Many laws address the broad variety of Federal Museum Collections. The following references link to some of the most useful major US authorities related to Federal Museum Collections.
The Antiquities Act of 1906, 16 USC 431-433
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.
The Antiquities Act also contains a stipulation for the curation of archeological collections, stating that "the gatherings [of artifacts and data] shall be made for permanent preservation in public museums." Importantly, the law implies that decisions for the care and management of the recovered collections should be made before a permit is granted.
The Act and its accompanying regulations, Preservation of American Antiquities (43 CFR 3), do not contain any specific guidelines or standards for carrying out the curation of archeological collections. The regulations, however, do cover several significant issues. First, they mandate that the permittee must submit a catalog of the collection recovered and photographs made during the field season to the Smithsonian Institution and indicate if any items may "be available for exchange" (43 CFR 3.10). Second, any object of antiquity or collection that is seized due to excavation without a permit or other reasons contrary to the Act are to be "disposed of as the Secretary shall determine, by deposit in the proper national depository or otherwise" (43 CFR 3.16). Third, the regulations mandate that collections "shall be preserved in the public museum designated in the permit and shall be accessible to the public (43 CFR 3.17). If a public museum closes down, then all federal collections in that museum "shall thereupon revert to the national collections and be placed in the proper national depository" (43 CFR 3.17).
The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, 16 USC § 470dd
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.
ARPA is important from the standpoint of managing archeological collections because it:
- acknowledges federal ownership of objects excavated from federal lands;
- calls for the preservation of objects and associated records in a "suitable" institution,
- prohibits public disclosure of information concerning the nature and location of archeological resources that require a permit or other permission under ARPA for their excavation or removal, and
ARPA also is the law that permitted 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.
An application for an ARPA permit must include authorization and a written agreement between the federal agency and an appropriate repository that will house and curate the collection recovered from the project. This permit process applies to all excavations on federal and Indian/tribal lands. In order to accommodate the repatriation or disposition requirements of NAGPRA, the ARPA regulations dealing with custody and ownership of archeological collections were amended in 1995 (see 43 CFR Part 7.13).
The Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, 63 Stat. 377, 40 USC 483 (b)
As amended, allows for management of Federal property.
The Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act of 1935, 16 USC 461 et seq
Authorizes the establishment of national historic sites, the preservation of properties of national historical or archeological significance, and the designation of national historic landmarks. It also authorizes inter-agency, intergovernmental, and interdisciplinary efforts for the preservation of cultural resources.
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended, 42 USC § 4331
Continues the responsibility of the Federal Government to use all practicable means, consistent with other essential considerations of national policy, to improve and coordinate Federal plans, functions, programs, and resources in order to preserve important historic, cultural, and natural aspects of our national heritage and maintain an environment which supports diversity and a variety of individual choice.
National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, 16 USC 470 et seq
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.
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, 25 USC 3001-3013
Requires federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funds to provide information about Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony to lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations and, upon presentation of a valid request, dispose of or repatriate these objects to them. Provides grants to Native American tribes and museums.
Reservoir Salvage Act of 1960, (Archeological and Historical Conservation Act of 1974),
16 USC 469 et seq
Provides for the recovery and preservation of historical and archeological
data, including relics and specimens, that might be lost or destroyed as a result of the construction of dams, reservoirs, and attendant facilities and activities. The Act of 1974 extends to include any alteration of the terrain caused as a result of Federal construction projects or federally licensed activities or programs.
Curation of Federally-Owned and Administered Archeological Collections, 36CFR79
Establishes definitions, standards, procedures, and guidelines to be followed by Federal agencies to preserve collections of prehistoric and historic material remains and associated records recovered under the authority of the Antiquities Act (16 U.S.C. 431- 433), the Reservoir Salvage Act (16 U.S.C. 469-469c), section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470h-2) or the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 470aa-mm).
Executive Order 11593, Protection and Enhancement of Cultural Environment, May 13, 1971, 36 FR 8921. Amended by E.O. 13006, May 21, 1996, 61 FR 26071
Amended by E.O. 13006, May 21, 1996, 61 FR 26071,
Directs Federal agencies to ensure the preservation of cultural resources in Federal plans and programs to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of non federally owned sites, structures, and objects of historic, architectural, or archeological significance; Directs them to exercise caution during the interim period to ensure that cultural resources under their control are not inadvertently damaged, destroyed, or transferred before the completion of inventories and evaluation of properties worthy of nomination to National Register.
Statement of Federal Financial Accounting Standards 29
Requires agencies to identify "heritage assets" (property, plant, and equipment of historical, natural, cultural, educational, or artistic significance), and to report annually on each category, the number, additions and withdrawals, condition, and deferred maintenance.
Other sources of information on U.S. laws and mandates include these websites:
National Park Service (NPS)
Cultural Resources Laws, Regulations, and Standards
Managing Archeological Collections: Relevant Laws, Regulations, Policies, and Ethics http://www.cr.nps.gov/aad/collections/laws_01.htm
Cultural Heritage Law