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Cultural Resource Management
and the Internet: A Touch of "Gray"

Gregory D. Lattanzi

Is the Internet the indispensable tool that cultural resource management (CRM)1 professionals imagined? Some say it is not [A. Lutins, 1998, Internet Resources for Cultural Resource Management (CRM) Professionals. SAA Bulletin 16(3): 30], but I disagree. The Internet is an important and useful tool for CRM professionals, but CRM firms have not taken full advantage of the new technology. Only limited access to cultural resource2 information (i.e., reports, report bibliographies, indices) exists on the Internet for CRM practitioners, state/tribal historic preservation officers (SHPOs), and the public. But this is a CRM problem, not an Internet one. As a result of this lack of access, CRM professionals, SHPOs, and the public tend to remain isolated from each other and do not use the Internet to improve communication. In general, the sources of CRM are not readily accessible to everyone, creating the phrase we love to hate, the "gray literature."

This article examines current uses of the World Wide Web by CRM professionals, the problems encountered by the CRM community in using this medium, and ways the Internet can be used to improve information exchange. In addition, the results of my recent survey of CRM professionals provides data on how cultural resource information can be better disseminated through the Internet, who should control this information, what form it should take, and how SHPOs and CRM practitioners currently use this technology. The survey shows that it is possible to use the Internet to improve the quality of information exchange between CRM practitioners and SHPOs. Once more Web sites with substantive data are created, CRM firms and perhaps SHPOs will begin to see the advantages of a shared repository for cultural resource information. Through the innovative and responsible use of the Internet, archaeologists will be able to effectively bring the gray literature into the colorful and exciting Internet world.

Cultural Resource Management and the Internet

The Internet has changed the face of archaeology and CRM. The introduction of the World Wide Web in 1992 changed how that information could be exchanged through new and innovative forms of design and presentation (S. Gassaway, G. Davis, and C. Gregory, 1996:13, Designing Multimedia Web Sites. Hayden Books, Indianapolis). Numerous archaeological organizations (SAA, SHA, SIA, ROPA, and so on), journals (SAA Bulletin, CRM, World Archaeology, Journal of Field Archaeology, etc.), and resources (National Archaeological Database, Anthropology Resources on the Internet, Yahoo, ArchNet, Archaeology WebRing,, etc.) are available on the Internet, and new ones are added all the time. National Register of Historic Places nomination forms, National Register of Historic Places listings, federal regulations and legislation, GIS software, government and state contracts, satellite aerial photographs, and Historic American Buildings Surveys, Historic American Engineering Records also are available on the Web. All of these sites provide much-needed and up-to-date archaeological information and disseminate it far more widely than traditional means.

An early issue of CRM [1995, Vol. 18(9)] was devoted to the subject of cultural resources and the Web, while a more recent one [CRM 1998, Vol. 21(5)] centered on new technologies. Both contain lists of Web sites invaluable to the contract archaeologist. Two columns in the SAA Bulletin focus on the Internet and technology (Networks and Interface -- Archaeology and Technology), which provide a necessary outlet to inform the professional community of the ever-growing list of online archaeological resources.

CRM companies are only just beginning to enter into the global Internet community. Most still do not have home pages. The CRM Web sites that exist provide images, limited project descriptions, staff profiles, job opportunities, guestbooks, and, of course, the ability to contact companies via email. They also provide company profiles to online visitors and provide a way to get in touch with them. Some sites also include report abstracts, bibliographies, and even provide full reports or lists upon request, or reports for sale (for some examples, see,,, and

Having a Web site can be a great advantage to a CRM firm, reaching a wider audience than a firm without a home pageincluding future clients and field crews. CRM home pages can help their current and future clients in other ways: Clients can ask their consultants what they do and how they do it; and they can see credentials, other projects, and client lists. Web pages also can have a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section to explain cultural resource management and compliance issues to help clients through the process. Internet availability keeps the lines of communication open between CRM firms and their clients, it opens up opportunities to further business relations, and helps projects run smoother.

Architectural and engineering firms that provide CRM services also are putting up Web sites. These firms provide a useful service to the rest of the archaeological community by offering quick and easy Web access. Large engineering firms who conduct CRM investigations have an advantage since they have the resources to afford elaborate home pages. However, even the smallest firms can compete with larger ones on the Internet. Every firm is equal when seen through the eyes of the World Wide Web.

There also are Web sites available that can benefit the CRM practitioner to help deal with proposals and contracts. Government contracts, request for proposals (RFPs) by state, cultural resource management, and other government contracts abound online. Web sites such as those maintained by the Engineering News Record (, (=GovCon (, and the Commerce Business Daily ( are just a few that list government or state cultural resource contracts or environmental jobs. Each state also has its own Web site, which includes request for proposals and available contracts. Most sites require some sort of free registration, but it is worth the time.

In contrast to CRM practitioners, most State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO) already have Web sites. They inform the local public of statewide activities and current events, provide information on current projects and compliance issues, and list contact details. SHPO Web sites also contain their own business information. Current news, museum and educational programs, grant and funding applications, internships, job openings, summer programs, local archaeology and preservation projects, and directions on how to get involved are all present on their sites. SHPO Web sites allow in-house project reviewers and other SHPOs to interact with consultants and lay people in a timely and efficient manner. Consultants can contact SHPOs with questions, schedule meetings, and attach documents (correspondence) while still creating a paper trail. Being able to contact SHPOs quickly reduces the lengthy project review process and keeps clients updated on the project's status. Thus, the consultant, the client, and the SHPO use time and resources more efficiently. As with CRM firms that are online, SHPO Web sites can reach a wider audience than traditional means of disseminating information. Current local or regional research undertaken by each SHPO can be displayed and used to educate the public in the state's history and prehistory. SHPOs also have access to cultural resource management data pertaining to projects that were carried out in their state. CRM firms use most of these reports for background research for a particular study area. Easier access to this information is desperately needed. Sometimes CRM firms are located very far away from the SHPO or need the information quickly. Some SHPOs provide printed or computerized bibliographies of their cultural resource management reports to consultants. However, these formats are hardly current.

The SHPOs, with their vast Internet resources, have the ability to provide the rest of the cultural resource community with pertinent data conducted within every state, as it relates to archaeology, historic preservation, architectural history, architectural conservation, and current and future state laws and statutes. Unfortunately, very few of the sites provide that level of information and obstacles exist in the CRM system that hamper SHPOs and CRM practitioners in providing this information.

What Are the Problems?

It is information exchange that is most severely lacking between CRM professionals and SHPOs. There is information that does exist on the Internet that no one knows about and should be publicized. Establishing a Web site or obtaining Internet access does not seem to be a problem in the CRM community. However, applying this technology in a way that will bring a new dimension to the field of CRM has been difficult thus far: (1) no comprehensive, online indices exist of contract CRM company Web pages, (2) some professionals do not have Internet access, and (3) there is sometimes disagreement about posting the information online. What and how much information should be posted online? Who should be in control or provide access? Should there be any standards? In addition, the Web-presence of CRM firms and SHPOs falls short in sharing much more than the most basic information with the public, and most CRM firms and SHPOs do not see the Internet as a way to foster communication among and between each other. This medium is clearly not used as it should be -- as a tool that can inform, teach, and communicate.

At the moment, there are only a few Web sites which provide a comprehensive list of CRM companies or SHPOs. The States Services Organization ( houses a Web site ( that lists all available SHPOs mail and Internet addresses. The SSO site is by far the most comprehensive and up-to-date site to find SHPO contacts. Jennifer Hutchey has a list of U.S. and Canada contract companies online at Another Web site is one created by the author ( ). ACRA, the American Cultural Resources Association (, also has a large membership list comprised of CRM and other professionals. Another site ( ) lists the addresses, phone numbers, and some URLs of firms throughout the country and Canada. Although this site contains an out-of-date disclaimer, it is one of the best for locating CRM firms. State Historic Preservation Office Web sites provide a great deal of information on cultural resources and their management within each state.

However, most of these sites do not contain any annotated bibliographies (reports usually housed by the SHPO) or other substantive archaeological data. Most SHPOs have databases of their holdings (investigation reports) within their own organization, and are most sought by archaeologists researching CRM reports. These databases could easily be converted into Web-publishable material. Ultimately, CRM is a business. As such, there are always complications with providing something for nothing. But few realize the tremendous research potential of the Internet within their own fields. They still communicate and rely on the old-fashioned ways of gathering and disseminating information (the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" mentality).

Of course, not all CRM reports can be posted online without the consent of the client, the government agency, or the company president. Reports also need feedback and "final reports" are never really final. Would the CRM company or a client want to post information that can be seen by the entire Internet community and possible competitors? That question should be considered before the CRM industry is asked to account for itself and is better answered by the firm or the SHPO offices.

Giving free access to state-registered site locations is another problem to be considered. That sensitive information doesn't, and perhaps shouldn't, be freely accessible to the public and might be better left with the SHPOs. This problem can easily be solved by restricting the access to site locations and registration forms to academics or professional archaeologists engaged in research.

Should the SHPOs make the gray literature available? Most reports are housed at the SHPO offices anyway. It seems more likely that the CRM firm would take the first step and put the information on the Web. However, most SHPOs already have a Web presence and some provide report bibliographies on disk upon request. These bibliographies could be published online to show how taxpayer dollars are being spent. The National Archaeological Database (, currently sponsored by the National Park Service and hosted by the University of Arkansas, is a comprehensive list of some of the available CRM literature. So far, this seems to be the bridge across the information gap. However, it is updated infrequently (the last one was in 1997) and is incomplete.

Problems exist with obtaining information and making it readily available on the Internet. For CRM firms to take the lead in establishing a comprehensive index site, and not just an individual listing, they would possibly need some outside funding. Carroll's suggestion to obtain funding for a project that would help provide access to archaeological gray literature is a great idea [M. Carroll, 1998, SAA Bulletin 16(4): 3]. However, these grants are not necessarily available or applicable to individual CRM firms. Once CRM companies and/or SHPOs begin to put a significant amount of cultural resource information on the Internet, a set of standards and a major sponsor (if not with individual SHPOs) will have to be developed to ensure the accessibility of the information.

What Can CRM Practitioners and SHPOs Do?
The Survey Says . . .

How can the quality of information exchange among CRM companies, SHPOs, and the public be improved? More CRM practitioners should go online and provide better access to their reports. SHPOs should index their reports and provide them on disk to professionals (e.g., New York City Landmarks Commission) or put them online, making the information available without revealing site locations. All SHPOs either have Internet access through email or the World Wide Web. As more online resources become available, information will become more effectively disseminated.

How can CRM firms/SHPOs use the Internet to improve the quality of information exchange, and what do they think will be necessary to provide and search for this information? I recently conducted a survey to find answers to questions concerning information exchange and ways to help the CRM community benefit from the Internet. An inherent bias of this survey was that it was only given to CRM firms that already have some form of Internet access. However, all SHPOs were given the survey. A copy of the survey and its tabulated results are available online at .3

The survey questions were sent by email to 259 individuals (200 CRM professionals and 59 SHPOs). A copy also was distributed to the ACRA discussion list: There were a total of 79 responses. Although this was not the desired response level, the content turned out to be very interesting:

Question 1 -- Do respondents support archaeological information becoming more accessible through the Internet? An overwhelming support of this issue was indicated by the 75 (60 CRM professionals and 15 SHPOs) who answered "yes."

Question 2 -- How should this information be made available online? Among the respondents, 94 percent of CRM practitioners and 81 percent of SHPOs wanted to see summaries of data made available online. However, only 60 percent of CRM practitioners and 25 percent of SHPOs would like to see full reports online. Other ideas for possible online information were GIS data, abstracts, and registered CD-ROM distributions of reports. As noted earlier, some firms offer their reports for sale or as a bibliography. Almost all respondents answered this question, indicating a clear need for more online information.

Question 3 -- Who should provide or control access to online information? Among both CRM professionals and SHPOs, 81 percent of respondents would like to see control of access by SHPOs or other government agencies. Control of access by CRM firms was only advocated by 33 percent. Other suggestions (27 percent) for providing or controlling access of information through a centralized agency included museums, universities, libraries, SAA, the Register of Professional Archaeologists, and the American Cultural Resources Association. A centralized authority to control the presence and dissemination of cultural resource management data would be a good start to providing accessible information.

Question 4 -- With the control of this information through a centralized agency, how would one access the information? Of major concern is the problem of putting actual site locations (i.e., prehistoric, historic, sacred sites, and burials) online, which would increase the risk of vandalism and looting. Responses were divided equally between recommending a free searchable database (33 percent) and allowing only professionals with free registration and password (34 percent). Very few respondents supported a fee-based system (4 percent). Remaining respondents recommended some combination of these forms of access to allow for restricted access to certain kinds of information. One individual responded by adding, "the level of access should equal the level of sensitivity."


Question 5 -- How do respondents currently use the Internet? A majority, 90 percent of CRM professionals and 75 percent of SHPOs, said they use it for research. Fifty-seven percent of CRM professionals use it to find jobs through sites such as those mentioned previously. Both CRM professionals and SHPOs use the Internet for email, either for regular mail or discussion lists.


Question 6 -- The way information presently exists largely determines the facility of changing to an online format. Eighty-four percent of responding CRM firms store their reports in a word processing format, many of which (71 percent) also store data and report information in databases, bibliography programs, and/or graphics and mapping programs. Some respondents noted that their older reports only exist in hard copy since they pre-date word processing or were created in an outdated program. SHPOs, on the other hand, receive most of their reports in hard copy only. Most maintain some form of computerized catalog of their curated reports. A very small percentage of CRM firms are already equiped for greater report accessibility by microfilming their reports or storing them in Internet-ready formats [i.e. pdf (Adobe) and HTML]. While all of these formats are a great leap forward from 10 years ago, nearly all CRM firms will need to catch up with new technologies.


Question 7 -- Would you consider making your information available online? Of CRM respondents, 75 percent answered yes, while only 56 percent of SHPOs agreed. One of the main issues for both parties was that site location and sensitive information be excluded. Another major concern was that certain sections of reports, if placed online, could be lifted by anyone and re-used in other reports. While some respondents said that putting major excavations online would be beneficial, another suggested that the information would be too boring for the general public.


Question 8 -- How can we improve the information exchange? Only 24 CRM professionals and six SHPOs answered this question. The answers were sometimes short and others long, but all were insightful. One person saw the Web as dramatically oversold as a research vehicle, while others said that the Internet has greatly expanded the quality of information exchange and can further bridge the gray-literature barrier.

While we know that CRM does not solely revolve around archaeology, most of the Internet community does not. This needs to change, with more easily accessible CRM information on the Web. One survey suggestionthat SAA act as an online source for links to online reports and information for its membersseems to be a step in the right direction. However, a set or code of standards must be set and the medium better understood before such a step is taken. Whatever the answer may be, CRM professionals are starting to think in a different direction.


The online presence and accessibility of certain types of cultural resource management are vitally important to the exchange of information among CRM practitioners, SHPOs, and the general public. This information can take the form of abstracts, full reports, indices, summaries, or annotated bibliographies. Information regarding site locations does not have to be included. With the rising costs of archaeology, available and easy access to information is becoming a necessity. Lack of access to available data can make or break a contract, and creating easier ways to search through CRM publications on the Internet would allow a more efficient use of time. Hopefully, if more CRM firms create their own Web pages, a community will be established where all CRM professionals can share results and ideas and discuss archaeology. If that means posting a list of reports written by a CRM firm rather than the reports in their entirety, then so be itat least they will be available. Perhaps even SHPOs or their interns might be able to convert and post published bibliographies. Each SHPO houses hundreds of reports and publishes annotated bibliographies. Establishing a set of standards to disseminate this information online might be better suited for SHPOs, who would then make it available to the CRM community, and possibly the general public, on a regular basis. However, some problems need to be solved before this can occur.

Even if the only thing that results from this effort is that more CRM practitioners begin to maintain an online presence, that is a very important first step. The Internet is a vital toollet's use it! ·

1The term cultural resource management is used here as defined in T. F. King, 1998, Cultural Resource Laws and Practice: An Introductory Guide. AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek.

2 The term cultural resources is used here as defined in King (1998).

3This survey was reviewed and approved by the Society for American Archaeology's Survey Policy and Oversight Committee, according to SAA policy.

Gregory D. Lattanzi is a principal investigator at Cultural Resource Consulting Group,
a cultural resource management firm based in New Jersey.
He can be reached by email at

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