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Sustainable Archaeology McMaster

Sustainable Archaeology has been a collaboration between McMaster University (Sustainable Archaeology McMaster) and Western University (Sustainable Archaeology Western, now part of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology).  This 9.8 million-dollar initiative to provide a sustainable future for Ontario's archaeological collections and collections research has been supported by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.  

Located at the McMaster Innovation Park (MIP), Sustainable Archaeology McMaster comprises an extensive archaeological collections repository and laboratory stations and provides collections access and research space for consultant and academic archaeologists.  Sustainable Archaeology McMaster emphasises materials analyses, including petrographic, biogeochemical, zooarchaeological and geoarchaeological studies.  

Provincial legislation beginning in the 1970s mandated that many lands to be developed in Ontario must first be assessed for evidence of past human use.  As a result, consultant archaeology developed and expanded - along with archaeological collections.  Management and curation of collections largely fell on individual archaeological licensees and their companies.  Today, consultant archaeology makes up nearly all archaeological work in this province.  Given the time and space constraints experienced by licensees and their companies, many of these collections have not been easily accessible by researchers and members of descendant communities.  The findings of these studies are sometimes written up, presented and published, but many cannot be attended to and it remains difficult for interested parties to engage with some of these collections and project outcomes.  

Sustainable Archaeology McMaster seeks to improve accessibility to archaeological collections that may otherwise be inaccessible to descendant community members, researchers and the public, while also working closely with archaeological licensees to reduce their provincial collections curation obligations.

There are two types of archaeological collections: 

An Anticipatory Collection or Anticipated Collection pertains to a collection for which long-term curation funds exist or have already been arranged, perhaps through a proponent or client.  Without funding set aside, Anticipatory Collections become Legacy Collections.

A Legacy Collection pertains to an archaeological collection that has no accompanying funding remaining, perhaps stemming from long-past archaeological activities.  These collections may require rehabilitation and rebagging in order to meet facility standards.  In some cases, archaeological licensees have no recourse but to fund the long-term curation of these collections, sometimes at significant personal or company expense.  

As a public institution, Sustainable Archaeology McMaster accepts both Legacy Collections and Anticipatory Collections.  Anticipatory Collections, generated mainly by the consultant archaeology sector, are crucial to our mandate of long-term sustainability. 

All collections curation has associated costs and archaeological licensees, proposal/budget managers, project managers and approval authorities are encouraged to account for these costs before archaeological materials are removed from project lands.  

Archaeological collections transfers (or 'deposits') are regulated by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS).  Descendant community, including Indigenous community, concerns for where and how archaeological collections are curated are also considered within this regulatory process. 

The Sustainable Archaeology Advisory Committee (SAAC) comprises membership from heritage professionals, provincial governmental archaeologists, consultant archaeologists and members of Indigenous communities.  Indigenous community members make up proportionately half the complement of the SAAC.  

Please email or call Sustainable Archaeology McMaster staff to discuss per box fees and additional procedures related to collections transfers.

Please also get in touch if you would like to visit the archaeological collections currently housed at Sustainable Archaeology McMaster or to use facility lab space or equipment.   

 

Transferring (or Depositing) Collections

To enquire about the fees for, logistics of and legislation surrounding archaeological collections transfers to Sustainable Archaeology McMaster, please contact us by phone or email.

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