Proposal for Departmental Curation Plan

We recommend the creation of an advisory board charged with individual accession and deaccession decisions. The composition of this board may need to change based on the current needs of the department, but we see it as being ideally composed of two students with experience in Archaeology, two Carleton Archaeology professors, and some amount of stakeholders from the local community. The identity of these stakeholders should depend on the current site that is currently being excavated by the Archaeology Department, but some examples could be members of local indigenous communities, Northfield residents, and Carleton Alumni.  Following the recommendation of Dr. Jennifer Farquhar, this board should, if possible, include experts in different types of artifacts; i.e. a bioarcheologist like Dr. Kennedy, a ceramics expert, a lithic expert, etc. 

We recommend that this committee assess artifacts based on a point-based criteria which ranks individual artifacts in terms of condition, aesthetic value, rarity, and potential for further analysis. Aesthetic values would range from 1-2 points with 1 point going to items that are not particularly attractive or eye catching and 2 points going to an item that is visually striking. Condition would range from 1-3 points with 1 being ruined or destroyed condition and 3 being pristine and completely intact. Rarity will be scaled through yes or no with a “rare” item receiving 3 points. Finally, potential for analysis will be a yes or no, with a yes yielding 3 points.

Artifacts that score 9 points or higher will be kept and artifacts that score lower than 9 will be deaccessioned. Once deaccessioned, artifacts should be donated to any interested parties. If such parties cannot be found the artifacts should be repurposed, for example, bones should be composted or given to people to repurpose into art while metal and glass should be recycled. If the artifacts cannot be repurposed they should be reburied at the site they were excavated from. 

It is of course important to note that this point system is not meant to be absolutely binding. In many cases, there will likely be artifacts that have some intangible reason to be kept that is not expressed in the point system. The advisory board will always have the power to make their own subjective decisions if they see fit.

Importantly, we view this plan as being geared primarily toward processing the artifacts already held by the department. With regard to future accessions, we feel that the department should pursue a more considered policy in taking in new artifacts. Instead of simply gathering all artifacts discovered at a given site, and then composing research questions based on the artifacts gathered, the class should compose their research questions (to the extent that this is feasible) before excavations begin, and then only collect those artifacts relevant to their question. 

Another way to reduce future over-collecting is some sort of catch-and-release philosophy. This could manifest in a wide range of specific plans, but it would involve making decisions to analyze some artifacts in the field while excavating or surveying. In this way, all found artifacts would be documented, but only exceptionally important or unique objects would be brought back to the lab for further analysis and storage.