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U.S. Department of the Interior - Museum Program
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A-3 Know why you have Federal museum collections



Collections can best serve agency objectives if current managers know the importance of various collection categories and why their maintenance is worth the investment of agency resources. Some items of Federal property are designated for preservation in perpetuity by Federal law. Others are needed to support, or "voucher," agency decisions related to resource management or science.

Items may be maintained in museum collections to honor government-to-government relationships with Indian tribes. Other items may be important gifts from individuals or governments.

Collections may represent decades of careful selection by generations of scientists or historians, and may contain specimens or artifacts no longer available for collection. Continuing access to collections may be essential to on-going agency mission activities and for compliance with environmental and cultural preservation mandates.

Federal collections increase in value overtime, and agencies have a fiduciary responsibility to maintain them in public trust for the American people.

Federal agencies acquire museum collections in many ways. The major reasons include compliance with government-wide laws and support of agency mission activities. These are illustrated in agency web pages.

Mandated by Law, Regulation, or Executive Order (The following are among the most frequently used mandates)

The Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, 63 Stat. 377, 40 USC 483 (b)
http://epw.senate.gov/fpasa49.pdf
As amended, allows for management of Federal property.

Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)
http://www.cr.nps.gov/nagpra/MANDATES/INDEX.HTM

National NAGPRA: Resources for Museums
http://www.cr.nps.gov/nagpra/MUSEUMS/INDEX.HTM

The Antiquities Act of 1906, 16 USC 431-433
http://www.cr.nps.gov/local-law/FHPL_AntiAct.pdf
Its primary focus is the protection of archeological sites from looting, which was widespread in the southwest in the late 1800s, as it is now. The Act establishes the permit process for archeological excavation on federal and tribal lands in an effort to deter destruction of sites by anyone who is not a professional archeologist. It establishes fines and punishment for unauthorized excavation or looting. It also allows the president to declare historic or prehistoric sites or structures as national monuments, as President Clinton did several times during his presidency.

National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, 16 USC 470 et seq
http://www.cr.nps.gov/local-law/FHPL_HistPrsrvt.pdf
This law directs the expansion of the National Register of Historic Places to include cultural resources of national, state, or local significance; authorizes matching Federal grants to states and the National Trust for Historic Preservation for acquisition and rehabilitation of National Register properties; establishes an Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; and provides procedures in section 106 for Federal agencies to follow in the event a proposal may affect a property on, or eligible to, the National Register. It defines Federal Museum Collections as including both museum objects and documentation, and is among the laws instructing the Secretary of the Interior to issue regulations on the care and management of archeological collections. These regulations (36 CFR Part 79) were issued in 1990.

The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, 16 USC § 470dd
http://www.cr.nps.gov/archeology/tools/laws/ARPA.htm
The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) strengthened the permitting procedures required for conducting archeological fieldwork on federal lands, originally mandated by the Antiquities Act. It also establishes more rigorous fines and penalties for unauthorized excavation on federal land.

Curation of Federally Owned and Administered Archeological Collections
(36 CFR Part 79-section 11)
http://www.cr.nps.gov/aad/tools/36cfr79.htm

Executive Order 13287 - Preserve America
http://www.preserveamerica.gov/EO.html

Commissioned by agencies - examples
Fine Art Collection and Water Reclamation (Bureau of Reclamation)
http://www.usbr.gov/museumproperty/art/

Fine Art Collection (General Service Administration (GSA))
http://www.gsa.gov/finearts

Acquired historic status via association with eminent figures and events - examples
Thomas Moran (National Park Service collections)
http://www.cr.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/moran/

Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the State Department
http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/diprooms/index.html

The State and Public Rooms of The White House
http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/life/

Scientific specimens in support of agency missions
Interagency Federal Collections Alliance
Conference session on Zoology and Paleontology Issues
http://museums.doi.gov/fedcoll2/sess5.html

US Geological Survey (USGS)
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/history/bsphist2.htm#Curation%20of%20North%20American%20Terrestrial%20Vertebrates

U.S. National Fungus Collection
http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=9397

U.S. National Parasite Collection
http://www.anri.barc.usda.gov/bnpcu/