Museum space crunch threatens state’s artifacts
August 2, 2001
DENVER (AP) Archaeological artifacts statewide are threatened with irreparable damage and archaeological work on public lands could end because Colorado museums don’t meet federal storage standards, a new report says.
The draft version of a report from a Colorado Council of Professional Archaeologists committee said some museums lack climate controls needed to protect fragile objects from damaging humidity and temperature changes. Other collections have been lost or have never been completely inventoried.
In some cases, the museums housing the collections don’t know who owns them, according to the report, ”Addressing the Curation Crisis in Colorado.”
”It’s obviously a huge issue, and it has been brewing for some time,” said Mark Mitchell, a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist and president of the Colorado Council of Professional Archaeologists. ”Our collective heritage is at stake.”
The Forest Service is one of the federal agencies that will probably pull its collection out of the University of Denver museum. The collection includes 1,000-year-old Anasazi artifacts that DU anthropology department founder E.B. Renaud unearthed in the 1920s near Chimney Rock in southern Colorado.
Colorado museums have housed government archaeological collections for decades, but are running out of space. The museums don’t have the money to upgrade storage facilities to federal standards, the report said.
The University of Colorado Museum in Boulder stopped accepting government archaeology collections in January because of a lack of space and funds. The University of Denver Museum of Anthropology accepts only Colorado collections from east of the Continental Divide.
The museum space crunch may halt some archaeological surveys because professional archaeologists must arrange for storage space before obtaining state and federal permits to dig.
”While it’s not at the point of stopping projects right now, it is headed in that direction if we don’t do something,” said Kevin Black, assistant state archaeologist. ”CU was the major facility for taking material from all over the state for most of the archaeologists that work under state permit. I have no idea how this is going to shake out.”
The issue will be discussed during the executive meeting of the Colorado Council of Professional Archaeologists meeting Saturday in Salida.