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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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Parks, Trails and Heritage Sites Legislation: S 1018




STATEMENT OF DANIEL N. WENK,

DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS

OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES,

CONCERNING S. 1018,

TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR

TO ENTER INTO AN AGREEMENT WITH

NORTHWESTERN STATE UNIVERSITY IN NATCHITOCHES, LOUISIANA,

TO CONSTRUCT A CURATORIAL CENTER FOR THE USE OF

CANE RIVER CREOLE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK,

THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR PRESERVATION TECHNOLOGY AND TRAINING,

AND THE UNIVERSITY,

AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

MARCH 17, 2010

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 1018, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement with Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, to construct a curatorial center for the use of Cane River Creole National Historical Park, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, and the university, and for other purposes.

The Department supports S. 1018 with amendments described later in this statement.This legislation would authorize an agreement for constructing a facility on land owned by Northwestern State University that would help meet critical needs of the National Park Service.The facility would be known as the Collections Conservation Center.

Located along the Cane River in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, Cane River Creole National Historical Park was established by Congress in 1994 to preserve the distinctive architecture and cultural landscapes of the only two, intact French Creole plantations in the United States, and to interpret the complex multicultural history of the Cane River area.The park preserves and protects a total of 67 historic structures at two locations, Magnolia Plantation and Oakland Plantation.Cane River Creole National Historical Park also contains a nationally significant museum collection estimated at more than one million objects, which represent all aspects of French Creole plantation life from the 1700s until the end of the plantation era. Most artifacts are stored in a former bar and restaurant, which is the only space available for lease. Other artifacts are stored in a three-sided historic tractor shed, which is located in the park. Present care and storage of these resources do not meet National Park Service museum standards. Consequently, precious museum objects are at risk of being exposed to inadequate temperature and humidity controls, periodic roof leaks, insect infestation, theft, and vandalism. A new state-of-the-art curatorial center would address these problems and was discussed in the park's 2001 General Management Plan and its 2003 Museum Collection Management Plan.

The National Center for Preservation Technology and Training is a research division of the National Park Service that was authorized under a 1992 amendment to the National Historic Preservation Act. It is located on the campus of Northwestern State University.In fulfilling its mission, the center conducts innovative conservation and collections management research and advances the use of science and technology in the field of historic preservation. The center has minimal laboratory space to conduct its work and is in need of additional space to house its laser conservation laboratory and materials research program.

Northwestern State University's Williamson Museum houses an archaeological and ethnological museum collection related to the Southeastern Tribes of the United States. Frequently used by tribal members for research on cultural traditions, the museum also serves as a gathering place for tribes and the public during special events. The museum collection is currently inadequately housed and is inaccessible to school groups because of its location in a college classroom building that has no available bus parking nearby.

Northwestern State University has available land that would be suitable for a structure that serves the purposes of the proposed Collections Conservation Center. The university is willing to contribute the use of the land for the center under the condition that the new center includes enough space to house its Williamson Museum collection, contingent on the approval of the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System.The anticipated cost to construct the center is approximately $12.5 million. Funding to build and operate the center would be subject to the availability of appropriations and NPS priorities.

The land is above the 500-year floodplain, which is the level required for constructing curatorial facilities under National Park Service policies.It is also close to the building on campus used by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training and it is about two miles away from the Cane River Creole National Historical Park headquarters. The authority for an agreement between the university and the National Park Service for a facility on the university's campus would be another facet of the close relationship between the two entities that was envisioned both in the enabling legislation for the preservation center, which provides for the center to be established on the university's campus, and in the enabling legislation for the park, which provides for a research program to be coordinated with the preservation center and the university.

We recommend that the bill be amended to provide for a lease term of up to 40 years in order to provide maximum flexibility in amortizing the cost of the building, and to provide that the land at the university be leased to the National Park Service at nominal cost.We would be happy to work with the committee to provide appropriate language for those and other amendments.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks.I would be pleased to answer any questions you or any members of the Subcommittee may have.