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Cultural Resource Management

What is Cultural Resource Management?

Cultural Resource Management (CRM) represents an industry that clarifies archaeological and historic preservation practice within a specific legal context.  CRM provides a contextual framework for recognizing, interpreting, analyzing, and preserving cultural resources.  In the United States, industry standards are established by legal mandates at the Federal, Regional, and Local level designed to mitigate potential adverse affects on “significant” cultural resources.  CRM as a descriptive term is applied  "…mostly by archaeologists and much more occasionally by architectural historians and historical architects, to refer to managing historic places of archaeological, architectural, and historical interests and considering such places in compliance with environmental and historic preservation laws" (King 1998:6).

What is a Cultural Resource?

Cultural Resources might include a wide variety of elements of a given landscape and are likely to be as varied as the cultural context where they are found.  King (1998:9) explains that cultural resources make up what might be described as the “cultural environment” which is comprised of “those parts of the physical environment-natural and built-that have cultural value of some kind to a sociocultural group” (King 1998:9).  Therefore, cultural resources are symbolic representations of culture to a given group of people.  They potentially represent a wide variety of elements of a cultural landscape and might include historic objects and sites, prehistoric archaeological sites, Native American Cultural items, or Native American sacred sites.

What is a Cultural Resource Assessment?

A cultural resource assessment (CRA) provides a comprehensive archaeological and historical evaluation of a given parcel of land.  Often times, cultural resource surveys are undertaken to identify the presence or absence of cultural resources so that potential affects of land alteration (such as construction projects) are minimized or avoided.  Aside from private research endeavors, these surveys are required as a component of the Section 106 review process associated with construction projects funded partially or completely by the federal government.  Federal mandates are sometimes complemented by state and local legislation prioritizing cultural resources significant to the specific history and prehistory of a regional or localized context.  In Florida, the Bureau of Archaeological Research in Tallahassee is the state entity that reviews private development projects and has the authority to mandate cultural resource assessments including Phase I archaeological surveys.

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