“You are the smartest group of people I have worked with!” stated Nellie Vonsworth, the former lobbyist of the American Cultural Resources Association. The association met for their conference in Washington D.C. this past weekend (October 9-12th, 2013). As an attendee, I was humbled by the experience and felt anything but smart after the conference. At almost two weeks into federal government shutdown, the feeling of veiled hopelessness with intermittent surges of pride and meaning was peppered throughout the various receptions, meetings, and presentations.
The first day of the conference, appropriately titled, CRM Day, consisted of a series of meetings with members of Congress and their staff to showcase why CRM is so important to the American economy. While this was a great opportunity to influence agency policy, the temperature of the meetings was anything but that. A “be happy with what you have” sentiment resounded throughout every meeting. Under the current circumstances, I can understand why this is the feeling but this should not be the end of the conversation.
As members of ACRA, we were urged to provide the following messages to the hill:
- reopen the government
- historic preservation fund is a valuable resource
- CRM as a whole is valuable
With over 1,400 CRM firms nationwide, the community provides over 10,000 Americans with employment and generates over $1 billion in revenue.
While this may sound impressive, CRM has consistently been undervalued as a discipline as a contributor to the American economy. Part of this may be due to the vague laws and regulations which CRM must attempt to operate with, this includes Section 106.
For example, Jon Berkin, of Natural Resource Group, states we should attempt t o develop effective strategies for cultural resources along with resources compliance and energy development. Natural gas transmission is the only part regulated by Federal Energy Resources Commission. Therefore, who is the lead agency becomes a complicated question since the lead agency will determine scope of analysis/ APE.
Disconnection is not new to the CRM world. There are some who are trying to bridge these gaps that arise when working with different organizations on the same project. Sjoerd van der linde, of CommonSites, is trying to do just that. CommonSites as a social media platform for current archaeological projects equipped with a crowd sourcing and funding option.
Amidst an uncertain future, the ACRA meeting provided glimmers of hope that attendees could take back to their respective firms with the weight of the future in their minds. I think Elijah Cummings, Maryland Representative, put it best when he said “cultural resources are the gifts we give to a future we will not see.”