This post is authored by Kye Miller, Senior Project Director at PaleoWest Archaeology.
At the dawn of my career as an archaeologist, like most of us, I learned to draft site sketch maps with a compass and pacing, all forms and logs were kept on paper, and transects were determined from a compass bearing. Fast forward to 2019 and I haven’t used paper in the field or office for over seven years. We are now training newly graduated “green” field technicians exclusively with digital methods: GPS units, iDevice data management and mapping, photogrammetry, and so on. The newer generations of cultural resource managers will likely never know the pleasure of carrying a handheld compass, lined and graph paper and pencil, and paper topographic maps. These tools, and much more, are rapidly being replaced with digital devices and applications.
Digital methods, such as the PaleoWay system employed by PaleoWest Archaeology and systems developed by our partner Codifi Paperless Solutions, allow archaeologists to significantly reduce workloads (primarily data entry and digitization), errors, and ultimately the cost for conducting cultural resource projects, while increasing efficiency, accuracy, and quality of data collection. In the summer of 2014, PaleoWest Archaeology conducted the first large-scale all-digital data recovery project on a Colonial-Pioneer period ballcourt village along the Santa Cruz River, north of Tucson, Arizona. The project developers required a tight schedule and employing all-digital methods allowed us to collect quality data faster than ever before to meet a nearly impossible deadline, resulting in the identification and excavation of an adobe ballcourt, over one hundred pithouses, and hundreds of burials and extramural features.
I’ve observed mixed reactions to digital methods in CRM. Some more seasoned CRM practitioners are hesitant to utilize the new technology, often seemingly originating from a general lack of knowledge of digital technology coupled with a lifetime of traditional record keeping. The younger generation is more amenable to, and excited about, the transition to digital methods and, with their reliance on digital devices in their daily lives, typically requires fewer hours of training. Most tend to envision a bright future that improves the way we document and manage invaluable cultural resources.
SAVE THE DATE: MAY 16-17
Join ACRA in Washington, D.C. on May 16-17 for CRM Day on Capitol Hill! We’ll be meeting with Senators and Representatives to discuss the CRM industry. There are 100 new members of Congress, and lots of new staffers too. We need to introduce ACRA, and our priorities, to the new leaders on the Hill! We’ll also be visiting our champions in Congress to ask them for their continued support of our work.
ACRA will arrange the meetings and provide training beforehand. Together with fellow ACRA members, you will talk with Members of Congress and their staff about our most pressing CRM concerns.
Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to influence preservation policy at the national level. Help make a difference for CRM businesses across America - join us!
Now that the government has reopened (until February 15 at least), federal government workers are back on the job. President Trump signed a bill that allowed direct federal employees to get back pay for the length of the shutdown – but what about contractors?
Many CRM firms interact with the federal government on a daily basis. From working on federal contracts to relying on joint federal funding for university labs, we have heard from many of you that your operations have been negatively affected in recent weeks. As of now, federal contractors are NOT guaranteed backpay for the work that they have been conducting or have lost during the shutdown. Now there is a growing effort in Washington to change that – and we need your help to try and make it happen.
We need you to share your shutdown stories with us. Were you instructed to keep working on federal projects without pay? Were you told that you could keep working on a project, but that you would have to do so without certain precautions like park rangers being on site? Was your lab shut down and students who depend on the funding for necessities like food and rent went unpaid? We want to know it all.
The more stories we have to take to Washington, the louder we will be heard by legislators. Let us know in the comments how the shutdown has affected you!
PROMOTING SYNERGY BETWEEN THE ACADEMY AND THE CRM INDUSTRY: EDUCATION AND TRAINING
I have been leading an ongoing ACRA Task Force focused on “promoting synergy between the academy and the CRM industry” for the past year. The Task Force, consisting of academic and CRM industry professionals, decided that it would promote collaboration in pursuit of two key objectives: Research/Data Access and Education. Collaboration between academic professionals and those working within the CRM industry is not new; neither is it well established. Much work remains to encourage increased collaboration. Communication is essential for increasing collaboration between academic professionals and those working within the CRM industry. Neither side fully understands the constraints and/or opportunities under which the other operates. In the first post of this series, I am going to focus on the education and training of future CRM employees.
Task Force discussions revealed that academic departments have significant constraints related to curricula. Departments can provide only a limited number of courses; the addition of any course most likely requires the removal of another course. Presenting industry needs to administrative officials would also likely be unproductive; rather, our industry needs to find faculty members who would champion additional courses or new programs that meet the needs of our industry.
On the other hand, academic professionals perceive that our industry has significant funds to financially support educational programs and internships. This may be the case for a limited number of firms, but for the average small firm, funds are dedicated to employee benefits and the long-term financial welfare of the owner. Industry support of training through internships is a more viable option; however, academic professionals need to understand that workload and contracts are not always conducive to the support of internships. Nevertheless, our industry needs to evaluate if we are doing enough to support the training of future employees.
A recent survey conducted by Dr. Karen Larkin of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Ms. Michelle Slaughter of Metcalf Archaeological Consultants, Inc. (“Bridging the Gap Between CRM and Academia: Training Future Archaeologists – A Potential Model” 2018 ACRA Conference) indicates that academic professionals and CRM industry managers have very different views of how well prepared undergraduates (BA degree and field school) are for CRM employment. Continued conversations regarding industry needs and how academic professionals might meet those needs are necessary.
Given the disparity between the perceptions of academic and industry professionals, the Task Force has proposed the following courses of action:
The Task Force would like you to think about the following:
Let us know your thoughts on these questions in the comments.
The 2019 ACRA Conference may be months away, but preparations are already underway for this exciting event! This year attendees will be converging on Spokane, Washington from October 24–27 to exchange ideas, meet new colleagues, and hear updates on our industry.
This year’s theme is ACRA at 25 - Exploring Our Past to Build Our Future. Using our host city’s frontier history as our impetus, sessions and events during the conference will focus on looking into ACRA's past as we build the programs that our members need. This includes introspective sessions examining where the organization has come from and where we would like to go, as well as connections between ACRA firms and those who use the data we produce.
Registration won’t open until early April, but we need your input now—the Call for Sessions has just been posted. If you have an idea for a great conference topic, we want to hear it! The deadline for proposals is March 15, 2019. Not sure what planning a conference presentation entails? Check out our Manual for Speakers for more details.
We will be sharing details regarding sessions and special events over the next few months, including a feature on the fantastic location for the annual Awards reception in a blog post next week. In the meantime, help us build our program by letting us know in the comments what sessions you would like to see at the 2019 ACRA Conference!
The call for nominations for the 2019 ACRA Awards is now open! ACRA Awards recognize private and public sector clients of ACRA member firms for CRM accomplishments and commitments exceeding those required by various laws and regulations. ACRA Awards also recognize ACRA member firms or employees thereof who have made a long-term and on-going public service commitment to CRM.
The deadline for receipt of nominations is FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2019, at 5:00 PM EDT. Awards will be presented during the ACRA Conference October 24-27, 2019, in Spokane, Washington.
Industry Award-Private Sector: Presented to an ACRA firm’s private sector client who has demonstrated accomplishments and commitments above and beyond those required to meet laws and regulations pertaining to CRM. Recognition can be for completed single or multiple projects, or for an on-going commitment.
James Klickovich of Calpine Corporation is presented the Industry Private Sector award at the 2018 ACRA Conference in Cincinnati.
Industry Award-Public Sector: Presented to an ACRA firm’s public sector client who has demonstrated accomplishments and commitments above and beyond those required to meet laws and regulations pertaining to CRM. Recognition can be for completed single or multiple projects, or for an on-going commitment.
Public Service Award: Presented to an ACRA company, or current employee thereof, who has made a long-term contribution to the study, management, and/or preservation of cultural resources, or who has contributed volunteer efforts and resources for the betterment of their immediate community, county, state, etc. Contributions may include, but are not limited to, training students for CRM careers, internships, and the development and delivery of environmental, preservation, and interpretive programs.
For more details, please review the Call for Nominations on the ACRA page.
This post is authored by Elaine Robinson, Senior Architectural Historian with Commonwealth Heritage Group in Dexter, Michigan.
When I entered the world of Cultural Resource Management as an architectural historian, the fifty-year guideline (I refuse to call it a rule) was at about 1945. The guideline is part of the standards used to determine which cultural resources are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Also considered are the four Criteria for Evaluation (association with events, persons, architecture, or likely to yield important information about the past) and the seven aspects of integrity (location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association). Looking back, I realize how convenient that was for historians. For the most part, the industry was still using the end of World War II as the cut-off for survey and documentation. Style guides and architectural books all covered the entire gamut of defined styles (the issue of vernacular forms is an entirely different issue…best saved for another time) that we were required to review. These resource books include names of every tiny feature, from acanthus to water table.
However, as time passes, and the date of construction for resources to be surveyed extends into the late 1960s, the reliable style guides are less likely to cover relevant styles, or even provide names for features that have to be described by the historian. Some of the style guides do offer vague discussions of architectural styles after 1945, but these are often lumped into a single category of “contemporary” or include resources that may not fit into individual State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)’s standards for a time period. And, even if style guides do include information you could use, getting the SHPO to recognize some of the terms can be more challenging than can be addressed in a single post. Consider the “wounded dove” roof form as mentioned in the 2013 A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia McAlester.
Some training sessions on the styles of buildings of the mid-twentieth century do exist, such as the National Preservation Institute seminar “The Recent Past: Strategies for Evaluation.” Unfortunately, this seminar is not offered often and can be cost prohibitive. This can lead to making up terms for architectural features, like my personal one of “fixed hopper” to reference windows in mid-century buildings that are placed at an angle that echoes an open hopper window. Or having to use full paragraphs to describe an individually important feature.
"Fixed Hopper" windows extend across the front of the 1950 Crystal Motors, 5901 Bay Parkway, Brooklyn, New York (photo by Samuel H. Gottscho).
It seems like it is time for another style guide. One that covers architectural features that dominated the twentieth century, from curtain walls to prow roof lines and beyond. As historians who are documenting twentieth-century buildings, please tell us about your experiences, the names you have used for architectural details, or resource materials that would benefit others!
As is discussed in the first blog post, for 20 years (1994-2014) ACRA hosted a listserv, called ACRA-l. ACRA-l served the CRM community well and provided a much-needed mechanism for CRM practitioners, from novices to company principals, to communicate about issues that were important to us. Topics ranged from job posts, to artifact identifications, to information on running a business; the listserv was dynamic and active thru 2013. In 2013, use of the listserv dropped dramatically, while newer platforms and interfaces were taking over our daily lives. The ACRA board decided that it was time to cease supporting the listserv and search for new ways to connect the CRM community.
It is my hope that the ACRAsphere Blog will provide a place for all our voices to be heard, a place to reinvigorate dialog between CRM practitioners of all levels, in all disciplines. Unlike platforms we have tried for the last 5 years, I hope that this system will recapture the value ACRA-l brought to our community using modern interfaces. I hope this blog can connect individuals, provide important updates to our community, create opportunities for random and guided discussions, and embrace the variety of voices with the CRM community.
Posts on this blog will be scheduled and created by a team of volunteers and staff. I hope that dialog related to our posts will occur in the comment section, which is open to everyone. In order to also allow for dialog on other topics important to you, we have created a "General Discussion" blog post. The General Discussion post is open for everyone to comment on, add new dialog, and start new strings. As we develop the blog, we may find other mechanisms to allow for informal discussions, categories of discussions, etc.
Readers can now find relevant news items compiled all in one place! In our CRM Firms in the News series, we feature recent mentions of ACRA member firms and their projects across the country. Was your firm recently featured in a news article or on social media? Send it to us to be included in our next volume of the series!
If you don't live in Washington, D.C., the daily workings of the federal government can feel far away from your everyday life. CRM professionals know better - federal government operations are integral to their conducting their business. Not only is Section 106 the basis for much of the country's CRM work, but policymakers are making decisions every day that could impact firms on everything from taxes to National Register regulations. Even them NOT making decisions is negatively affecting firms across the country!
CRM professionals need ensure they have a place at the table. Given the importance of the federal government in our work, it is necessary to advocate for the industry, educate policymakers about the value of our work, and provide expertise on how to make permitting more efficient without sacrificing preservation values.
ACRA member Vanessa Mirro conducting meetings on Capitol Hill
While many professionals understand the importance of the relationship between the federal government and the CRM industry, they feel apprehension about engaging with those making decisions on their behalf - even when those decision makers are not well-informed on heritage-related issues.
ACRA's latest webinar - Advocacy Skills for All - aims to give you more confidence in engaging with policymakers. You will get the skills to ensure that you are heard by legislators at all levels of government.
In this follow up to our post-election webinar, which is FREE for ACRA members (and only $25 for non-members!), we will train you to advocate effectively for your business and your community. We’ll focus on methods for engaging policymakers, and how to communicate your message effectively to different audiences.
There is no "correct" way to be an advocate - it is just important to participate. Let us show you how you can make a difference for the issues you care about most in the manner you feel most comfortable (and on your own schedule!). Register for Advocacy Skills for All NOW.
SAVE MY SEAT FOR THIS WEBINAR