Thanks to the efforts of a team of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) archaeological experts, artifacts from nine West Virginia project sites have been transferred to the Veterans Curation Program (VCP) from storage at the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex in Moundsville, W.Va.
Since the 1970s, USACE has kept nearly 450,000 artifacts in the West Virginia Research and Collections Facility for curation, research and educational opportunities. These artifacts represent more than 10,000 years of habitation by varying cultures. Over the years, the resources to preserve them at the desired state have not been available--until now.
The team that facilitated the transfer to the VCP consisted of Andrea Adams and Kate McMahon of the Mandatory Center of Expertise for the Curation and Management of Archaeological Collections out of the St. Louis District; Susan Stafford from the Huntington District; and Laura Ellis, Amanda Brooks and Heather Cline of the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex.
Some of the benefits of the program to the government include increased visibility and public awareness for the Corps' expertise in the areas of archaeology and collections management. Additionally, at-risk Corps collections are getting much-needed rehabilitation and re-housing. Further preservation measures are being implemented using digital photography and scanning to create an electronic collection, which will be made accessible to the public for future research and education.
"The Huntington District is very proud to be a partner with the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the Veterans Curation Program in the ongoing process of preserving these significant cultural artifacts while providing training opportunities for our Nations Veterans," said Col. Leon Parrott, Commander, Huntington District. "As we provide opportunities for veterans to gain new skills we are ensuring these artifacts from the great state of West Virginia are properly preserved and cataloged."
The transfer of the West Virginia artifacts to the VCP represents a remarkable turning point for two critical parties. First, after four years of continuous operations the VCP required more Corps collections to work with. In gaining these artifacts from West Virginia, the program will have another two more years of work. Second, the beneficiaries of the VCP's work will be the citizens of West Virginia. Once the VCP laboratory in Alexandria, Va. completes the rehabilitation and preservation of these 346 boxes, the people of West Virginia will get the artifacts back in much better condition.
The Delf Norona Museum displays and stores many artifacts found at various sites in West Virginia. It is owned and operated by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.
"Without the Veterans Curation Program, who knows when the rehabilitation and curation of these artifacts would have been completed? We are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this program," said Randall Reid-Smith, Commissioner, West Virginia Division of Culture and History.
The VCP was created to address two problems. First, it provides wounded and disabled veterans with employment, vocational training, and tangible work skills. Second, the program advances the public stewardship of federally managed collections through rehabilitation and preservation. An additional goal of the program is to make a digital collection of archaeological material, created in the course of the rehabilitation process, available through an online electronic archive. For more information, visit the VCP website at www.VeteransCurationProgram.org .
Veterans who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) are hired by cultural resource management companies overseen by the Mandatory Center of Expertise for the Curation and Management of Archaeological Collections (MCX-CMAC) to work as archaeological laboratory technicians for up to five months. Their work includes processing artifacts and associated records, which involves writing, data entry, photography, scanning, and records and electronic files management. During the training, veterans acquire and advance skills in a variety of areas including: software proficiency, object inventory and tracking, database management, and digital image processing.
Overseas contingency operations have increased the number of veterans and wounded warriors who may lack the specific skills needed to compete in the mainstream job market. Through its investment in service members, the VCP is building on skills that veterans acquire during military service, skills that include leadership, teamwork, and attention to detail.
Working under the direct supervision of professionals in the field of archaeology, veterans receive competitive pay while learning through technical training in a peer-to-peer veteran's environment. By providing a bridging experience to the public sector, the program facilitates these valuable members of society to move on to find permanent employment and to enroll in institutions of higher education.