Caring for Archaeological Collections

by Jennifer Torres* – Archaeological Collections Assistant 

Collections management is defined as the process to document and care for museum collections. Often, this includes documenting all objects, ensuring the preservation of such documentation for the future, housing objects in a proper storage environment, and conducting frequent inventories and environmental monitoring. For archaeological collections, maintaining the highest legal, ethical, and professional standards is necessary given the sometimes sensitive nature of such a collection. The Fairfax County Park Authority’s collection of archaeological objects has been undergoing many changes in the hopes of receiving accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), an organization that develops and implements best practices for museums and similar institutions. The process of accreditation is a long-term project, but small changes can make for big improvements.

Conducting an inventory of a collection of objects not only documents the number and location of objects, but also identifies objects that require conservation or improved storage conditions and identifies objects with lacking or missing provenience that need to be further researched or documented. An inventory of the Fairfax County Park Authority's archaeological collection has begun in order to reconcile any problems with the storage and maintenance of the collection.

Collections Inventory

Conducting an inventory of a collection of objects not only documents the number and location of objects, but also identifies objects that require conservation or improved storage conditions and identifies objects with lacking or missing provenience that need to be further researched or documented. An inventory of the Fairfax County Park Authority’s archaeological collection has begun in order to reconcile any problems with the storage and maintenance of the collection.

Acid-free Archival Bag

Acid-free Archival Bag

 

Artifacts that have been not been stored in proper artifact bags have been upgraded in order to adhere to the best practices of storing archaeological collections. Relocating artifacts to a sturdy, acid-free artifact bag protects the artifacts from further damage or potential loss. All associated information is written on the outside of the bag.

 

 

Label on archival paper containing relevant provenience placed inside archival bag.

Label on archival paper containing relevant provenience placed inside archival bag.

 
Labels on archival paper containing relevant provenience have been placed within each artifact bag. These labels mitigate the loss of the associated provenience of each artifact and artifact bag, allowing for the preservation of such information.

 

*The author of this post, Jennifer Torres, was the CRMPB 2014 summer Archaeological Collections Intern and has recently joined our staff as an Archaeological Collections Assistant.
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About cartarchaeology

We are the County Archaeological Research Team, part of the Archaeology and Collections Branch, Resource Management Division, Fairfax County Park Authority. We are tasked with understanding and managing the cultural resources on Park land throughout Fairfax County.
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