This year’s Day of Archaeology found find staff at Sustainable Archaeology: Western videoconferencing with our partners at Sustainable Archaeology: McMaster to discuss partnership and policy for an upcoming project. It was my first meeting with my McMaster colleagues, and it was a pleasure to put names to faces, even though I joined them remotely.
Sustainable Archaeology was founded in part as a response to the growing curation issue for archaeological materials. In Ontario, licenced archaeologists who hold excavation permits retain personal responsibility for excavated materials in perpetuity. That responsibility can be transferred, however, to approved facilities. Sustainable Archeology was envisioned as a centralized repository that could relieve the burden of long-term care from CRM companies and safeguard the recovered material record of Ontario’s heritage for future generations.
But care and collections management was only the first part of the vision. Each of the SA facilities offer different opportunities for research into that material heritage: SA: Western focuses on digital archaeology and non-invasive analysis, and SA: McMaster on materials analysis. SA: Western also continues to work towards our goal of creating an accessible web-based Informational Platform where anyone can access information about the heritage in our care.
On a day to day level, what all this entails can vary greatly. It can mean development meetings for the informational platform, assisting researchers who are here to use our imaging equipment, collections monitoring, supervising student employees who are working on collections processing, performing basic maintenance on our equipment, or a hundred other tasks that look more like office management than archaeology.
Today, we wanted to make sure that our procedures and workflows for accessions are standardized between the two facilities. It is important to us that our collections are processed in the same way in order to keep our database consistent and facilitate the flow of information and collections between our facilities.
Our work may be far removed from the public image of what archaeologists do – whether that image is of Indiana Jones or digging square holes in the dirt – but it is important to archaeology and cultural heritage nonetheless. We are here to provide resources for answering archeological research questions, and to make sure that collections in our care are neither neglected, nor forgotten, once they are out of the ground and the report is handed in.
-Dr. Heather Hatch, SA:Western Coordinator