Strategic Plan
2014-15 through 2018-19


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Labeling Materials

All coatings and applied labels must be reversible. Acryloid (or Paraloid) B-72 is recommended for its longevity. Use either a Rapidograph, quill, or steel-nib pen and black India ink to label the artifact. Do not use felt-tipped pens. Self-stick labels, tape, rubber cement, and white typing correction fluid are too impermanent for labeling artifacts and must not be used. Use a permanent, black, fine point marker to label prints or slides.

Labeling Artifacts

All diagnostic artifacts will be labeled with a catalog number. A representative sample (10% is adequate, if the artifacts are large enough) of each type of nondiagnostic artifact from each provenience must be labeled. Moreover, artifacts to be cross-mended, separated for specialized analysis, or displayed must be labeled.

Distinctive or "diagnostic" artifact characteristics normally are identified and defined by the archaeologist; however, some examples are listed below.

Diagnostic prehistoric artifacts

Ceramics - decorated, rim, or basal sherds; lugs; Poverty Point objects; figurines; ear spools; and complete vessels;

Lithics - points, scrapers, drills, ground stone, and blanks;

Exotic (imported) raw material; and,

Worked bone

Diagnostic historic artifacts

Ceramics - decorated, rim, or basal sherds; maker's marks; complete vessels; buttons; marbles; pipes; figurines or doll parts;

Glass - cut, pressed, or decorated; vessel bases and lips; labels; and complete vessels;

Identifiable metal - tools, gun parts, machine parts, hinges, nails, buckles, flatware, and harnessry;

Identifiable plastic or rubber

Worked bone

Place at least one coat of a reversible resin (such as clear fingernail polish or diluted solution of Acryloid B-72) on the clean, dry surface to be labeled. Apply the label using archival quality black ink or white ink for dark-colored artifacts. After labeling, the catalog number must be covered completely with a coat of resin for permanence. This three-step labeling procedure ensures that a label can be removed, if necessary, without damaging the artifact. Do not write on an artifact without first placing a clear coat of resin in the area to be labeled.

The catalog number should be written small and legibly in an inconspicuous location on an artifact, with consideration for how the item might be displayed, potential long-term abrasion, and possible obfuscation of important diagnostic features. Pottery sherds shall not be marked along the edges.

An acid-free card stock or Tyvek® tag, indicating the item's catalog number, can be attached to artifacts that are large, specially treated, fragile, or have an unstable surface. Use the type of tag that is most appropriate for the artifact being labeled. Make sure the tag is securely attached with cotton string or twine and can be read without moving the artifact, if possible. Do not use rubber bands, wire, tape, or plastic-coated wire to fasten the tag to the artifact.

Artifacts considered to be nondiagnostic or that will only be counted and/or weighed may include: clinker, construction material, various types, fire-cracked rock, lithic debitage, plain prehistoric body sherds, small indistinguishable glass artifacts, shell, and slag.

Labeling Documents

Two legible copies (one on acid-free paper), or the original and one legible copy, of all field notes; shovel test, excavation, and feature forms; profiles; maps; photograph logs; and other field documents. Make sure each item has at least a site number and date recorded on it. Every field book page must have the appropriate date, site number, and page number written on it.

Prints and slides must be labeled individually, in the event the photograph log is destroyed or lost. Please record the following information consistently on each print or slide: Photographer
Photograph number
Site number
Brief description

Submit all slides, prints, and negatives in archival polyethylene sleeves (see Resources and Vendors for suppliers). Do not write on these sleeves.

Bagging Materials

All nonorganic artifacts must be bagged in 2 mm or thicker polyethylene (not polyvinylchloride), self-sealing (e.g., Zip-Loc® ) bags. Avoid using staples or rubber bands to close the bags. Oversize items that do not fit into self-sealing bags should be wrapped in Tyvek®, polyethylene, or Mylar® sheets, appropriate to material, and closed with cotton string. Certain artifacts, such as metal, treated or fragile artifacts, organic remains, or reconstructed vessels, may require special packing materials. Consult with the Division of Archaeology before bagging these materials.

Bagging Artifacts

Artifacts within a given provenience should be grouped physically by material and, if pertinent, by common diagnostic elements and bagged separately. For a given provenience, diagnostic artifacts in each category should be bagged separately from nondiagnostic items. For example, at a minimum, all diagnostic prehistoric sherds for a provenience are contained in one bag, whereas all nondiagnostic prehistoric sherds are placed in a separate bag. Archaeologists are encouraged to sort and bag smaller subsets of artifacts. Examples for bagging categories are the same as those listed in the catalog section above.

Bags of artifacts will be labeled on the outside with a permanent marker. The following minimum information is to be recorded: site number
catalog number
provenience date
archaeologist's name or organization
collection date

For small collections, all separately bagged artifacts from the same provenience may be grouped together in a larger bag or box. Artifacts should not be submitted in recycled bags. Smaller bags must have at least the catalog number written on them. The container for all artifacts from the same provenience will be labeled with the information listed immediately above.

The site number, catalog number, provenience, archaeologist's name or organization, and date of collection must be recorded on an acid-free or Tyvek® card enclosed in a small, resealable polyethylene bag and then placed in the bag with the artifacts. Use either a #2 pencil or a permanent, black pen to record this information on the card. If artifacts from the same provenience are sorted and bagged separately within a larger bag (i.e., there are several smaller bags within a large bag), only one card needs to be included in the largest bag.

Choose a bag size appropriate for the size and quantity of artifacts to be packaged. Do not overstuff bags, as this can damage the artifacts or the bag itself. A large quantity of glass artifacts must be either double-bagged or contained in bags > 4 mm thickness. Untreated and treated metal artifacts must be completely dry, separated from the other materials, and double-bagged (unless using a > 4 mm bag) in polyethylene bags. Tagged or otherwise labeled oversize artifacts that will not fit into polyethylene bags may be wrapped in acid-free tissue or Tyvek® soft-wrap and placed directly in boxes (discussed below).

Certain artifacts, such as metal, treated or fragile artifacts, oversize artifacts, organic remains, or reconstructed vessels, may require special packing materials or storage conditions. Consult with the Division of Archaeology before bagging or packing these materials. Do not pack fragile or organic materials too tightly as this will damage the items you are trying to protect. Unless recovered from a damp or wet environment, all nonorganic artifacts must be completely dry before being bagged. The best approach to stabilizing and storing waterlogged or damp artifacts must be determined by a conservator. Notify the Division regarding the need for special storage conditions prior to submitting a collection.

Organic remains, such as bone, textiles, leather, and wood, shall be housed in perforated polyethylene bags and/or rigid boxes according to their size and storage needs. Small organic remains may be stored in polyethylene bags without holes or pharmaceutical bottles, if the materials are thoroughly dry and, in the opinion of the archaeologist, will not mold, mildew, or deteriorate in an airtight container. Otherwise, these remains must be placed in acid-free boxes or sturdy acid-free paper bags (if bags will provide adequate protection during handling, shipping, and long-term curation). Mold and mildew tends to grow on damp bone, shell, or other organics placed in sealed containers; therefore, damp materials will not be accepted.

Unprocessed flotation or soil samples will be double-bagged in sturdy, heavy-weight paper bags to allow moisture to evaporate. Store radiocarbon samples in aluminum foil or well-closed paper bags; do not use plastic bags or other sealed containers to store these samples. Pollen samples should be stored in sterile Whirl-PakR bags.

Wrap human bone in acid-free tissue paper or Tyvek® soft-wrap and box separately in rigid or acid-free boxes lined with Ethafoam® or some other inert, padded liner. Completely dry bone may be placed in polyethylene bags. Each bone does not have to be wrapped separately; however, take care to cushion the bones and keep them from rubbing together by using wads of acid-free tissue paper. Neither the rigid nor the acid-free boxes will be returned to the depositor.

For large collections and certain special collections (see below), it is acceptable to box by material or artifact class rather than by provenience. However, materials from each provenience must be bagged separately, as usual. In addition to the information stipulated above, labels on larger collections must include the box, or bag, number of the total number of boxes, or bags,(e.g., Bag 2 of 5 or Box 3 of 4) comprising a collection.

Boxing the Collection

Collections to be transferred to the Division must be boxed in a uniform manner. No more than 30 pounds of material may be contained in any box. If a single artifact weighs 30 pounds, then it should be the only item stored in that box.

All materials, with the exception of oversize items, must be submitted in corrugated cardboard boxes measuring 15 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 10 inches deep (height)(15" x 12" x 10"). This type of box is quite common and should be available from any box distributor and many office supply stores. Upon request, these boxes may be returned to the submitting party for recycling after the collection has been inventoried by Division staff. It is preferable that flotation, shell, soil, and matrix samples collected during a single project be boxed separately from the artifacts.

Large artifacts may be submitted in boxes measuring up to 30 inches long, 24 inches wide, and 10 inches deep (height) (30" x 24" x 10"). Standard oversize boxes that are acceptable measure 29 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 9 inches deep (29" x 10" x 9"); and 28 inches long, 11 inches wide, and 9 inches deep (28" x 11" x 9"). These oversize boxes will not be available for recycling. Lidded rigid boxes or clear, polyethylene tote boxes can be purchased from a variety of vendors (see Resources and Vendors).

As mentioned above, human remains must be boxed in rigid or acid-free boxes. The size of the box should be appropriate to the size and quantity of human remains being stored. Consult with the Division of Archaeology if you have questions about packing human remains.

An inventory (see Box Inventory Example) of the contents of each box must be completed and enclosed inside the box. The inventory consists of the project name, individual or firm conducting the work, lead agency or firm sponsoring work, dates of recovery, site number(s), box number (#3 of 9, for example), catalog number(s), number of bags or containers for each catalog number, and any special conservation treatment used. It is critical that the contents of the box weigh no more than 30 lbs., so the inventory will accurately reflect what is transferred and contained in Division of Archaeology boxes.

Boxes must be clearly labeled on one end with the following information (or paste a copy of the box inventory on one end):

project name
name of archaeologist or organization (firm, university, etc.)
month(s) & year project took place
site number(s)
catalog numbers of artifacts in the box
box number


The depositor shall contact the Division's collections manager to arrange for transfer of the artifacts and associated records to the Division's curatorial facility. Collections resulting from archaeological investigation on state lands should be transferred within 30 days of the Division's receipt of the depositor's final report. The depositor may ship or deliver the collections to the Division. Should s/he choose to ship the artifacts, care must be taken in packing the artifacts to ensure their safety and integrity. Artifacts damaged during shipping must be restored as closely as possible to their original condition by a professional conservator employed by the depositor.