MA Theses in HRM: Marina Tinkcom, 2019

The Present Status of the Curation Crisis and Deaccessioning in the United States


Viewed as unmanageable, growing archaeological collections in the US were deemed the “curation crisis” in the early 1970s. Guidelines on curation were issued in 1990 with 36 CFR Part 79, followed by a call for national standards on curation and improvement on the status of collections by the Society for American Archaeology. National standards have not been issued, and it is not clear whether the call for improvement was successful since the current status of collections is generally unknown. This study assessed 11 major US archaeological repositories and determined around a third of collections do not meet modern curation standards, but many of the individual standards are being met. Funding and space are the most often noted hindrance, and methods used to meet standards vary across institutions. The major contributor to collections in the US is Heritage Resource Management. While every institution deaccessions collections, not all provided deaccessioning policies.

Keywords:   curation crisis; archaeological collections; curation standards; questionnaire; deaccessioning