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Curation Agreements

The Minnesota Field Archaeology Act (MS 138.37, Subd. 1) states that all archaeological materials found on non-federal public property belong to the state. Archaeological materials include artifacts and the data that relate to them and their recovery. The law requires that such materials be "properly cared for" and be "made conveniently available for study by students of archaeology."

These curation conditions must be fulfilled in order to obtain a state archaeological license in Minnesota.

Materials from private property are technically the property of the land owner, but the State Archaeologist encourages archaeologists working on private property to obtain written title to significant materials and curate them in a responsible manner, especially when public funding is involved. Archaeological materials from state sites may be temporarily stored for analysis or processing purposes at a secure location other than the final curational facility.

Options for Curation

There are only a few institutions in Minnesota that meet high curation standards (e.g., federal 36 CFR 79) and are amenable to accepting general archaeological collections from diverse locations. The Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) does not maintain a curational facility. The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) is most commonly named as the custodian for archaeological materials from Minnesota. MNHS requires that individuals who submit archaeological materials take the MNHS curation training seminar and pay MNHS curation costs. You can find out more about MNHS curation on the MNHS website here.

OSA does not require that MNHS be the custodian of public archaeological materials from Minnesota or that a designated facility meet federal curation standards. OSA only requires that the designated custodian meets basic requirements related to proper care and convenient availability, as specified in state law (MS 138.37, Subd. 1).

Curation Facility Standards

The specific requirements for an OSA-approved permanent curation facility are listed below. Approved facilities must:

  • Be reasonably secure from theft, vandalism, and fire.
  • Maintain an environment conducive to the preservation of archaeological materials.
  • Utilize an artifact cataloging system that is durable, accessible, and easily understandable.
  • Have written guidelines that specify various collection protocols such as:
    • Artifact discard rules
    • Loan policies
    • Types of material accepted
    • Procedures for dealing with fragile materials (e.g., ferrous metal, organics)
    • Artifact reconstruction
    • Types of data required to accompany artifacts (e.g., field notes, photographs, maps).
  • Make artifacts stored at the facility reasonably accessible to outside researchers.
  • Have a contingency plan for transferring materials to another approved curation facility in the event of closure or failure to meet the required conditions.
  • Be within the state of Minnesota and be affiliated with a public or educational institution.
  • Have the above requirements outlined in a written document.

If a permanent curation facility fails to meet the above standards, the State Archaeologist may take possession of all materials from non-federal public lands and will not approve the facility for licensing purposes.

Loan Policies for State-Owned Archaeological Materials

State law specifies that artifacts from public lands must be "made conveniently available for study by students of archaeology" (MS 138.37, Subd. 1).

  • "Students of archaeology" are defined as qualified professional archaeologists (see MS 138.31, Subd. 10) or individuals being directly supervised by qualified professional archaeologists. Note: this definition is for the purposes of the OSA policy on loaning state artifacts from a permanent curation facility.
  • Artifacts are "conveniently available" if they are easily accessible for study on a daily or almost daily basis at the permanent curation facility.
    • They should be available during normal business hours and with adequate facilities and equipment provided for any required analyses.

When can materials be loaned?

IF... THEN... WHEN...
The home research facility for a student of archaeology is located more than 30 miles from the permanent curation facility The permanent curation facility should allow the state-owned artifacts to be given out on temporary loan A qualified professional archaeologist signs the loan form
The permanent curation facility is unable to provide easy access And the artifacts are kept in a facility that ensures their proper care
The permanent curation facility is unable to provide appropriate facilities and equipment for required analyses

In general, artifacts should not be loaned to individuals who will not keep the artifacts at an approved institutional location.

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