Utah Professional

Archaeological Council


2011: Vol 24 No 1

Utah Archaeology 2011 Volume 24, Number 1

Full Text of Issue


Message from the Editors

This issue of Utah Archaeology is focused on the museums of Utah and their collections. Museums are wonderful repositories that offer safe storage for artifacts and documents, accommodate researchers and their interests, and reach out to the public to provide education
and entertainment. With this special issue of the journal we hope to draw attention to the many research opportunities that are waiting to be explored within the collections, as well as the great fun and enjoyment that can be gained by visiting these institutions and participating in their activities and art. We encourage everyone to support and visit our local museums, and enjoy their many offerings.


  • History of the Utah Museum of Natural History’s Anthropological Collections by Glenna Nielsen-Grimm
    The Utah Museum of Natural History (renamed the Natural History Museum of Utah in November 2011) has anthropology collections representing over 120 years of archaeological and ethnographic collecting. Objects held at the NHMU were acquired through field collecting, excavation, donations, purchase and federal reposited collections. The archaeological collections represent Great Basin and Southwest archaeological cultural areas, with artifacts dating from the paleo-archaic through the proto-historic period. The ethnographic collections emphasize Native American tribes that claim ancestral and historic lands in Utah, as well as objects that represent Native Americans cultures that have comparative value for Utah Tribes, and then extends to the rest of North America, South America and Oceania.
  • The Research Potential and Challenges of Using Curated Archaeological Collections by Michelle K. Knoll
    Archaeological analysis of material remains has grown substantially more technological over the last 25 years. Traditional methodologies using macro-scale analysis have been augmented by analyses focused at the microscopic and molecular levels. But with advanced technologies comes new challenges when using museum collections. For each analytical technique addressed in this paper, the potential effects from past curation protocols is reviewed. This paper argues that when contamination can be identified and corrected, modern analytical techniques provide a means by which museum collections can be valuable resources for archaeological research.

  • Museum Collections Worth Revisiting by Anne Thomas Sager
    Museums often house artifacts from respected archaeological sites excavated years ago that have received little attention over time. Some of these items are textiles, which tend to be underappreciated by archaeologists largely due to their rarity. As analytical methods improve, museum collections of all kinds—including textiles—are becoming more valuable to researchers. Textiles could provide insight to long standing questions about past lifeways of prehistoric North Americans. Given a growing body of modern textile research across the globe, Great Basin textile impressions are a potential source of information in research designed to investigate prehistoric textiles and the behaviors of their makers.

  • Artifact Collecting at Brigham Young University 1875–1968 by Rebekah Monahan and Paul Stavast
    The history of any museum begins before the actual formation of the institution. This article describes the complicated history of archaeological collecting at Brigham Young University (BYU) before the creation and recognition of a museum for archaeology and anthropology leading to the presently named Museum of Peoples and Cultures. A long period of development, from 1875–1968, consisted of early amateur collectors/curators; a collecting expedition from Provo, Utah to Bogota, Columbia; university-led excavations in Utah; and multiple attempts to found a museum that could house archaeological collections. A result of this period of undulating professionalism was the loss and destruction of collected specimens relating to evolutionary theory, misplacement and loss of artifacts and excavation records, as well as missed opportunities for collecting and research.

  • Institutional Development at the Museum of Peoples and Cultures BYU by Carlee Reed and Paul R. Stavast
    This article documents the growth of the small museum affiliated with the Department of Anthropology at Brigham Young University in the early 1960s into the much larger Museum of Peoples and Cultures of 2011. Using institutional records and oral history interviews with previous directors, this article explores different approaches of running an anthropology/archaeology museum governed by a private non-profit. The museum grew from a repository with simple or few educational objectives into an institution focused on providing practical and theoretical study for students in museum studies, archaeology, and anthropology, while also enlightening visitors about various cultures.

  • Crossing the Divide: Transferring a Private Collection to a Public Museum by Rachel M. Harris and Paul R. Stavast
    In 2006, Brigham Young University’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures (MPC) was offered and accepted a large collection of artifacts consisting mainly of Ancestral Puebloan pottery from East-Central Arizona collected during the mid 20th century. This article explores the ambitions of the Reidhead family to share the collection with the public after assembling it, their difficulties with maintaining and caring for a large private collection, and their decision to donate the artifacts to the MPC. Also explored is the MPC’s evaluation of the collection’s potential uses before the collection was acquired, including absence of specific archaeological provenience, interest in the collection from the academic community, and available financial and physical resources to properly care for the collection. An example of a successful transfer of a private collection to a permanent non-profit institution, the story of the Reidhead collection continues to unfold as the collection is made more accessible to the public and researchers.

  • The BLM/Earthwatch Rock Art Archives at Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum by Erica Olsen and Deborah A. Westfall
    Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum is an Ancestral Puebloan site, a museum, and a federally accredited archaeological repository located in Blanding, Utah. The facility includes archives and a noncirculating research library. The museum’s archives include holdings associated with archaeological projects conducted in San Juan County from the 1890s to the present, representing human prehistory and history from southeastern Utah’s earliest inhabitants, the PaleoIndians, through the Basketmaker and Puebloan periods and into the historic period. In addition to records and artifact collections from projects conducted by various universities and independent archaeological organizations, the museum curates archaeological site forms, maps, reports, and artifacts on behalf of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service. This article provides an overview of the archives at Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum and a detailed look at one of the museum’s largest archival collections, the Earthwatch/BLM Rock Art Archives. Comprising approximately 3,000 drawings; 11,000 color slides; 5,000 photographic prints, negatives, and transparencies; and field notes and other project records; the Earthwatch/BLM Rock Art Archives is the largest and best-documented collection of prehistoric and ethnographic rock art images for southeastern Utah. The article includes an overview of the original rock art survey and discusses the processing of the collection; the pilot digitization program, funded by a Utah State Historical Records Advisory Board (USHRAB) grant; and issues of preservation, access, and outreach.
  • The Past Meets the Future at the Utah State University Museum of Anthropology by Bonnie Pitblado, Jon Alfred, Monique Pomerleau, and Holly Andrew
    We discuss the founding, growth, and future of the Utah State University (USU) Museum of Anthropology (MOA). In 1963, Dr. Gordon Keller launched what would later become the MOA in the basement of USU’s historic Old Main building in an effort to share archaeological collections with students and to facilitate learning outside the classroom. Subsequently, other professors donated or otherwise transferred the fruits of their anthropological labors to the growing museum’s holdings, as did members of the Cache Valley community. The museum now houses ethnographic and archaeological collections from around the world, a few of which we highlight in this paper, together with examples of our public programming. We weave into our discussion the stories of two historic USU spaces and their roles in the MOA’s evolution: the museum’s current home in the south turret of the Old Main building and the USU Horse Barn-cum-Art Barn, which is the soon-to-be renovated new facility for a much-expanded MOA.


  • “Relics Revisited: New Perspectives on an Early Twentieth-Century Collection” Reviewed by Deborah A. Westfall


Word Cloud based on the text from Utah Archaeology 2011