Cultural Resource Management Research Paper

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Cultural resource management is the practice of conserving and preserving cultural heritage. Cultural resources include archaeological, historical, architectural, and engineering properties, and associated artifacts and documents. Also included are museums, archives, archaeological parks, shipwrecks, cultural landscapes, religious sites, as well as traditional life-ways and languages. (Knudson 1986, pp. 400–2, King 1998, pp. 5–9). These resources represent the cultural heritage of individual peoples and nations, and collectively, they represent the heritage of the world. Cultural resources reflect finite periods of time, or ephemeral cultural traditions. Once destroyed, they are gone forever. Economic development, looting, international trafficking in stolen artifacts, and natural erosion destroy thousands of cultural resources every year (Cameron 1997). For this reason, the primary management goal is preservation in situ.

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The term ‘cultural resource management’ is used mostly in the United States by archaeologists working for federal and state agencies or for private firms contracting with such agencies (Fowler 1982, Green and Doershuk 1998). Heritage management is a similar term used in many parts of the world (McManamon and Hatton 2000). Heritage management and cultural resource management can be used interchangeably.

1. Value Of Cultural Resources

People value cultural resources for present and future uses (Lipe 1984). They are tangible links to the past allowing people to experience and relate directly to their history, and hold an evocative power some-times lacking in documentary sources. Heritage properties have symbolic values for nations and ethnic groups because they represent a common history and identity, as well as cultural and spiritual norms. The process of deciding which cultural resources to pre-serve and monumentalize is therefore frequently contentious and politicized (Tunbridge and Ashworth 1996).

The aesthetic value of cultural resources, especially architectural properties, provides incentive for the reuse of historic buildings long after original uses are no longer economically viable. The preservation of the historic core of nineteenth-century business districts in the United States is a priority because of the perceived aesthetic value of early buildings. The aesthetic appeal of architectural ruins around the world is a primary reason for their continued preservation.

Cultural resources have informational value. Archaeological sites provide the only record of human achievement for much of history. At best, written documents cover events of only the past 5,000 years and only in a few parts of the world. In some parts of North America written records represent a scant 200 years. Government and business records, newspapers, diaries, etc., are fragile and subject to loss due to natural events, deterioration, neglect, and intentional destruction. Also, official records provide information primarily about dominant cultures and leaders. For these reasons the physical evidence in historic and archaeological sites may be the only record of many past human activities, even in relatively recent times, and their destruction results in an immeasurable loss of information.

Cultural resources have economic value resulting primarily from their associative and aesthetic values. People want to visit heritage sites. Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world, and heritage tourism is one of the largest sectors of the industry. For many countries, such as the United Kingdom and Jordan, tourism is a major part of the economy. In the United States, cultural resources support a billion- dollar industry in the State of New Mexico alone.

2. Legal Protection

Cultural resources are the tangible links to the cultural heritage of the world. For this reason, UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a private organization advising UNESCO, have produced charters establishing standards for preservation (US ICOMOS 1999). Two foundational documents guiding heritage management at the international level are the 1964 Venice Charter adopted by ICOMOS, and the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage signed by 158 nations, and adopted by UNESCO in 1970. UNESCO also manages the World Heritage List, which recognizes cultural and natural sites of world significance, and the World Heritage Fund, providing financial assistance for various preservation projects.

Despite international interest in preserving heritage resources, most cultural resource management is conducted under the laws of individual nations or local divisions within nations. Laws have been established to protect cultural resources threatened by economic development projects, urban sprawl, vandals, looters, and neglect. In addition, nations must make a multitude of complex decisions regarding these issues. Governments must determine the ownership of individual artifacts and collections; oversee excavation permits and arrange for the use and care of resulting artifacts and records; mediate controversial issues such as the excavation of graves and human remains; allocate responsibility for funding archaeological excavations or restoration projects in advance of construction projects; and determine the extent of involvement of various interested parties, such as indigenous peoples, in the processes of decision-making. Not all countries of the world have laws and regulations dealing with these issues, and some issues are more important in one country than another. Legal traditions and history invariably affect the law. For example, in Mexico the State asserts ownership of all prehistoric artifacts. United States law reflects strong traditions safeguarding private property. Only artifacts located on federal land are federally owned, and private landowners retain the ownership of materials found on their land.

3. Management Requirements

Knowledge is crucial in managing cultural re-sources. Agencies need to know where the resources are, which are significant, why they are significant and to whom. Plans for their preservation must be developed. If sites are threatened by dams, roads, water systems, or buildings, planning statutes usually require agencies or various units of government to address the impact of such projects. Nongovernmental corporations or organizations are frequently required to assess the effects of their projects on cultural resources or pay to have this work done. Accurate information is also crucial to protecting sites from looting and vandalism. Cultural resource inventories and evaluation studies should be conducted by appropriately trained specialists, such as archaeologists, architectural historians, historians, and anthropologists. Thus, an inventory of significant cultural resources is the primary basis for management decisions.

Many countries have developed criteria to deter-mine which cultural resources are significant, and these criteria vary from country to country. In the United States, properties as young as 50 years old are evaluated, while in Jordan only properties older than AD 1750 need be considered. The range in kind and type of significant properties also varies from place to place. Some countries consider only archaeological and historic properties, while others include sacred and traditional cultural sites, and even contemporary expressions of culture such as festivals and dances. Government agencies usually make decisions concerning significance, but even if a country does not have a formal evaluation procedure, someone must decide which resources are ultimately important and worthy of mitigation or preservation (Thompson 1982).

Once an inventory is obtained, it is necessary to determine which resources are threatened and need immediate consideration. It is a sad fact, but not all sites determined to be culturally significant can be preserved. Developing priorities for action is usually a process of give and take between those with preservation interests and others primarily working toward economic development. When properties can not be preserved, appropriate mitigation measures must be developed. The type of mitigation adopted depends on the type of cultural resource effected. Archaeological sites are usually excavated, or sometimes buried for protection. Architectural and engineering properties are documented through photography, photogrammetry, measured drawings, and the salvage of individual architectural features. When feasible, architectural properties can be moved to new locations. It is difficult to develop satisfactory mitigation measures for the religious or sacred properties often important to traditional communities. Hard decisions have to be made about whether such controversial projects will be completed as planned, or moved to another location.

Cultural resources in national parks and other protected areas may not be threatened by economic development projects, but they still need active management to prevent deterioration. The site of Petra in Jordan is a good example. Petra is famous for massive sandstone architecture and for water-control systems built by the Nabataean Arabs before Roman occupation. These famous architectural elements are continually eroded by wind-driven sand and rain and will disappear if not conserved. Jordanian conservation scientists are actively developing methods to preserve the site. Around the world, even in protected areas, limited financial resources dictate preservation priorities.

Another important element in the management of cultural resources involves the care of archaeological and museum collections, archives, and documents. Great expense is involved in providing state-of-the-art, climate-controlled, and safe environments for storage, processing, and use of such collections. The conservation of paper, metal, and other perishable artifacts is a science in itself. Heated debates arise around the world about the appropriate distribution of artifacts. Many countries such as Guatemala and Turkey have increasingly strict laws about the trans-port and use of artifacts, and many European countries with colonial traditions and large archaeological collections from the Middle East and elsewhere are facing various questions of repatriation (Herscher 1998). The establishment and funding of curation facilities are part of this debate, as well as being crucial to the availability of knowledge and resources to future generations.

Traditions concerning historic and prehistoric cultural artifacts and human remains differ widely among the cultures of the world. Such belief systems must increasingly be taken into consideration in the formation of cultural resource management policies, as well as in national and international law. In some countries indigenous peoples have insisted on the repatriation of human remains and associated funerary objects, and other objects of cultural patrimony (Jones and Harris 1998). A satisfactory balance between the interests of the broader society in cultural resources and the needs of individual communities has not yet been reached, and these are among the most controversial issues facing heritage managers today (Suagee 1999). Conflicts are exacerbated in countries with recent histories of social injustice, and otherwise routine decisions are fraught with emotion. Animosities can be allayed as governments take responsibility for the legal protection of various rights and as peoples are forced to deal amicably and respectfully with each other’s goals and beliefs. Consultation between government bodies and local communities is essential to the success of preservation efforts.

4. Tourism And CRM

The management of archaeological parks, museums, and historic districts for tourism is a significant part of cultural resource management. Tourism offers many opportunities for the preservation and restoration of heritage properties around the world, and because of the economic benefits of tourism, many individual communities and national governments are developing properties for tourists. The correct manner of development (Boniface 1995), the authenticity and quality of interpretative presentation (Bruner 1994), and the type and use of restoration methods are hotly debated issues. The tourist infrastructure, as well as interpretive facilities like trails and museums, can negatively impact on the very cultural resources and landscapes tourists want to visit. The plan to build a gondola to transport tourists to Machu Picchu in Peru is a case in point. In addition, when the interests of local communities are not considered, conflicts can be expected.

5. Public Support And Education

The preservation of cultural resources is dependent on the support of the general public. The charters of UNESCO and ICOMOS stress that the success of local and national preservation initiatives are de-pendent on programs educating the public about the value of cultural resources. Heritage education in the public schools is required in many countries to foster a preservation ethic and pride in national heritage. Governmental organizations and professional societies often cooperate in publicity campaigns to combat looting. In those parts of the world where sites of general interest represents a cultural heritage different from that of the contemporary inhabitants, education about the values and economic uses of these resources is especially important. For example, Roman and Byzantine ruins in modern Islamic countries and Native American sites in the United States are often more valued by foreign visitors and national governments than by local communities.

The varieties of cultural resources in the world and the multiplicity of values attached to them make cultural resource management a complex practice. The preservation of cultural resources in the face of economic development, population growth, looting, and world conflicts requires integrated legal tools and protection policies at all levels of government, as well as trained professionals to implement them.


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