Thinking about Cultural Resource Management: Essays from the Edge/Thinking about Significance

By Gougeon, Ramie A. | Southeastern Archaeology, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Thinking about Cultural Resource Management: Essays from the Edge/Thinking about Significance


Gougeon, Ramie A., Southeastern Archaeology


Thinking About Cultural Resource Management: Essays from the Edge. THOMAS F. KING. AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, CA, 2002. xix + 196 pp., glossary, biblio., index. $70.00 (cloth), ISBN 0-7591-0214-9; $22.95 (paper), ISBN 0-7591-0214-7.

Thinking About Significance. ROBERT J. AUSTIN, KATHLEEN S. HUFFMAN, and GEORGE R. BALLO (eds.). Florida Archaeological Council, Inc., Riverview, 2002. xi + 242 pp., biblio., tables, graphs, appendix. $15.00 (paper), ISBN 0-9720677-0-1.

In a recent issue of the SAA Archaeological Record, Thomas Whitley (2004) makes a compelling argument for the need for cultural resource management (CRM) training in academic graduate programs. He notes the lack of formal programs in most graduate archaeology (anthropology) departments and the infrequency of courses on CRM practice, law, or training, not to mention internships. Instead, graduates typically receive on-thejob training when they, almost inevitably, find employment in CRM and not academia. This is certainly the path my career has taken thus far, although I was fortunate enough to have had a very well placed internship during undergraduate studies and numerous stints as a "shovelbum" during both my undergraduate and graduate studies. I can attest to the role that CRM companies play in the education of new archaeologists, as I myself was hired by Tom just before receiving my Ph.D. and began to learn the ropes of project management while I wrapped up a dissertation on, as Whitley writes, "assemblages excavated in a 'pure' research context over 30 years ago" (2004:24). The usefulness of reinterpreting old assemblages notwithstanding, Whitley struck a nerve as my onthe-job-training continues, even as I am now a principal investigator with a CRM outfit in Alabama.

Wading into the nuances of CRM, even after having been involved in the field in one capacity or another for over ten years, is daunting to say the least. It is one thing to be familiar with the basics of section 106 review or National Register criteria. It is another task entirely to keep up with debates surrounding traditional cultural properties (TCP), much less to create dynamic cultural resource management solutions with clients, SHPOs, THPOs, and interested members of the public. To this end, I, like other CRM professionals who are products of academic systems without CRM courses, attempt to read bulletins, newsletters, books, essays, and anything else I can get my hands on during those few moments in the day when the phone isn't ringing or I'm not slogging through paperwork.

Thomas King has written a great deal about CRM, its practice, its laws, and, certainly, its nuances (five of the eight books in the AltaMira Heritage Resources Management Series are penned by King). This volume, Essays from the Edge, contains his views on a wide array of topics, including innumerous problems with the process of practicing CRM, flaws in our regulations and laws, and the practitioners themselves, be they SHPO employees, project managers, or interested members of the public. His intended audience is clearly those better versed in CRM practice, and this collection of essays may be over the heads of students who have not first read his (and others') books on the basic rules and regulations governing our field. The essays are arranged under four topic groupings, which can generally be described as 1) CRM is more than archaeology, 2) section 106 review needs work, 3) ideas for consulting with Native Americans in meaningful ways, and 4) archaeology in CRM. Each short essay concisely addresses an aspect of the field from the perspective of someone who has clearly thought about each one for some time and is not shy about offering his opinion if it advances or broadens the debate beyond how to preserve the status quo of CRM. King sees CRM, its laws and regulations, and certainly its practice, as a dynamic system-flawed, but not unalterable.

In CRM, we follow a myriad of rules and regulations constructed and amended by those who may or may not work directly in CRM. …

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