Testimony of the Ohio Archaeological Council to the House Select Committee Studying the Effectiveness of Ohio's Historical Programs and Partnerships
Dr. Brian Redmond -- President, Ohio Archaeological Council
Since 1976, the Ohio Archaeological Council (the Council) has been one of the partners in Ohio's historical programs, referenced by name in several sections in the Ohio Revised Code (Revised Code) as an organization the Ohio Historical Society (the Society) is to consult with concerning certain archaeological activities. We welcome this long overdue opportunity to testify about Ohio's historical programs and partnerships with respect to the archaeological programs of the Society.
The Council is a private, non-profit corporation registered with the State of Ohio since 1975 as a charitable, scientific and educational corporation. We are a membership organization comprised of over 100 professional archaeologists and five institutions engaged in archaeological research, interpretation, site preservation, and public education in Ohio. The five institutional members are the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Cincinnati Museum Center, the Dayton Society of Natural History, Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, and the Ohio Historical Society. Our mission is to promote the advancement of archaeology in Ohio through research, publication and education.
Twelve thousand years of history are contained in the archaeological sites of this state. These sites represent the lives, homes, communities, and workplaces of people of diverse social, economic and ethnic backgrounds, including Native Americans, African Americans, and Euroamericans. Archaeology is crucial to understanding, preserving, enhancing, and sharing this heritage. It is a heritage with great social, educational and economic value to Ohioans and to the nation.
Our archaeological resources are unmatched by other states. However, this heritage is finite and fragile, and we believe the State of Ohio's commitment to it is not commensurate with its value. The destruction of important aspects of our heritage is increasing at an alarming rate, and without a plan as well as leadership from the Society to further identify, research, preserve, interpret, and share the important aspects of our heritage, it will continue to be lost. Among our recommendations to this Committee is to require the Society to develop a state historic preservation plan, including a separate state archaeological preservation plan, pursuant to Section 149.301 of the Revised Code, in consultation with state agencies and other interested stakeholders, including representatives of relevant Native Americans tribes and organizations. A number of states that Ohio competes with for tourism, in education, and in economic development, have prepared and are implementing such plans to their advantage. Ohio has not done so and lags behind.
Although our testimony focuses on the role of the Society with respect to the Revised Code in identifying, researching, preserving, interpreting, and sharing Ohio's rich archaeological heritage, we want to preface the rest of our remarks with the following observations. Although we see a number of successes, particularly with the acquisition many years ago of some important archaeological and historic sites, and the more recent development of state-of-the-art educational facilities and programs at a number of these sites, other important sites are underutilized due to a lack of preservation and development plans, and of course funding.
We also see a great and urgent need for the Society to develop meaningful partnerships with other organizations and institutions with an interest in Ohio archaeology in order to help the Society meet its obligations to the people of Ohio and their representatives in the General Assembly. Sustaining the successes and making improvements will no doubt require a strong commitment and substantial financial investment from the General Assembly. We believe that revisions to the Society's responsibilities with respect to archaeology in the Revised Code are necessary to reflect the practice of archaeology in the 21st Century, and new funding mechanisms found to sustain and build its archaeological programs and partnerships. We call for a renewed effort to sustain and develop the Society's archaeological programs and partnerships for the benefit of Ohioans and the nation.
The Society was founded in 1885 as the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society. In the latter part of the 19th Century and well into the 20th Century, the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society was a leader among the archaeological research institutions of the nation. During the mid-20th century that leadership role changed, and so did the Society's name. The Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society, once one of the nation's leading archaeological research institutions, fell behind many similar institutions across the nation. Today, many other states devote far more resources to, and enjoy much greater benefits from, the identification, research, preservation, and interpretation of their state's archaeological heritage, and they do so more effectively by actively partnering with academic institutions, museums, the private sector, and interested stakeholders.
We now wish to turn your attention to the Revised Code. Section 149.30 states that the public functions to be performed by the Society shall include all of the following, and the section continues by enumerating the public functions. We interpret the word "shall" to mean must, and we take the General Assembly at its word when it stated in this section that "an appropriation by the General Assembly to the Society constitutes an offer to contract with the Society to carry out those public functions for which appropriations are made." We also take the General Assembly at its word when it stated "an acceptance by the Society of the appropriated funds constitutes an acceptance by the Society of the offer and is considered an agreement by the Society to perform those functions." We believe that in a number of instances the Society has failed to meet this agreement.
Since 1976, Revised Code section 149.30 permitted the Governor to request from the State Controlling Board, on behalf of the Society, funds for archaeological investigations of an emergency nature at sites about to be destroyed. We are concerned that the Society has not used this provision in a number of instances where it would have been appropriate. We request that the Committee determine how many times, and in what instances, the Society has asked the Governor to request such funds, how often the Controlling Board has released them, and for what projects. If the Society rarely uses this provision, if the Governor rarely requests such funds, and if the Controlling Board rarely releases such funds, then we urge the Committee to determine why this is the case so an informed decision can be made about the efficacy of this provision.
Revised Code section 149.30(A) requires the Society to operate, maintain and promote for public use State Memorials. It does so, however the Society's operation of Moundbuilders State Memorial for public use is in serious conflict with the State Memorial's use as a private country club and golf course. The use of the property as a private golf course needs to be reconsidered. We are pleased, however, to see that the Society is beginning to develop a cultural resources management plan for this property, and we encourage the General Assembly to require it to do so for all its properties. The Council has and continues to work with the Friends of the Mounds, a group of Native people, educators and interested persons, to get the Society to provide better access to this internationally significant site and to preserve it as a public park. Without long- range planning, however, important archaeological sites under the Society's care have and will continue to suffer the consequences of land uses that diminish the historical, social, educational, and economic value of such properties, as is most recently and disturbingly demonstrated by the on-going destruction of the Buffington Island Civil War Battlefield in Meigs County, adjacent to Buffington Island State Memorial.
In addition, the Council is extremely concerned about the inadequacies of archaeological investigations at some State Memorials undergoing capital improvements. At times, sufficient funds are apparently not provided to undertake the necessary archaeological investigations prior to construction. Adequate research designs are sometimes not developed to guide the archaeological investigations. Both result in the loss of important archaeological data useful in the interpretation of these sites, and missed opportunities for public participation. Such projects do not set good examples of stewardship, preservation, public education, or cooperation with interested stakeholders and partners. The current capital improvement work at Fort Meigs in Wood County, a National Historic Landmark, the nation's highest recognition for historic places, is an example. For a project of this magnitude, at such a significant Native American and national site, the Society has undertaken the replacement of the reconstructed fort without, in our opinion, sufficient funds, planning, staffing, public education, or consultation with interested stakeholders on the nationally significant archaeological resources at this site. The apparent result is the needless loss of significant archaeological data, and lost opportunities for public education and community involvement. This is the second time that Fort Meigs has suffered this kind of degradation at the hands of the Society. The other was in the late 1960s and 1970s when Fort Meigs was initially reconstructed.
Revised Code section 149.30(B) requires the Society to develop appropriate educational facilities for archaeological sites under its care. The Society has done an exemplary job of doing so at a few of its more notable archaeological sites, such as Fort Ancient, Flint Ridge and Fort Hill. But other sites, such as Moundbuilders and Serpent Mound, lack appropriate facilities. The Council urges the Society and the General Assembly to upgrade the educational facilities at these internationally significant sites.
Since 1976, Revised Code section 149.30(E) required the Society to establish a marking system to mark significant historic and archaeological sites. As it pertains to archaeological sites, this section of the Revised Code is ill conceived. The Society has identified hundreds of significant archaeological sites, and thousands more are yet to be identified. It is unnecessary, unwise and cost-prohibitive to mark all these sites. These sites need to be protected from illegal excavations and other forms of destruction, and marking their locations does little to accomplish this goal. Revised Code section 149.30(F) requires the Society to publish books, pamphlets, periodicals, and other publications about Ohio archaeology. The Society rarely publishes such materials. Among other publications, the Council urges the Society reestablish its archaeological research publication series along the lines of the journal Ohio History, which twice a year publishes articles on history, not archaeology. Doing so would greatly contribute to the Society's educational mission with respect to archaeology.
Revised Code section 149.30(G) requires the Society to engage in research in archaeology. The Society rarely undertakes or promotes such research. The Council would like to see the Society reestablish an archaeological research program in cooperation with partners in State Government, academic institutions, the private sector, and interested stakeholders. Archaeological research is vital to sustaining Ohio's historical programs and partnerships. Without ongoing archaeological research, interpretation of sites for the public becomes stale and visitation suffers.
Since 1976, Revised Code section 149.30(K) required the Society to provide advice and technical assistance to local historical societies for the preservation of archaeological sites. No formal program has been developed to do so. The Council urges the Society to develop a formal program in conjunction with Revised Code sections 149.30(M) and (N), which I will soon address.
Since 1976, Revised Code section 149.30(L) required the Society to develop criteria for designating significant archaeological sites in Ohio and advising local historical societies in such matters. The Society developed a State Registry of Archaeological Landmarks, but this program has not been implemented. To our knowledge, not a single archaeological site has been listed in the State Registry of Archaeological Landmarks since it was established 25 years ago. This program needs to be revised and revived as part of the Society's public functions.
Since 1976, Revised Code section 149.30(M) required the Society to cooperate with the Council, the Archaeological Society of Ohio, and the Ohio Arts Council to identify and maintain a record of archaeological sites in Ohio. The Ohio Historic Preservation Office, a division of the Society, maintains this record, called the Ohio Archaeological Inventory, which is comprised of over 33,000 archaeological sites. However, the Society has not established a cooperative program with the other organizations to assist with this effort, particularly in the identification of such sites. The Council urges the Society develop formal relationships between these organizations for this purpose. A number of other states have model programs that accomplish this goal.
Since 1976, Revised Code section 149.30(N) required the Society to work with landowners and persons with an interest in significant archaeological sites to voluntarily control land use practices not conducive to site preservation at those sites or on properties adjacent to those sites. The Society does not have a program to do so. The Council urges the Society to develop such a program in cooperation with other organizations such as The Archaeological Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land. A number of states have model programs that accomplish this goal.
As previously indicated, since 1976 Revised Code section 149.51 required the Society to maintain a State Registry of Archaeological Landmarks. The Society does little, if anything, to promote this program, and the Council considers the program defunct and fatally flawed. This section of the Revised Code should be revised to create a workable and meaningful archaeological site recognition program.
Likewise, since 1976 Revised Code section 149.52 required the Society to maintain an archaeological preserve program. To our knowledge, only one archaeological site outside of those owned or operated by the Society has been dedicated as an archaeological preserve. Again, the Society does little to promote this program, and the Council considers the program defunct. This section of the Revised Code should be revised or the authority transferred to another state agency or private non-profit organization if the Society does not intend to use it to protect significant archaeological sites.
Revised Code section 149.53 requires that all state agencies cooperate with the Society and the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board (Advisory Board), a Governor appointed advisory board to the Society, in the preservation of archaeological sites and in recovery of scientific information from such sites. It also requires that contractors performing work on public improvements cooperate with the Society and the Advisory Board, and notify one or the other about discoveries of archaeological sites during construction projects. To our knowledge, state agencies, perhaps with the exception of the Ohio Department of Transportation, rarely comply with this statute, and to our knowledge the Society makes little effort to gain such cooperation from state agencies. We believe this section should be revised to gain and strengthen the cooperation of state agencies in the identification and preservation of significant archaeological sites on state land, and to protect Native American and abandoned cemeteries on public and privately owned lands. Many states have programs that do so.
Revised Code section 149.301 requires the Advisory Board to assist "in the Society's site preservation program, suggest legislation necessary to the Society's preservation program, including the location, designation, restoration, preservation, and maintenance of state historic and archaeological sites and artifacts.and shall provide general advice, guidance, and professional recommendations to the State Historic Preservation Officer in conducting the comprehensive statewide survey, preparing the state historic preservation plan, and carrying out the other duties and responsibilities of the State Historic Preservation Officer." With respect to these duties, the Advisory Board is vastly underutilized. Furthermore, the state historic preservation plan has never been completed. Many other states have completed and are implementing such plans to their advantage. In the strongest terms possible, we urge the General Assembly to require that the State Historic Preservation Officer develop, complete, implement, and regularly update a state historic preservation plan, and that this be accomplished with significant input from public and private sector stakeholders. Without the plan, we firmly believe Ohio will continue to lag behind many other states it competes with in preserving heritage, which in turn affects our quality of life and our ability to build a sustainable economy.
Revised Code section 149.54 requires that the Society, in consultation with the Council and the Archaeological Society of Ohio, develop rules governing archaeological investigations on state lands, archaeological preserves, and State Registry of Archaeological Landmarks sites. The Society has done so, but these rules need to be updated reflecting advances in archaeological practice. The penalty for violating this rule, currently a second-degree misdemeanor, should be revised upward to become comparable to similar federal violations.
In closing, we want to reemphasize three things. First, the urgent need to create both a state archaeological preservation plan and a state historic preservation plan. Second, broaden the Society's partnerships. Third, revise the Revised Code with respect to the Society's archaeological programs. Ohio has fallen behind many states in identifying, researching, preserving, and interpreting its archaeological heritage. That heritage is rich, but it is also disappearing at an increasingly rapid pace. We are in competition with other states for tourist dollars, in educating our citizens, in attracting economic development, and in protecting our heritage. The partners in Ohio's historical programs, including the Society, the General Assembly, other sectors of state and local government, academic institutions, the private sector, and interested stakeholders, must make and keep a commitment to preserve our heritage because of its social, educational and economic value for Ohioans and for the nation. There must be a better future for Ohio's past, and the Council is ready to work with these partners to accomplish this goal.