has historically provided and continues to provide funding dedicated to all aspects of collections maintenance and care. If and when needed, outside sources of grants and matching funds will be sought to upgrade and maintain the collections.

  9. Records and Inventory

    The Center has begun transferring the inventory and tracking systems of the collections and records into electronic form. This is an ongoing project that could be completed within three to five years without any additional funds. An existing database containing basic presence/absence data on specific classes of artifacts has been maintained for several years. This system has been converted into Microsoft Access7. This database will serve as the tracking system for records and collections inventories, loans, and accessions.

    The inventory schedule is as follows.

    1. Baseline Every new collection shall be inventoried during formal accession process. If the collection to be accessioned has been generated through a state or federal permit process, it must be submitted with an inventory.

    2. Site On a yearly basis, a new inventory listing of site collections will be produced from the database.

    3. Complete Every 10 years a complete inventory of the collections and records for the curatorial facility will be conducted. The database will be updated and the Texas Historical Commission and/or the controlling federal agency will be notified of missing or damaged materials.

    4. Spot-check Every five years a random check of one-third of the collection will be conducted for location accuracy. Within large collections 5% of the collection will be inventoried. Any change in conditions or counts of held-in-trust collections will be reported to the appropriate agency.

    5. Relocation Prior to any loans, a collection will be inventoried. In cases of large collections, a random 5% of the collection will be verified before the loan is initiated.

  10. Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)

    CAR will not accept any human remains without clear documentation regarding the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) status and the submission must be arranged in advance. Anyone desiring access to human remains that may potentially fall under NAGPRA regulations is asked to submit a written request. A committee consisting of the collections manager, the staff osteologist, the director of CAR, the chair of the Department of Anthropology, and the academic dean will make the final determination regarding access.

  11. Public Information

    The Center's web site carries a listing by county of site collections held at Car's Collections Storage facility. Plans for the future include a searchable database for particular classes or specific types of artifacts. This database will be separate from that used for inventory purposes.

  12. Collections Care and Storage

    Although, over the 26-year history of CAR collections management and curation standards have changed, not all collections comply with the standards presented below. It is the aim of CAR to update the facilities and the quality of the collections care. Currently, the collections are stored on open metal shelving in archival quality boxes of two major sizes (20"x16"x5" and 5"x8"x10") and identified with foil-backed adhesive labels. Records, prints and negatives, slides, and any associated databases or software are placed in archival quality storage folders and jackets which are then stored in standard legal size (27"x15"x10.5") metal filing cabinets. Agencies and individuals are asked to provide their own archival acid-free folders and archival photo/slide/negative/diskette preservers. All records, including original field forms should be on acid-free paper before they arrive at CAR. Oversized maps are placed in archival quality jackets and stored in metal map cabinets. The following items are prohibited from the collections storage area: tobacco, food, drink, and personal items. No objects or records may be removed from the facility without a formal loan.

  13. Registration System

    The collections and records stored in the CAR facility have been donated, loaned, or generated through cultural resource management activities. Thus, each collection may arrive in different conditions and require different methods of registration.

    1. Standards for the Accession of Donations

      A donation will be assigned an accession number and catalogued to the class or type level. The items in the collection will be marked with the accession number and a sequential number for each individual class or type of artifact present in the collection. If information exists to attribute the material to a site, the state trinomial and a sequential number will be assigned to each individual class or type of artifact and marked on the artifacts. A record of the collection and its accession number or site trinomial will be recorded in the database.

    2. Procedures for the Submission of Archaeological Collections and Records

      The submission of archaeological collections and associated records generated through cultural resource management activities will be accepted for custodial storage at CAR when these collections meet the criteria specified in the Car's stated Scope of Collections. The following paragraphs outline the guidelines for submitting archaeological materials for curation at the Center for Archaeological Research, UTSA.

      In general, materials to be curated at CAR must be submitted in the analytical categories used for analysis and reporting. The groups of items must be clearly identified by analytical category. Ceramics, for example, are normally reported by ceramic type (Puebla Blue-on-White Majolica, Transfer printed with earthenware, etc.). Similarly, lithic tools are typically reported by categories such as beveled knives, Perdiz points, endscrapers, etc. Submission of collections according to these criteria is considered to be the professional and ethical responsibility of the submitting archaeologist, allowing the evaluation of analytical results by others. Collections that do not meet these standards in their entirety will be rejected.

      1. All collections, including records and materials must be complete when submitted for curation. A CAR Collections Inventory Worksheet(s) must be included with the collection at the time of delivery. There shall be a separate worksheet for each site and for each phase of investigation at each site (e.g., survey, testing, or excavation collection).

      2. All materials shall be cleaned and stabilized using professionally approved, nondestructive, and reversible techniques. All techniques and materials used in processing a collection, aside from normal cleaning with water, should be documented.

      3. Individually labeled items should include a site designation and intrasite provenience designation (CAR recommends a lot/provenience system). These designations should be written on the items with permanent ink (such as Sakura7 or Staedtler7 brand pens) and coated with Acryloid B-72 or polyvinyl acetate (PVA) for protection. Apply a thin base coat of Acryloid B-72 or PVA prior to labeling specimens and then apply a topcoat. Dark specimens are to be labeled with permanent white ink and coated as above or using Acryloid B-72 white solution as a base coat. Do not use whiteout as a base or clear nail polish as a coating.

      4. Paper bags will not be accepted for curation at CAR. Use 4-mil reclosable (zip locking) polyethylene bags for all artifacts. Do not write on the polyethylene bag.

      5. All artifact tags/labels must be on acid-free paper. Information handwritten on labels must be written in pencil or archival ink. Sakura7 and Staedtler7 make archivally stable marking pens in various pen widths. CAR recommends marking pens with .005 or .01 widths for labeling artifacts. The wider widths are useful for completing records and inventory forms. Pencil is recommended for field records and analysis forms. Labels must be readily visible and legible. Tags in bags of shell, metal, bone, soil samples, or any materials, which may deteriorate/stain labels, should be put in 2x3 inch 2-mil zip locking bags to prevent contact with artifacts. Heavy bulk samples should be double-bagged.

      6. CAR uses standard sized boxes to shelve the materials submitted. The cost of these boxes is included in the curation shelf cost. However, materials should be submitted packaged so that a minimum of time is expended to move the materials into their new containers. Lithic materials should not be packed with organic materials since these materials will not be placed in the same boxes.

      7. CAR will not accept any human remains without clear documentation as to the NAGPRA status and the submission must be arranged in advance.

      8. Each box of collections or records should be clearly labeled with contents and an inventory of materials placed inside the box. If the materials are to be shipped, CAR recommends that a carrier that will insure and track each box be used. Please call the curatorial staff to make sure we know your materials are in transit and to confirm that they have arrived.

      9. Records should be in acid-free folders and submitted in an order that is understandable to anyone outside of the project. The usual breakdown of records is to separate level records, feature forms, daily journals, etc. A copy of the photographic log should be submitted both as part of the records and with the photographs. CAR prefers the original records, but if necessary a good, clear copy is acceptable. However, please do not submit large numbers of copies without informing CAR staff in advance. All records should have the project name, number (if applicable), site number, intrasite provenience and recorders name clearly marked on each page.

      10. A specimen inventory at least to the class level should be included with materials. This may be a report from a database. However, any original individual specimen catalogues should also be submitted. Both of these inventories should include full provenience information and the lot and catalogue numbers assigned to each individual item or class of items. Any specific cataloguing schemes should be spelled out in the records.

      11. Photographic materials should minimally be reconciled with the photographic log's roll and shot number. Please add an additional category of frame number to clarify if shot numbers and printed frame numbers do not match. Either a contact sheet or 3 x 5 prints of each roll must be submitted. Negatives and slides should be submitted in polyethylene sleeves. Prints or the contact sheet must be placed into polyethylene plastic sleeves and the roll and frame number clearly written on the back. Use only film-marking pencil for handwritten information. Sharpies are forbidden as they tend to bleed through the image over time. Foil-backed adhesive labels are preferred for any computer-generated labels.

      12. Any large format maps should be submitted in archival folders. Folders may be purchased from any of the archival suppliers and come in sizes ranging from ledger to larger than a standard 7.5' topographic map. Multiple maps may be submitted in one folder with acid-free tissue paper between the maps for protection.