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Emerging Crises in CRM Archaeology

W. Kevin Pape

Throughout the Americas, as well as in other parts of the world, the need to assess the impact of contemporary life on our cultural heritage has been recognized. In the United States, in particular, this need has been legitimized under the statutory authority of federal laws and regulations aimed at balancing the forces of development with the goals of historic preservation. Taken collectively, these statutory authorities and the techniques and methods applied to their implementation have become synonymous with the term "cultural resource management" (CRM).

Cultural resources, as the tangible manifestations of our cultural heritage, include all the expressions of native and immigrant peoples ranging from petroglyphs and platform mounds to oil derricks and "I" houses. Thus, the diversity of things defined as cultural resources requires that CRM be a multidisciplinary pursuit. Although the integration of the multiple disciplines engaged in CRM is a matter open for discussion, there is no argument that CRM practitioners include anthropologists, archaeologists, architects, architectural historians, historians, landscape architects, planners, and others.

However, for all the multidisciplinary facets of CRM, an undeniably strong link exists between CRM and American archaeology. If the roots of this link go back to the days of federal support for reservoir salvage and historic particularism (1950s), then its growth and vigor can be traced to a commitment by the federal government to support historic preservation (National Historic Preservation Act [NHPA], 1966) and a shift in archaeological thinking (defined as the New Archaeology, 1962). During this period of hybridization, archaeologists recognized the significance of data from a broader range of cultural phenomena than had previously been the case. At the same time, federal agencies were coming to grips with their responsibility to inventory and assess the cultural resources in their domain. Although archaeologists initially were slow to embrace the NHPA, the growing emphasis on planning and regional perspective in historic preservation compliance proved fertile ground for the cultivation of the New Archaeology.

Today, CRM has grown into the most influential force shaping the way archaeology is structured in the United States. It is a fact that the ranks of archaeologists employed by the private and government sectors are expanding, while academic ranks are stable or even starting to contract. It is also a fact that the volume of archaeological work being done is overwhelmingly greater on the private and government side than the academic side. I believe that the archaeological community acknowledges these trends. I also know that beyond this acknowledgment there is little, if any, consensus about their ramifications of these trends for American archaeology. Questions generated by them are myriad: Are academic institutions adequately preparing students for a career in CRM? Are the compliance requirements of CRM (i.e., the identification and preservation of "significant" sources of archaeological data) actually skewing the archaeological record for future researchers? Is the CRM system capable of striking a balance between resource management needs and problem-oriented archaeological research? Could that balance be supported in a cost-benefit analysis (another contemporary trend)? And so on.

All these questions, and a lack of consensus about how to answer them, should be expected in the dynamic environment surrounding CRM archaeology. Factions and divergent opinions are natural byproducts of dynamic situations, and to the extent that they foster debate and encourage introspection, they are healthy. In order for this debate and self-assessment to be constructive, for it to lead to shared understanding, if not consensus building, the exchange needs to be fueled by information that is current, well-informed, and reflective of the many constituents who have a stake in its outcome.

This new column in the SAA Bulletin will provide a forum for this debate. The purpose of the column will be not only to define and explicate the issues important to CRM practitioners, but also to give exposure to relevant issues of interest or concern to other CRM professionals, their clients, the public, and the archaeological community at large. Future installments of this column will strive to expand the collective understanding of how the CRM system operates, explore the concerns of practitioners and critics, update the readership about important developments in CRM, and showcase some of the archaeological research being conducted in the CRM context. Although the balance of articles will reflect an American perspective on CRM, the column will also present periodic reviews of CRM programs in other parts of the world.

The next column, however, will focus on the need for more pragmatic training of archaeologists: If one problem comes to the fore in any conversation about future directions of CRM, it is concern for the lack of preparation being given to graduate students facing a job market where the majority of available positions are in CRM. There is a disparity in employment opportunities between academic and consulting settings. While academic institutions offer fewer positions to an ever- burgeoning pool of applicants, senior positions in CRM firms go vacant because of a lack of sufficiently trained and experienced applicants. Insights will take a look at the problems encountered when archaeologists leave graduate programs and try to overcome increasingly steep learning curves in the CRM world.

Structural Responses by the Profession to CRM

Although CRM has been with us for more than 25 years, and many among us have long forecasted its influence on the profession, it has only recently gained the maturity necessary to gain the attention of the profession as a whole. Two measures of this maturation are reflected in structural responses by the profession to CRM: One response is the recent efforts by SAA to more fully integrate consulting archaeologists and their interests into the society. The other response is the movement by some of its practitioners to organize a professional business association to represent the interests of CRM practitioners, including archaeologists as well as other CRM professionals.

These two movements came together in Lexington, Kentucky, on November 9, 1994. SAA was invited to address the gathered group on the question of forming a "trade association" of CRM practitioners. SAA President Bruce Smith and Executive Director Ralph Johnson represented the SAA at this event. The news that they brought to the group was that SAA had a genuine interest in serving the multiple constituencies that comprise its membership. This interest included a set of services designed specifically for consulting archaeologists (e.g., group insurance programs; this new CRM column in the SAA Bulletin; comprehensive lists of consulting archaeologists; online services for current research; discount programs for services such as express document delivery and car rentals; and "fee for service" items such as research activities, workshops, and a searchable employment database). Proponents of the "trade association" movement explained why CRM practitioners might best be represented by the association (e.g., professionalization of the CRM community, the ability of academia to prepare students for jobs in CRM, the impact of recent changes in federal regulations, low pay scales for CRM employees, the ability of states to effectively evaluate CRM work, etc.) and what steps could be taken to establish the association.

A lively discussion, moderated by Tom Wheaton, ensued among the more than 100 attendees, during which it was clear that CRM practitioners felt underrepresented, regardless of their profession, and that there was strong interest in pursuing new avenues of representation. Although the diversity of viewpoint present cast doubt on the ability of SAA to represent all CRM practitioners, it was clear that many of the CRM archaeologists in attendance still looked to SAA to represent their interests. Ultimately, the consensus of the group was that the two movements were on parallel but separate paths, which would remain complementary but exclusive.

SAA Efforts to Address CRM: The Task Force on Consulting Archaeology

Soon after the Lexington meeting, SAA assembled a task force to develop recommendations on how consulting archaeologists can be fully engaged in and serviced by SAA. Led by Chair Michael Moratto and supported by SAA representatives Ralph Johnson (ex-officio), Bruce Smith (ex-officio), and Bill Lipe (ex-officio), the task force (which also includes Cory Breternitz, Roger G. Elston, Roberta Greenwood, Joe Joseph, Lynn Larson, Robert Mainfort, Chuck Niquette, Kevin Pape, Daniel G. Roberts, Joseph Schuldenrein, and Kay Simpson) spent the day identifying issues of concern, setting priorities, and developing action items and assignments at its first meeting in Washington, D.C., on January 7, 1995.

The productive meeting led to the identification of a focused list of issues of primary concern to consulting archaeologists. Topics in this list included representing CRM archaeologists in SAA; training; strengthening the review process, including peer review of CRM work; publishing CRM research; unfair competition, unrealistic bids, and insufficient focus on standards, as well as societal costs of procurement by lowest bid; research design planning; certification, accreditation, and licensing; research in consulting; insurance; recognition of the quality of CRM work; and SAA and the proposed trade association-mutual relationships, risks, and opportunities. The task force will meet again in Minneapolis to review and discuss the reports of its members. After this meeting the task force will draft a report to the SAA Executive Board summarizing the issues and recommendations, including the future role of the task force.

Efforts to Organize the American Cultural Resources Association

At the Lexington meeting, a decision was made to pursue the creation of an independent professional business organization to represent the interests of the CRM practitioner. A steering committee was formed to provide leadership for this pursuit; the committee is currently made up of 12 members reflecting regional and disciplinary diversity. The steering committee met most recently in Denver (February 4-5, 1995) to agree on a name for the new organization and to address the development of a mission statement, goals, constituency, membership and dues structure, activities, and bylaws for the association.

The new organization will be known as the American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA). Its mission will be to promote the professional, ethical, and business practices of the cultural resources industry, including all of its disciplines for the benefit of the resources, the public, and the members of the association. ACRA is in the preliminary stages of establishing its goals; draft language includes goals to promote and support the business needs of cultural resource practitioners; professionalism of the cultural resource industry; provide education and training opportunities for the cultural resource industry; influence public policy; and promote public awareness of cultural resources management and its diverse fields.

In addition to drafting bylaws for ACRA, the steering committee is in the process of incorporating the association and selecting members for its board. The steering committee is also working on the draft of an ethics statement. The first official board meeting will take place in Atlanta on April 8-9, 1995. One of the objectives of that meeting will be to vote on the bylaws and the ethics statement. ACRA is hoping to have its first conference this fall in Washington, D.C.

Although I plan to solicit specific articles and comments for future columns, I encourage readers to suggest topics and to respond to ideas expressed in this column. For inquiries about Insights in the SAA Bulletin, please contact W. Kevin Pape, Gray and Pape, Inc., 1318 Main St., Cincinnati, OH 45210, (513) 287-7700, fax (513) 287-7703, email 76371, Suggestions for the SAA Task Force on Consulting Archaeology can be directed to Michael Moratto, INFOTEC Research, 5088 N. Fruit Ave., Suite 101, Fresno, CA 93711, (209) 229- 1856, fax (209) 229-2019. Persons interested in more information about ACRA should contact Tom Wheaton, New South Associates, 6150 E. Ponce de Leon Ave., Stone Mountain, GA 30083, (404) 498-4155, fax (404) 498-3809, or email.

W. Kevin Pape is with Gray and Pape, Inc.

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