Across the Atlantic: professionalism in archaeology over here and over there

Posted on November 9, 2016


A new trend in archaeology conferences is to run the say session in different conferences/countries or to have organisations run sessions in other organisations. I whole hearty approve of such innovation.  As it is Wednesday, so conference video time, I though I would share one of these cross-country sessions from the CIfA conference.

This session aims to compare regulatory procedures and the role of professional standards and professional accreditation in the USA and the UK. Both have a strong tradition of self-regulation across professional disciplines, and both have now well established professional organisations in the form of the Register of Professional Archaeologists and the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists.
What are the regulatory structures and procurement practices governing the way the historic environment/cultural heritage is investigated archaeologically, when occasioned by development on a commercial or quasi-commercial basis? What is the role of professional standards and professional accreditation/registers, and of the professional bodies that own them? And what would we like that role to be? How can we get there?
By looking at the range of structures and systems across the States and the UK administrations of the UK, can we identify what’s good, what’s bad, and what we’re planning to do to improve the situation? More importantly, how we can learn from each other? It is hoped that this discussion might help RPA and CIfA – both of which seek to recruit members from around the globe, explore how they could cooperate, and ensure that they don’t compete unhealthily.
We hope to run this session twice, at the premier archaeological conferences over here and over there – at SAA 2016 in Orlando.

Peter Hinton, Chief Executive, CIfA
Michael R. Polk RPA, Principal Archaeologist/ Regional Director, Sagebrush Consultants

Advancing archaeological professionalism in the US: the Register of Professional Archaeologists
Terry H. Klein, SRI Foundation and President of the Register of Professional Archaeologists
In 1966, the United States Congress passed the National Historic Preservation Act. The passage of this Act, 50 years ago, has dramatically changed the practice of archaeology in the US; and today, the majority of archaeological investigations conducted in the US is directly linked to the requirements of the Act and its associated regulations. 2016 is also the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Society of Professional Archaeologists, which became the Register of Professional Archaeologists in 1998. This presentation reviews the federal regulatory framework of archaeological investigations in the United States, and the role of the Register of Professional Archaeologists as the primary entity promoting archaeological professionalism in the US.

Is archaeology worth regulating? Challenges to professionalism in the UK
Peter Hinton, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute for Archaeologists
UK laws and policies enable authorities to require archaeological work to be done in certain circumstances. But government and advisors are relatively quiet on who should do that work and how.
Therefore, the professional institute’s role in providing a framework for self-regulation is critical. That framework is founded on CIfA’s ethical Code of conduct, and underpinned by standards for people (competence, CPD, professional conduct procedures) and for process and product. Yet while most UK administrations want archaeology to be self-regulating, governments are remarkably nervous about requiring or even recommending that work should be done by those self-regulated people, ie CIfA members and Registered Organisations. For other professions and trades (lawyers, plumbers, publicans), public interest arguments for ensuring competent practitioners are understood. But archaeologists, presumably, deliver so little benefit to society that unrestricted competition between the accredited and the unknown is preferred. How do these arguments play in the US? Do we have anything to offer?

A contractor’s dilemma: archaeological regulation and ethics in the United States
Michael R. Polk, Sagebrush Consultants and Past President of the American Cultural Resources Association
Cultural resources management in the United States, similar to heritage management elsewhere, has been a commercially viable occupation for archaeologists since the late 1970s. This paper briefly describes the growth of this field and the founding of a contractors trade association. Contractors often get caught between clients and agency personnel when attempting to meet a client’s needs, follow the regulatory process and work to interpret and preserve the archaeological resource. As part of this discussion, the paper also looks at the challenge of what it means to be an ethical professional in a highly competitive field.

Doing archaeology in the UK – consultants and contractors
Gerry Wait, Director Nexus Heritage and CIfA Board of Directors
As a part of this transatlantic session exploring the roles of archaeologists and professional associations, Dr Wait will discuss the closely inter-woven roles that used to be called ‘consultants’ and ‘contractors’ but might more usefully be simply called ‘archaeologists’ as the distinctions have become blurred through time. Consideration will also be given to the roles and functions of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists in the day-to-day conduct of archaeological research and fieldwork by CIfA members in the UK and elsewhere around the world.


Posted in: Uncategorized