Preserving the Past

Today I went to Tucson with a group of volunteers and the Tumacacori archaeologist to tour the archives of the Western Archaeological and Conservation Center.  This place is a huge warehouse that holds the collections of the National Park Service from the western region of the United States.  The building holds about four million items including baskets, pottery, prehistoric relics, photographic archives, paintings, books, clothing,  beads, furniture, and human and animal remains from discoveries and records in the national parks.

All of these items are kept in environmentally controlled spaces – in drawers, boxes, and lockers.  There are two laboratories where various items are repaired, brought to life, and prepared for storage in a way that preserves their integrity.  One amazing example of this is baskets that were found flattened by time, or stuffed into rocks – now preserved in their unfolded beauty by the staff who use archival methods to repair them.

As a group we toured the complex and viewed several items that came from Tumacacori, including a mission bell clapper, many arrowheads, pottery sherds and metal items offering information about how the people lived within the mission complex.

This fascinating place is open to the public and tours for groups of 15 or less are available by reservation.  The facility will be giving tours between March 7 and 11, 2011 at 1:00 p.m.  For reservations, call 520-791-6402.

The Western Archaeological and Conservation Center has a searchable database online at http://www.museum.nps.gov/wacc/page.htm .  For scientists and  researchers who desire to study the materials, the center is available upon request.

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